When Roseanne Barr’s television show was rebooted earlier this year, the bean counters at ABC figured that Barr, an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, would attract many of his followers to the network. This past March, Trump praised the comedienne and her show by exclaiming at a rally, “…look at Roseanne, I called her yesterday. Look at her ratings! Look at her ratings!”
Barely two months later, Roseanne came under harsh fire this week for her comments that compared former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett to an ape. Within 24 hours of the furor, the show’s black contributor/producer, comedienne Wanda Sykes, had quit. Several hours later, ABC cancelled the show entirely, a move that has erupted yet another battle in the cultural civil war about “free speech.”
As I read literally thousands of comments on social media last night on Fox News social media pages and Roseanne’s Twitter feed, I immediately realized that there are significant numbers of Americans, mostly white, who are preternaturally ignorant about the racist legacy of white folks comparing black folks to primates. To these perpetually blind ones, Roseanne was simply “joking,” and her comments were merely a part of her comedic shtick.
From the earliest days of Europeans traveling deep into Africa for the sole purposes of exploiting that continent’s material resources, European “scholars” sought to condition the mostly Christian European general public into believing that the beatings and murders of Native Africans were not sinful because the Natives were lower life forms akin to primates.
From the 15th to the 19th Centuries, European writers like John Donne, Antonio de Torquemada and John Locke all wrote about the connection of Africans to primates, and the desires of African humans and sub-human apes and gorillas to “rape” white European women.
Despite the best efforts of British anthropologist/scientist Charles Darwin who later concluded that all humans descended from primates, European Christians, rejecting such as antithetical to church dogma, ratcheted up the rhetoric regarding Africans sharing traits with apes, gorillas and chimpanzees. Such would later serve as the bases for the “Eugenics” movement that was all the rage in Europe and America during the early 20th Century, as philosophers, scientists and politicians all created policies that discriminated against sub-saharan Africans due to what they believed were their sub-human nature. Among the prominent espousers of Eugenics beliefs were American President Warren Harding, American industrialists Henry Ford and Joe Kennedy, famed American aviator Charles Lindbergh, scientist and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, and British King Edward VIII.
Edgar Rice Burroughs later drew considerable wealth and prominence for his literary magnum opus, “Tarzan” and it’s many spinoffs on television and film that depicted a white lord of the jungle ruling over the native blacks and primates. Aside from Tarzan, the feature film “King Kong” was at its height of popularity during the mid 1930s as most of America was tuned into the Scottsboro Case, one in which nine young black men were falsely accused and convicted of rape in Alabama and originally sentenced to death.
(I was aghast several years ago when Lebron James, a basketball star and philanthropist that I admire, posed for Vanity Fair similar to the World War I era poster to the left)
This latter point is the true malevolent nature of whites viewing blacks as lustful primates; white fear of black male sexual prowess often led enslaved black men to be murdered for sexual relations with white women during slavery, and during the Jim Crow era that spanned from the 1880s to the late 1960s, many a black boy and man was lynched by all white lynch mobs due to alleged rapes of white women. After many of the lynchings, the pernicious lynchers often cut off the penises of the black males and sold parts of the same as souvenirs.
(Claude Neal’s lifeless and genital less body hanging near the Jackson County Courthouse in Marianna, Florida circa 1934)
(The 1970s movie “Mandingo,” shown above, gruesomely and accurately depicted the end result of black men having sexual relations with white women during slavery)
But for those who have read to this point and want to dismiss said lynchings during slavery and Jim Crow as the acts of the lawless, please know that during the period in which states could execute men convicted of rape, a practice that was discontinued in the mid-70s, that those executed for rape were overwhelmingly black men accused of raping white women. No white man in American history was ever executed for the rape of a black woman. And, between 1930 and 1972, the year that I was born, 455 men were executed for rape in the United States. 405–89.1 percent–were black men. Further, 443 of those executions were committed down in Dixie land, yep, the states of the old Confederacy like Georgia, Alabama and Texas were notorious for executing black men for rape while allowing white rapists to get veritableslaps on the wrist.
What I have shown in this blog is that what started as a condescending slur by Europeans against Africans during the Rennaissance, soon turned into the roots of Imperial explorationand exploitation. From there, the fervent belief that blacks were primates formed the bases for the enslavement, brutal mistreatment and murder of the same. Finally, the blacks as primates slurs was the primary cause of a Eugenics movement that was the foundation of the Immigration Act of 1924, one that forbade black immigration from sub-saharan Africa until the 1960s, and one that to this day, finds its legacy in Donald Trump’s “shithole nation” comment about immigrants from Africa and predominantly black Haiti.
Now, Roseanne Barr quite likely did not know this history, much like the responders that I have read did not know. But the nature of systemic racism is such that the lower intellectuals among the white race need not understand the “why” of their racial biases and comments to still hurl them and benefit from a system designed to oppress those of us who descend from sub-Saharan Africa.
Lest we forget that what once was–still is where racism is concerned: