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Black Leadership Analysis

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The Annihilation of Caste

Preface
The Annihilation of Caste was originally written as a speech for the Society of the Abolition of Caste (Jat-Pat-Todak). The Society wanted Ambedkar to lead the 1936 Conference in Lahore. The Society composed of Dalits and Caste Hindus working to end caste first invited Ambedkar on December 12, 1935. Ambedkar initially turned them down because even liberal Hindus often opposed his views. The Society sent a delegation to Ambedkar in Bombay. He eventually agreed to explain in detail how it is impossible to break caste without annihilating religious notions undergirding the caste system.

Ambedkar prepared the first draft and sent it to the Society for approval. An argument began on whether the Society should publish the speech in Lahore or by Ambedkar in Bombay during the completion of the final draft. Ambedkar held firm to his right to publish his work. The Society sent a representative to Ambedkar to make amends and get a final draft of the address.

When the Society received the final draft, many Hindu members were upset that the speech attacked Hindu scripture and the fundamental morality of Hinduism. The Society then asked Ambedkar to change the address to make it more palatable to all the members. Ambedkar refused. The Society specifically asked him to explain how Hinduism is fundamental to the Caste System. If they had a problem with his speech, the Society should have rejected the first draft. Criticizing the casteism within Hindu scriptures is fundamental to Ambedkar’s prescription for Indian progress. The existence of caste inside scripture makes the religion of Hinduism antithetical to equality. Ambedkar canceled the conference and left the Society with the following quote:

But What can anyone expect from a relationship so tragic as the relationship between the reforming sect of Caste Hindus and the self-respecting sect of Untouchables where the former have no desire to alienate their orthodox fellows, and the latter have no alternative but to insist upon return being carried out?

The Annihilation of Caste

India must annihilate caste to facilitate unification. Without unification, there will never be a large enough population resisting British rule. Even if Britain granted independence to a divided India, persecution of the lower castes will continue. The divisions with in the country will retard India’s growth if not rip it apart.

The caste system is a system that divides India into thousands of sub-castes due to birth. Also, the caste system created a hierarchy in which sub-caste in the highest positions have more rights and privileges. There is no unifying moral belief that everyone must follow. All morality is contingent on caste. One is also born with this caste and cannot change it. Therefore conversion is not possible. If one were to adopt Hinduism, they would not have a caste and would not intermingle with other believers. India has a large population of people that still live in tribes uninfluenced by Hinduism.

The term “Hindu” is derived from Arabic to describe the people they conquered in India. Before the Islamic invasion, no word unified all the people in the sub-continent. Essentially, Indians never saw themselves as one united people. The caste worshiped Hindu gods in separate cults. There was never a unifying ethos or praxis in the religion.

Separation due to caste had always weakened India. Muslims and Sikhs stood united against oppression, whereas Hindus understood people of other castes would not support them. That is why so many invaders took over India. Hinduism and the caste system have left India weak. India’s failure to repel a conqueror proves it. The Hindu culture has survived thousands of years only because no conqueror saw it necessary to destroy it. Hinduism is not uniquely resilient.

Many Indians, including Mr. Mohandes Gandhi, favored replacing the caste system with Chaturuvarnya. The Chaturuvarnya classified people into four castes Brahmin (Priest), Kshatriyas (Soldiers), Vaishya (Retailers), and Shudras (Menials). The idea was that reducing the hundreds of castes in India currently would be the first step in unification. Also, the Chaturvarnya doesn’t forbid anyone from learning a profession outside their birth occupation. It only prohibits earning a living from it.

Ambedkar explains Chatruvarnya will not work because people don’t fit into simple categories. People are much too complicated for that, and classification is only superficial. Determining one’s profession by birth hinders people from fulfilling market needs. People need the flexibility to change jobs when needs arise, such as war. If India were to be invaded and only Kshatriyas could serve in the military, there would not be enough soldiers for defense, as seen many times in Indian history.

