Mon, 15 May 2023 Feature Article

The Demonization of the Black Race

The Demonization of the Black Race

A central pilar in the historic imperialistic ideology of the Western World was the concept that the non-Caucasian parts of the world were given over to the darkness of Satanic worship and idolatry. Caucasians by contrast were portrayed as light bearers tasked with the noble function of bringing illumination to a world drowning in backwardness, superstition, and ignorance. This titanic clash of spiritual civilizations was no holds barred and every tactic was allowed to finally determine which worldview would reign supreme.

Perhaps one of the oldest strategies used by both political and religious authorities down through the ages is the comparison of opponents with the greatest image of evil available. Since most cultures have evolved cosmogonies with intricate hierarchies of good and evil spirit entities, there is an abundance of evil caricatures to draw upon when the need arises.

In the Judeo-Christian context nothing is guaranteed to boil the blood and raise the ire of the masses faster than claims of diabolical activity. Anything associated with the Devil immediately creates a climate in which anything from genocide to lynching becomes possible. All Christian authorities had to do in the past was to associated some group of enemies of the Church with the Devil and the blood bath began in earnest.

Witchcraft and Satanism were considered to be two of the most heinous crimes that could be committed in Christendom. Anyone suspected of practicing witchcraft or of worshiping Satan was dispatched from this world to the next with alacrity and with the greatest sense of urgency. Christians felt very justified in subjecting witches and Satan worshipers to the most gruesome forms of torture and death because the Bible was adamant that witches and others of this ilk should not be suffered to live.

It was this kind of mindset that was released on the African continent with the onset of the European invasion. Armed with a barrage of Bible texts condemning all the works of darkness, European Christians saw the Devil everywhere they went on the African continent. The Africans with their superabundance of melanin in their skin were walking testaments of the presence of the Devil in the Dark Continent. For as everyone in Europe knew black was the color of evil.

The European association of black with all things evil is readily seen in a rich assortment of words especially in the English language which connected black with some evil connotation. Even something as morally questionable as magic was considered relatively harmless if it was white magic but deadly and demonic if it was black magic. Angel’s cake was white but the Devil’s cake was -you guessed it-black as the darkest night. Words like blacklist, blackmail, blackguard, blackheart, and blackball all associated black with something that was less than desirable.

As people of African ancestry embraced English and other European languages that promoted anti-Blackness, we became complicit in our own negative racial stereotyping as we were forced to used the same racists terminologies in our everyday conversations. Black also became a pejorative expression that was used by Black people against other Black people.

Our Black skin functioned like the mythical mark of Cain thus exposing us to the opprobrium of the European colonizers. To this day there are still echoes of the quintessentially racist view that our black skin is the result of some divine curse. As recent as 1978, there was still a major US denomination that endorsed the concept that black skin was evidence of a divine curse.

Associating Black people, our culture, and our spiritual traditions with evil and the Devil created the moral justification for all the atrocities perpetrated against our ancestors. It did not hurt either that the Jewish deity in the Old Testament was one hundred percent in favor of a scorch earth policy when dealing with Devil worshiping heathens. The Jews were commanded by their deity to kill all the pagan inhabitants of Canaan after destroying their idols and temples.

Perhaps one of the most worrisome pathologies among people of African ancestry is the internalization of some of the same anti-Black sentiments expressed by the champions of Caucasian supremacy. Many black people who have drunk deeply from the cup of Eurocentric Christian spirituality have a tendency to demonize much of what emanates from the heart of the African psyche. It is bad when others try to demonize us along with our culture and traditions. It is a tragedy of immense proportions however when we internalize the prejudices of others and become agents of our own demonization.

Lenrod Nzulu Baraka is the founder of Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Teaching Center and the author of The Rebirth of Black Civilization: Making Africa and the Caribbean Great Again.