Mistaking Monolithic Membership

The first time I remember hearing the phrase, “Blacks are not monolithic” was on one of those Black talk shows catering to the upper tenth. One of the guests was suggesting that he was not a “sellout” and that the rapper discussing selling drugs to other US Blacks was. In that framing, the phrase was used less to indicate the individuality of US Blacks, but to distinguish himself and his “kind of people” from other types of US Blacks. It was a subtle nod to US Black internecine classism and a form of colorism.


In the United States, due to the savagery, hostility, and mastery of war techniques(guns, germs and steel?), Whyte settlers and later government interests were given an extreme advantage militarily over all other racial segments here. This would be doubly so for their hierarchical force over US Blacks brought from Afrika as slaves. Even the freed Blacks would be constantly outmanned, and thus outpowered by their Whyte counterparts. Our genesis here in the Newfoundland was one of total powerlessness; even our most powerful had little influence and almost no might compared to those Whytes they would face to gain more.


Power in a network or social system has to be passed. Often, in order for it to be passed, it needs to be defined. As British colonial settlers began to accrue wealth, they also strengthened their bonds through various organizations. Ultimately, their ties to one another, their organizations, their networks culminated in the definition of a national entity with which they could represent themselves. The idea of a monolithic whole formed of diverse and powerful interests gave way to the establishment of the United States of America. Before they could separate and push away the British kingdom, they needed to be organized collectively as a large and impersonal political, corporate, or social structure regarded as intractably indivisible and uniform. In short, a monolith.


Now, it is difficult for me to describe a race as a monolith. Races stretch beyond national borders, and even continental ones. Further, there is no default social structure to race. Race is not nation. Race is not even family. The present day response to seeing what one assumes is a member of the same race is what is referred to as “fictive kinship“. It is the same sort of pattern of behavior that causes a neighbor of many years to be referred to as “auntie” or “uncle” by the children. This association of relationships can foster behaviors that would be strange if conveyed on, well, strangers. At a local(proximity and association-wise) this is healthy and helpful. However, at a distant level, especially one where class and status create hierarchal obstacles to proximity and association, this assumption of kinship can be dangerous. One drive that motivates me most to forge my conceptual framework, “Black Media Trust” is this manipulation of racial fictive kinship obligations.