By Ricardo McKenzie
Growing up in the northern Midwest as an Afro-Caribbean child, my ears would always sprightly perk up whenever (on the rare occasion) the subject matter in Social Studies, or English grazed upon a topic pertaining to the global Black diaspora. One topic in particular, that I’ve always regarded as an enlightening seed that was inadvertently planted within my young mind, was a highly strategic and potent curse bestowed upon the Blacks of the “New World” by our ancestral enslavers. This plague that colonial Blacks were stricken with hundreds of years ago is known as “divide and conquer”. The true shame however, is that this pandemic is steadily perpetuated today.
The term “divide and conquer” is defined as, “the policy of maintaining control over one’s subordinates or subjects by encouraging dissent between them.” Based on this delineation, it is clear that this social mechanism explains race relations both in the past and present.
Historically, slave masters purposefully divided the slaves on the plantation as a means of control. By separating the house slaves from the field slaves, and the field slaves from the overseers, the imprisoners created a hierarchy amongst their “property.” Furthermore, distinguishing and emphasizing the difference in skin tone added to their intended atmosphere of Negro dissent. From my personal experience, the latter unfortunately appears to be the most prevalent in black society today.
What makes me writhe in disappointment, however, is that to the relish of the conservative, white majority, we as modern Blacks have eternalized this policy of division. We often have prejudicial verdicts regarding our fellow Blacks of different skin tones or ethnicities. As a “red-bone”, Afro-Caribbean, gay man, I have faced this for most, if not all of my life. There have been many a time where I have heard from other Blacks that they refuse to associate with Afro-Caribbeans because, “they’re all crazy.” Moreover, from the Black, gay community, I have often been told things like, “they only think you cute ‘cuz you light-skinned”. Upon receiving the sting from these darts of dissension, poisoned by centuries of brainwashing, I understand that it is up to those of us who know better, to do better.
I do not believe that it is the mission of the Black Millennial to further divide the global Black community, rather it is our mission to denounce the lies and hateful strategies that have been historically used by slave masters on the plantation, as well as those used by their descendents today. I invoke Black Millennials to contest this culture of infighting. A culture developed and rooted in the slave master’s plot to distract his Negroes from societal advancement by having them quarrel amongst one another instead; it is up to us to indoctrinate our peers.
As I reflect on the progressive plight of the Black Millennial, I am reminded of iconic author Toni Morrison’s quote, “I don’t know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands.” This quote illuminates the reality of our power as enlightened representatives of the global Black community. If our desire for Black and social progress is fixedly flat lining due to neglect, it is our responsibility to nurture, revive, and strengthen this desire, for this desire will help as our messenger amid our journey to educate the brainwashed, ignorant, and hardheaded.
Ricardo McKenzie was born in Jamaica and raised in suburban Wisconsin. He has lived in four countries, and speaks for languages. Currently, residing in north Jersey, he works as a flight attendant for a major US airline. He deems it his responsibility to to denounce the social injustice he sees everyday.