Even within the Chatruvarnya, there is no motivation for a Kshatriya to defend the rights of a Shudra. There is no motivation for a Brahmin to use his intellect for the good of the Shudra. Hierarchies naturally lead to exploitation. People in every community depends on experts. However, all societies should allow all citizens access to education and self-defense as both are vital needs.

Socialists, in contrast to supporters of Chatruvarnya, wanted to end caste. However, they saw it best to do this indirectly with the inevitable socialist revolution. Once workers owned the means of production, all the workers would unite regardless of caste. There was no need to attack caste directly; the natural progression of society would end caste.

Here the socialist are class reductionists, and Ambedkar reminds them that money is not the only source of power for many people. Religious and social statuses are also a source of power. Muslims will sell their last possessions to go on Haj. Wealthy Hindus will obey penniless gurus. The idea that money is the primary method to obtain power comes from an analysis of modern-day Europe. India is a very different creature, and the socialist theorist had not evaluated the intersectionality of economics, religion, and culture.

The socialist revolution will require all workers to unite. Worker unity is not possible without the abolition of caste. Those of low caste will not trust high caste leadership. Those of high caste would not follow leaders of low caste. The people of India must foment fellow-feeling as a prerequisite to solidarity.

It is essential to remember class is not the same as caste. Classes are not separated socially. Nothing is stopping the poor woman from eating with the rich woman, no reason to kill a poor man that marries a rich woman. Castes are separated in every area of intercourse and suffer stiff penalties for transgression. Dalits are not allowed on the sidewalk at the same time as a Hindu because the Dalit shadow could pollute the Hindu. Dalits had to wear a pot around their neck to catch their spittle and a broom on their waste to sweep away their footsteps. No poor person in Europe had to go through this level of humiliation.

Caste is also not based on race or ethnology. Even in the 1930s, ethnologist agreed that no one is racially pure. Even the ethnologists that support the idea of race do not believe races represent different species. Even if race was the basis of caste, there is no reason to think there would be a scientific justification for hundreds of subcastes. It is also important that those that support eugenicists, those that believe races are different species, are also supporting the idea that Indians are pygmies, and 90% are unfit for military service.

Ambedkar did not believe all men have equal ability. He did believe there is no way to predetermine a person’s ability. Ability is dependent on physical heredity, environment, and personal effort. These factors interconnect in complex ways that are difficult for outsiders to understand. From a practical standpoint, Society should be organized in a way to allow for as much equality from the very start. Equity is the only way to get the most out of each member of Society. The following quote is the best summary:

Treat all men alike not because they are alike but because classification and assortment is impossible. The doctrine of equality is glaringly fallacious but taking all in all it is the only way a statesmen can proceed in politics which is a severely practical affair and which demands a severely practical test.

One must destroy the religious underpinnings of caste to eradicate it from Indian Society. That means an abdication of the Vedas, Smirtis, Shastras, and Sadachars. These texts do not serve as a moral code and are only a set of rules. Ambedkar thinks Hinduism should be reformed as a state religion with the following parameters:

  1. There should be one and only one standard book of Hinduism acceptable to all Hindus
  2. Priesthood should be open to all citizens, and heredical priesthood should be abolished
  3. Only licensed priest can perform ceremonies
  4. State should discipline priest that break moral or civil codes
  5. State should limit the amount of priest based on population

After the annihilation of caste, Indians can establish fellow-feeling amongst themselves. This fraternity is the basis of democracy. There will not be campaigns to promote inter-dining or intermarriage because those things will not be needed. India needs and deserves more than a new system of government. Indians need an equitable society.

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Why Equality is Necessary for Democracy

In Ambedkar’s view, three main types of foreigners that become interested in Indian politics and inequality. The first attempt to use the disparity of India to justify continued British rule. The second doesn’t know or care about the depressed classes and only wants India to be free. The third only have a passing interest in India and involve themselves only for multi-cultural effect. For the rare few that are interested in the intersection of inequality and independence, Ambedkar details difference in India hurts the cause of independence.

Foreign misunderstanding is quite understandable. Congress was the only party strong enough to have international press coverage. They can control Indian media because most of the capitalist class are upper castemen and supply all the advertising revenue for the newspaper. The monopoly on the media led to the perception that they are the only group resisting the British. Also, the press suppressed the shortcomings of Congress on Dalit issues.

