Similarities between Fin de Siècle Haiti & the Modern American Black GhettoJames Dunphy
What are the hallmarks of a typical black society? Filth, decay, disorder, cruelty, fear, deafening noise, “fronting,” “kangz” myths, shocking lack of accountability, white man’s burden, and a small proportion of suffering racial outliers. How do we know this? An examination of two black societies from different locations and eras provides the answer.
British adventurer Hesketh Prichard’s 1899 travelogue Where Black Rules White paints a picture of fin de siècle Haiti which resembles conditions in a modern American ghetto. The bugaboo of “systemic racism” was nonexistent in old Haiti because whites hadn’t been on the island for almost a century. Whatever problems old Haiti shares with an American black ghetto therefore probably stem from another source. I believe this source is a shared West African heredity, i.e., both groups share a similar race-defining mix of genes which produce a similar aggregate psychological type. (Granted, the two groups aren’t exactly the same genetically. US blacks average 78% African ancestry and Haitians 95%, but in my opinion they are close enough.)
By comparing examples from Hesketh’s work with my experience in the modern American black ghetto, we can get an idea of what a universal black society looks like.
We wuz Kangz
Prichard recounts his conversation with three “generals,” known as the pink general, the blue general, and the green general, who appear on the cover Alex Kurtagic illustrated for Wermond and Wermond’s 2012 edition of this book. Prichard gives them these names because of the different colored uniforms they wear. The army’s uniforms weren’t uniform. They were from different eras, some of them being old and ragged. The same held true for their weapons.
The generals judge Prichard to be American without feeling the need to actually consult him on the matter. He politely corrects them, stating that he is British. The blue general replies by avowing his support for his black brethren – the Boers – against the British in Africa. When Prichard points out that the Boers are white, the general insists that they are black because, according to him, all men in Africa who aren’t British are black. (Prichard notes the Blue General is the ex-minister of war, a high-level position.)
Superimposing blackness onto a Caucasoid group resembles the ‘We wuz kangz’ arguments that allege Ancient Egyptians were black. Yet recent studies on Egyptian mummies from 1,400 BC to 400 BC show they had genetic continuity with Arabs and middle Easterners in general. According to the Washington Post, “[a]ncient Egyptians were closely related to people who lived along the eastern Mediterranean… They also shared genetic material with residents of the Turkish peninsula at the time and Europe [sic].” What sub-Saharan African blood exists in the present-day Egyptian population, which hovers around 8%, is primarily a result of Arab slave traders’ use of black concubines long after Egypt served as a world leader in civilization.
Despite evidence against an African genetic contribution to ancient Egypt, “we wuz kangz” arguments can still be heard in the ghetto. One can still hear on the radio the 2002 rap hit “I Can” by Nas in which he asserts that Napoleon’s troops shot cannon balls at the Sphinx because it had a black face. One wonders whether genetic studies will ever put Kangz arguments to rest.
Fantasy-Based Ego Boosting
As the generals become more excited, the blue general claims:
President Sam is the father of the army. He is undertaking reforms which will make our army the equal of the first armies in Europe. Such men as ours — as you saw to-day, monsieur — can do anything. When all is ready we will drive the Dominicans into the sea, and the whole island shall be ours! (70)
The blue general then says he will “send officers to Europe to show the French, the Germans, and the English what an officer can attain to.”
After boasting of such power, they unironically claim to be unafraid of a revolution or the actions necessary to combat one. The contradiction of thinking one’s nation can conquer others while it is simultaneously on the verge of internal collapse never crosses their minds. Prichard was an avid purveyor of military might and judged Haiti’s military to be small, ill-equipped, dressed in rags, and having a slouching, lazy way about them. He reported that they needed white foreign nationals to pilot their few decrepit ships.
Ultimately, the generals’ conversation was more of an imagination fest rather than a serious plan. It was more of an unconscious mental exercise to boost their egos than anything else.
