124. Coming to meet (III)
Updated: Jan 22
We should all appreciate black women a great deal more than we do already, so runs the orthodoxy of the contemporary West. This view is intimately tied up with the West’s hegemonic ideology, progressivism, an ideology that celebrates women, ethnic minorities (particularly black Africans), and sexual minorities with the same vigour as the USSR celebrated workers and peasants. So we find, with obsequious faithfulness, the Western middle class will affirm that black people invented sea shanties or traffic lights before, sad to relate, wicked white men stole these innovations away. There is even a film—Hidden Figures (2016)—that claims black women were the animating genius behind America’s Apollo program.
At the general level, the celebration of black Africans stems from a universal sense of reaction formation and a perversion of a genuine human desire not to be cruel. While there are aspects of civilisation in Africa—such as Great Zimbabwe—there is nothing to compare with the achievements of the Chinese or the Indians, great civilisations in their own right. For the most part, there is a human desire not to trample on a man who is already down—and Africa is very down indeed.
At the specific level, the cult grows from sentimental Victorian religion. In Gone with the Wind (1939) we see the idealised “black mammy”; a woman with ample bosom, infinite warmth, and child-like wisdom. This stereotype was based on an aspect of reality, as stereotypes usually are—and it was finessed into sentimentalism by the Victorians. It is easy to see how this trope has been extended for ideological purposes; it is not a great leap from the all-sustaining black mammy to the “hidden figures” behind the Apollo program. Deeper yet, the European occult tradition celebrates the figure of the “Black Madonna”; the Black Madonna was not racially black, but the colour black is associated with wisdom in this tradition. Hence when progressive ideology makes use of black people as exemplars of wisdom they are reaching into the deepest aspects of European man’s psyche.
It has become a cliché that Morgan Freeman (literally the “free man”; emphatically no longer a slave) should play God in any film; when he does so, he extends the archetype of Uncle Remus or Uncle Tom, the wise old slave who educates massah; he give the cold clever white man back his soul. Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr. were two men specifically styled in such a way that they conformed to this archetype, the wise old negro preacher to whom we can all nod along. The negro preacher has, in his simplicity, the wisdom of a child; and it is no coincidence that our society also sentimentalises children, even though children are cruel conformists.
This all grows from the sentimental aspects of the priestly class and the way they cultivate the middle-class need to be holier-than-thou. The middle class is always precarious, but they can at least have moral superiority over others; and it is this desire for moral superiority that fuels the contemporary left—even as they extend the archetype, the priestly class produces new works condemning such portrayals as “racist”; yet they merely reinvent the archetype in a new form, from Gone with the Wind to Hidden Figures.
The sentimental process extends beyond race. The reactionary opium addict, de Quincey, spent his teenage years in the early 1800s tramping about London with a sixteen-year-old prostitute; but by the century’s end, with the middle class in the saddle, such writing became aristocratic decadence. Women were “the angels in the home” and feminism, for all its phoney talk of sex positivity, is merely the extension of Victorian middle-class sentimentalism regarding women—they can do no wrong; they are the shining light for men—into an ideological form. Only a brute could not “believe all women” as a good middle-class man would do—and we are all middle class today. We are all good sentimentalists and, as Hemingway observed, quite justly, all sentimentalists are cruel.