Those in command of Congress despise depressed classes and want to maintain the caste system. There was one Congressman, Mr. Tilak, that said depressed classes are only to obey laws not make them. The mere notion that depressed classes should join the war effort angered Congressman Patel. All the provinces that had a population majority of Hindus had Brahmin Prime Ministers. When Congress did promote depressed class legislatures, it was done to discourage Hindu participation. They knew self-respecting Hindus would not participate in a Parliament that included depressed classes. Congress was not only fighting for the removal of British rule but the reinstatement of the ancient caste rulers.

The caste order was not just an extreme version of the stratification in all societies of the ruling and servile class. The result of the class solidification was those that governed in previous generations produced the current governors. This stratification can only be partially explained by the fact most don’t want to participate in governance. Those in the ruled class begin to form an inferiority complex that helps to perpetuate and solidify class. Because the ruling class is rarely lost power, their prestige grew. That is why adult suffrage by itself is not enough to ensure equality.

The parliamentary government replaced despotic sovereigns in most of the developed world. At the time of the World Wars, parliamentary government fell to despots in Italy, German, Russia, and Spain. The cause of regression was a disparity between rulers and those ruled. The Constitution should primarily prevent the formation of a permanent governing class. Parliamentary government, by its very nature, cannot move quickly enough to meet the needs of the servile class after the creation of significant disparities. If this class developed, the only recourse was a revolution.

Democracy requires constitutional safeguards to protect the servile class and prevent the development of a permanent ruling class. Many that are against these safeguards operate under the incorrect assumption that individuals operate with equal bargaining power. The disparity between rulers and the ruled is only one barrier to truly free enterprise. The government must act affirmatively to balance power between individuals.

Gandhi and Ambedkar Debate Caste

Gandhi’s Vindication of Caste

After Annihilation of Caste was published, Mr. Mohandes Gandhi wrote three articles in his newspaper Harijan. In these articles, he defends his position supporting Chatruvarnya. Chatruvarnya is the belief Hindus should live out one of four ancestral callings, Brahmin(Priest), Kshatriya (Soldier), Vaishya (Retailer), Shudra (Menial). This system was far older than the caste system, which split Hindus into hundreds of sub-castes.

Mr. Gandhi begins by saying nothing in the speech was out-of-character of Dr. Ambedkar. The Society for the Abolition of Caste (Jat-Pat-Todak) should have expected such an address from him. The publishing of the speech was of great benefit to Hindus and encouraged them to read it to know how to refute Dr. Ambedkar.

Ambedkar was raised a Hindu and was part of Hindu culture. He grew disgust for Hinduism due to their treatment of “their fellow Hindus that they label Untouchable.” Mr. Gandhi said Dr. Ambedkar’s feelings were understandable. In addition, Ambedkar was correct in his assessment that the Hindu scriptures justified the discrimination against Dalits.

The question was whether all the scriptures authoritative to the same degree. For example, the Smrities have much in them that can’t be considered the word of God. One can throw them out without the foundation of Hinduism being disturbed. Hinduism created many saints and sages. Therefore there must be wisdom in the religion. In fact, many Dalit activists are fighting the caste system without leaving the faith. One can not judge a religion by the worst participants or the worst scriptures.

In the last article, a member of The Society for the Abolition of Caste explains why they initially invited Dr. Ambedkar. It was not to have a Dalit lead the conference because the Society does not recognize such a distinction. The Society asked him because he agreed with them that caste is destroying India. The Society wanted to remove the statements that Dr. Ambedkar said he was leaving Hinduism, which they felt was not relevant to his thesis or the goals of the conference.

The member of the Society also challenged Gandhi on his assumption that Chatruvarnya is better than caste. Both are divisions of labor based on birth. They both put individuals in a hierarchy. All the arguments to support Chatruvarnya can be used to support the caste system.