In the ghetto, this sort of bragging doesn’t go uncorrected. Bragging without having the capacity to back it up is called “fronting.” The punishment for fronting is public humiliation of the individual. This is a common theme in African and Afro-Caribbean films. In a way Prichard exposes the generals’ fronting with his book.
One form of “fronting” which goes unchallenged in the modern US black community, and which reminds me of the generals’ unrealistic pledges, is that of black prosperity preachers. It cannot be doubted that blacks hear more prosperity preaching on average than whites, and yet as a whole they are far poorer than whites. Once again, the contradiction never crosses their minds. Prosperity preachers’ function is not actually to produce prosperity but to produce the same sort of ego-boosting feeling in American blacks just as it did for the Haitian generals a century ago.
To be fair, whites also engage in self-deception–not so much to make themselves feel powerful– but to make others appear more powerful, i.e., more capable of being good white people like themselves. White liberals believe all blacks – not just the talented tenth – can behave just like good SWPLs, and boomer conservatives believe the message of “muh constitution” will change the black community, and these beliefs are no less fantasy than the generals’ dreams of mesmerizing Europe with their alleged military might.
Status Signal Depreciation
Prichard recalls his efforts to discover the ratio of generals and soldiers. He couldn’t get a clear answer from any of the officials with whom he spoke, so he researched annals from earlier decades.
I occupied myself for some time in looking up the numerical force of military Hayti. I could find no exact statistics of later data than 1867, when there were 6,500 Generals of Division, 7,000 regimental officers, and 6,500 privates (40).
This means that in 1867–and presumably in 1899–about one out of three servicemen were generals. To put this in perspective, the current US military has 652 generals and 1,281,900 active duty servicemen, a ratio of one general per 2,000 men. The French army at the time of Haiti’s founding probably had a similar ratio, and it would have served as a model for Haiti. However, the Haitians did not maintain it.
It has been said that many blacks appear to lack the ability to tell the difference between “seeming” and “being.” In other words, they believe merely dressing up like a businessman confers the quality of being a businessman rather than having business acumen or experience. With this sort of fiat-based thinking, status becomes more of a defining feature rather than a meritocratic reflection of ability. Perhaps they thought designating more men as generals would improve the army.
While the US military has not experienced status inflation in military rank, it has in educational degrees. Whereas one third of the US population in 1945 had a high school degree, a third have college degrees today, which is due in large part to both high school and college being made easier so that more students could pass on the margin. These students were undoubtedly disproportionately minorities.
Economists tell us that although college degrees typically do not prepare one for the workplace, they signal to employers that the degree holder is more competent than the typical member of society. However, when the proportion of degree holders increases significantly and ability in the society remains fixed, the inflated degrees no longer send the same signal. The college degree today no longer nets one the sort of job it would have in 1945 for the same reason that a fin de siècle Haitian general does not command the same number of men as a US general. Just as standardized weights and measures are necessary to define the value of property and goods in a civilization, fixed indicators of human ability are necessary to size up a human population. When people do not have the discipline to stick to these or if they believe titles create status rather than reflect real qualities, then titles experience demand-driven inflation, and you end up with a third of people having a generalship…or a Bachelor’s degree for that matter. I must say though that at least the fin de siècle Haitians were smarter about this status depreciation thing because, unlike higher education in America, they didn’t require an extra four years and tens of thousands of dollars to dole out their signifiers of status.
In all seriousness, when “signals” of ability such as college degrees or generalships become staticky, they no longer can be used to differentiate individuals in such a way as to create a complex hierarchy necessary for advanced societies, and the quality of the economy –or the Haitian army for that matter–suffers.
Lack of Concern with Numbers and Accuracy
There was a shocking lack of organization in the Haitian army. When Prichard asks the pink general how many are in his command, he shrugs his shoulders and says, “I do not know. But what matters it? Two or three thousand, at the least.” He was off by a factor of a thousand, since each general had about two men in his command. Being totally unconcerned with numbers seems to be a black thing.
The few BLM supporters who aren’t afraid of numbers quote that police are 2.7 times more likely to shoot blacks, but they neglect to mention that blacks are four times more likely to shoot police than whites, meaning that the police shoot blacks less per attack than they do whites. Thus, they fail to present an accurate picture of entire situation.
Motivation by Fear Rather than Voluntary Agreement
When Prichard arrives at Cap Haytien, a “general” surrounded by “guffawing negroes” detain him and demand to see his journal. It was crucial that he not let them page through it because, quite naturally, it contained criticisms of the Haitian government, and only a few weeks ago a political dissenter who was shouting insults about the president had been shot dead by a guard. Prichard recounts the suspenseful moment:
There was nothing for it but to produce my Foreign Office passport and to speak vaguely of my position as a British subject and the long arm of the British navy. I talked of the “Powerful” and the “Terrible.” They whispered together, and, after a considerable interval, returned my notes. May the shadow of the British Empire never grow less! (171)
By appealing to the power of his “tribe,” i.e. the British Empire, he persuaded them to return his journal. If he had appealed to the notion of “muh property rights” or “muh freedom of speech”, he probably would not have made it back to Britain alive. Thus, he wouldn’t have been able to publish his travelogue, and I wouldn’t be writing this today.
Making decisions based on a rational assessment of power rather than a sincere moral instinct is something blacks in the US do at a greater rate than whites. For example, one black comedienne on YouTube shows the disparity in how black parents treat their children versus how white parents do. It’s caricature for the sake of comedy, but there is some truth in it. In the skit, the black child is terrified of his parents. He loves them because he fears them. They are presented as jolly, semi-sadistic tyrants who instill this fear (and love?) in their child. White parents are presented as “soft”–a typical black portrayal of comparatively low testosterone whites. The whites’ non-threatening parenting style is presented as dysfunctional and weak.
Like a black parent, Prichard intuitively knew he had to appeal to power rather than ideals. I have appealed to power several of my dealings with blacks, and this was well before having read Prichard’s book. For example, I appealed to my connections with higher-ups or to the consequences of the law being enforced. Perhaps white guys instinctively know blacks are less likely to respond to appeals to principles or right-behavior. That is, unless they’re libertarian types like Rand Paul who seem to believe distributing copies of the constitution will solve the ghetto’s problems.
Blacks care more about power. One reason black men voted for Trump at a greater percentage than they voted for Romney is that Trump unashamedly boasted of his power and wealth much like a black rapper. What’s more, he didn’t wax poetic about his ideals as much as Romney did.
Blacks not only flaunt their wealth — which is a symbol of power — by spending proportionately more of it on expensive clothing and nice cars (hence the term “nigger rich”) but they seem to experience envy more often and to a stronger degree. Thus, the supply of things to be coveted and the inclination to covetousness are higher in a black society. Coveting things increases the likelihood of conflict. The bountiful African plain could sustain more coveting of things and conflict than resource-scarce Eurasian environments.
In contrast with blacks, the white population exhibits more instincts of humility and refraining from envying others. Daily life involves more voluntary supplication — chivalry, if you will — rather than calculation of the other person’s power.
Perhaps the greatest contrast of agreeableness between blacks and whites is conduct on the road. In American cities, black drivers disproportionately beep their horns, go out of turn at stop signs, block entrances to parking lots, refuse to move to the side to accommodate motorists behind them, and perhaps most disturbingly, stop in the middle of the highway without any regard for the drivers behind them. Even in a moving crowd of people, one notices that blacks often randomly stop.
Whites seem to have an inborn instinct toward accommodating other people which many blacks lack. Whites not only refrain from stopping amongst a walking crowd, but also often hurry across a crosswalk in order to voluntarily accommodate motorists who must wait for them to cross. They know the motorist won’t run them over, but they feel guilty about making them wait longer.
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