CONSCIOUS: Bob Marley urges us to free our minds from mental slavery
HAS IT ever crossed your mind that maybe, just maybe, white folks know black folks better than black folks know themselves?
It occurred to me just the other day while sitting with a group of work colleagues around a table at a very upmarket restaurant where, apparently, the Prime Minister also dines.
I wasn’t even thinking of paying a fiver for a bottle of mineral water, but it was like my boss was reading my mind.
“Don’t worry, D” he assured me, “this one’s on the house”.
He flashed the company credit card for reassurance.
So I went for the fish and chips, relaxed in the knowledge that I would not have to re-mortgage my country house to pay for it.
It was your standard fry-up, but apparently the cod is battered in beer or something like that so they move the decimal point on the bill to the right to compensate.
How did my boss know what I was thinking? Was it tattooed across my forehead? Cause I was the only person around the table he needed to reassure that having escaped the ghetto I wouldn’t have to return there impoverished in order to roll with the white dudes.
My old mate 50 Cent once confided in me that he, like so many successful black men, has an irrational fear of ending up back in the ghetto.
“Every night before I go to bed I remind myself that I live in a mansion that Mike Tyson used to own when he was the richest athlete in the world. And then he went bankrupt.”
Now, at the time, 50 was a quarter billionaire and had just invested in a bottled water company that would bring him even greater riches. So you would think, what is there to worry about? I guess if you know where you’re coming from you’ll walk around your mansion turning off all the lights.
Like top of the table Leicester City midfielder Kante who, in a survey of his fellow high-earning team mates had the cheapest car. Whilst the likes of Jamie Vardy are rocking Bentley Continentals and Lamborghinis, Kante drives a relatively humble Mini Cooper. No doubt it’s top of the range though. Even so, he’s probably got a whole village back home in Mali that he supports with his weekly wage/fortune - if not the entire national GDP.
And then the waiter asked if I needed some hot sauce with my chips.
Yeah. Sure bloody damn right. I could do with some...”
How did he know that?
I was the only one around the table who was even offered a scotch bonnet.You could say it’s because of slavery and blah, blah, blah, blah. And, no doubt, the white man in particular learned a lot about black folks - men and women - during those days.
We were being experimented on in them times. It’s not nice to think about it, but if you’ve read a so-called slave narrative like 12 Years A Slave or even seen the movie, you cannot help but conclude that some of those slave masters were like mad scientists carrying out some evil research on our forefathers and foremothers to see how many lashes it would take to, for instance, kill a black man. Say, for argument’s sake, it’s one hundred and ninety seven. Let’s not forget that some didn’t survive ONE lash. Personally, I would have died at the very sight of the whip.
WEEPING: Fats Domino’s lyrics had us weeping and wailing
That’s why it hurt so much when my old man gave me licks when I was a juvenile delinquent. What was the point of escaping slavery by a hundred years if we were still being flogged?
You could say it’s about colonialism and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. After all colonialism is tantamount to mental slavery of a kind that many of us are battling with every day.
It’s a struggle.
I’ll be honest.
If you’ll be honest.
Could it be that it’s not the white man that has got us in mental slavery but we ourselves?
It’s worth considering. Bob Marley did after all urge us to ‘free ourselves” from that kind of self-imprisonment.
If it’s not colonialism either, I can only think of one thing that it could possibly be.
We snitch on ourselves. Especially through our music.
I’m talking particularly about lyrics in that popular music cultural medium that black Americans (from the Fisk Jubilee Singers on their tour of Britain at the end of the 19th century to Beyonce and Jay-Z and all the other rappers - grime or clean) took and conquered the world with. There would be no pop, rock or rap for that matter without pioneering black musicians. The Library of Congress recordings of Jelly Roll Morton riffing and reeling off the true history of jazz is testament to that. Living evidence on wax that jazz was being created in the brothels, gambling parlours, churches and shebeens of black America in late Victorian times for a (somewhat) newly-liberated demographic that wanted to dance away (some of) their blues.
I genuinely urge you to listen to Jelly Roll’s recordings. Not just for their historic eloquence but also from the point of view of the ‘big snitch’
When you said
Ain’t that a shame…”
Fats Domino’s lyrics from one of his many million-selling hit singles in the 1950s basically gives the whole game away.
Who knew that black men would bawl out in tears if their women left them? Not in public. But they bawl. And worse still, Fats is telling his woman that he’s been weeping and wailing.
Oh white guys were paying attention all right. Pat Boone even wanted to change it form black speak to ‘Isn’t that a shame’.
As you know, black speak won out in the end. Even to today. If you’re gonna bawl, bawl. But don’t be telling your woman about it. You can’t be telling her dem tings if you call yourself a black man.
And even worse still, Fats is telling the whole damn world about it. Just like Smokey Robinson telling the whole damn world that when a black man’s got ‘his girl’ he starts to lose his mind thinking he’s got sunshine on a rainy day.
Happy bunch of hopelessly romantics. I’m not saying that white guys don’t fall in love, I’m just saying that we’re always so ‘x-tra’.
I guess that’s why they call it soul music.
White folks love it more than we do, especially the old school stuff. If it wasn’t for them, blues would be virtually dead. Let’s face it. And, arguably, jazz too. Even when it comes to the stuff we still love, like Motown and Bob Marley… well, the numbers speak for themselves.
Talking of Marley, white men may indeed know more about us than we know about ourselves through black music. I don’t have a problem with that (after all, these days it’s all peace and lwove and one love and onew world and yadda-yadda-yadda, especially amongst the youngers). But it doesn’t mean that they always get it right.
Some get it wrong and sing ’No Woman No Cry’ like it means “if you haven’t got a woman, you ain’t got no tears”. Whilst not wanting to dispute that, is it any wonder that there is this unhelpful, untruthful, absurd myth that black men can’t stay with one woman?
On the other hand, maybe white folks didn’t know us any better than we know ourselves - until they read this.