The rebuttal from Mr. Gandhi was that Shastras, one of the holiest books in Hinduism, supported Chatruvarnya. If one doesn’t believe in the Shastras, then one isn’t a Hindu. Denouncing the Shastras was equivalent to a Christian denouncing the Bible or a Muslim criticizing the Quran.

Dr. Ambedkar’s Rebuttal

Dr. Ambedkar begins by restated what he hoped to communicate in his speech. First, caste was destroying India. If Indians transitioned to Chatruvarnya, it would still need to be legally enforced due to it being unnatural. Chatruvarnya denies individuals their fundamental human rights of education and self-defense. India will not advance until they adopt the principles of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. The Hindu scriptures undergirding them must be destroyed to annihilate caste.

Gandhi’s prescription to evaluate each text and decide which ones to keep and which to discard can’t be done in a mostly illiterate population. Ambedkar also agreed with the Society that there was no significant difference between Caste and Chatruvarnya. Both forced people to take occupations due to birth not ability. Also, none of the saints mentioned by Gandhi in his articles fought the caste system. Most defended it.

The conflict between Ambedkar and Gandhi was about was Hinduism morally beneficial. It had nothing to do with judging a religion by its worst deeds. The question was whether those deeds supported by the religion. In the case of Hinduism, scripture justified the evil acts. Therefore the Hindu religion had to be discarded.

To further prove that keeping Chatruvarnya is unrealistic, Dr. Ambedkar gave examples from Mr. Gandhi’s life. The Vaishya caste produced the “Mahatma,” and he now serves as a priest. His son married a Brahmin’s daughter. His failure to follow his own beliefs is not unique. Most Brahmin do not serve as priest and at the time of publication, there were more Brahmin retailers than priests.

Ultimately the Hindu scriptures must be discarded to annihilate caste.

Ambedkar’s View of the Civil War and Reconstruction

Ambedkar spoke on the similarities between the struggle of Blacks Americans and Dalits in India in What Congress and Gandhi Have Done to the Untouchables. Dalit is the proper name for someone that suffers from untouchability. Ambedkar named the political party he started the Indian Republican Party after the party that freed the slaves in America. He was intensely studied on issues involving Black Americans and corresponded with W.E.B Dubois, the most prominent Black leader of the day.

Ambedkar revered Lincoln but also researched his motives well enough to understand him. He mentions an 1862 correspondence with Horace Greenly in which Lincoln says his primary goal was to preserve the Union. If freeing the slaves was needed, he would free slaves. If keeping all the slaves was required, he would keep everyone enslaved. Ambedkar likened Lincoln’s conditional support for abolition to Gandhi’s conditional support for Dalit rights. Gandhi would only speak on untouchability if the cause of Indian independence required Dalit support.

Fortunately, the victory of the Union was heavily dependent on the support of black Americans. 125,000 freed slaves joined Union forces along with 80,000 freed blacks from the North. These brave soldiers fought in 450 battles. The Black soldiers faced even more danger than Whites because they would not be recognized as POWs and sent back to slavery. They also received less pay from the Union forces until 1864. Thirty-seven thousand black soldiers fell to preserve the Union.

Once the war was over, the government understood that constitutional safeguards were needed to ensure the freedom of Blacks. The 13th amendment ended slavery, and the 14th amendment provide birthright citizenship to all Americans. Finally, the 15th amendment outlawed discrimination due to color. The American Congress passed the Reconstruction Act to facilitate the re-entry of rebelling states. All southern states must frame a new constitution and ratify the 14th amendment.

The old southern powers did not take this lying down. The Ku Klux Klan was formed to terrorize Black citizens. The southern governments instituted the Grandfather Clause that state one could not vote unless their grandfather could vote. When Blacks went to the court to fight the Grandfather Clause and get protection from Klansman, the government abandoned them. The North was not ready to re-engage the South in war. Their state in society steadily declined after the government abandoned Black people.

Both Black Americans and Dalits needed constitutional safeguards and a specific plan of redress. Ambedkar fought for Dalits to have access to all public facilities, including water resources. When India was transitioning out of British rule, Ambedkar proposed and won a special electorate with reserved seats in parliament for Dalits. His most impressive and longest-lasting accomplishment was a mass conversion of Dalits into Buddhism. As a matter of self-respect, one could not stay part of a religion that views them as inferior. The conversion to Buddhism was a recognition of Dalit humanity.

How Gandhism hurts Dalits

Gandhism is the name given to the philosophy of Mr. Mohandes Gandhi. He never admitted to fathering a new philosophy, but also didn’t object to the publication of books entitled Gandhism. Ambedkar used Gandhi’s speeches, published interviews, and the book Hindu Raj to define Gandhism.

The return to the village and ancient life served as the center for Gandhi’s philosophy. It was not a plan for modernization. He was only against the caste system due to its complication and formation of hundreds of castes. Gandhi supported the Varna system that had only four castes: Brahmin (Priest), Kshatriyas (Soldiers), Vanias (Retailers), and Shudra (Menials). Those without Caste, Dalits, would be added as a fifth caste. There would be no untouchability observed. So if someone interacted with Dalits, they would not need to be cleansed. Dalits would keep their hereditary occupations, including sewer cleaning. So Gandhi was for the replacement of the caste system with the Varna system. He did not support the equality of Dalits.

Gandhi saw the caste system as no worse than any other societal stratification. All societies have rules. Intermarriage between castes are outlawed no differently as a marriage between relatives is outlawed. All societies set limits around enjoyment to prevent the community from devolving into chaos.

The varna system is superior to the caste system because it prohibits no caste from learning or conducting any tasks. It only prevents one from earning a living in any other profession than that prescribed by one’s caste. Because no one can change their profession, there is no reason for class war or struggle.

Gandhi is opposed to unionization or collective bargaining in anything other than extreme circumstances. A strike should happen only with a “real” grievance. Those participating in the strike should live on savings or temporary work. They should not ask for donations or charity. Also, they must make their minimum demand know from the beginning of the strike. So with criteria such as these, it would be challenging for unions to be effective.

The overreach of capitalists was common. Gandhi admitted this. However, he thought workers should show restraint when addressing these grievances. The use of violence was out of the question. The laborers should remember that the capitalists have strength and intelligence. Their guidance was vital.

Machinery is another evil in Gandhi’s view. It removes man from his work, making the body idle. He also said “I would not weep over the disappearance of machinery or consider it a calamity.” If people serve in their caste profession, there will be more than enough labor and no need for machinery.

If India adopted Western values, their culture would dissolve. In Europe, the is suspicion around all the interactions between groups. Workers distrust company owners. French distrust English. Catholics distrust Protestants. Almost all members of Western Civilization are miserable. Indians must hold on to their culture not to be swept up in misery.

Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with the disparity in Indian society, only the perception of disparity. Instead of being angry that Shudras can’t accumulate wealth, praise the Shudras for not being materialistic. Instead of being jealous that only Brahmin can make a living in academia, say that they were the burden of becoming learned for their people. Most importantly, the Dalits profession of manually cleaning sewers was the noblest profession of all. This profession was ordained by divine fate as all others were. Never mind if most Dalits hated the job or had potential far greater than scavenging.

Ambedkar rebuts by making clear that caste divisions are more stringent than class divisions. Caste is the complete separation of individuals by birth. There is no way to improve one’s lot in the caste system. One can work hard and climb socially in Europe. Forcing people to hold an occupation by birth is an anathema to an industrious society.

Machinery and modernization are vital for the development of culture. When people have the burden of work lessened, time is freed for the development of culture. Man is separated from animals by his ability to build a culture. The growth of science, art, and philosophy is the foundation for a more equitable society.

The main discrepancy between the philosophy of Ambedkar and Gandhi is :

“Is it natural that a group of people solidify to govern society in perpetuity?”

or

“Is the creation of a ruling class the result of a dysfunctional society?”

Ambedkar emphatically sides with the latter. There needs to be a specific plan of redress to funnel resources into underprivileged communities. Gandhi only wanted to lessen the burden of the servile class while keeping society stratified.

India and the Pre-Requistes of Communism

This work was unfinished.

One must first understand how the Hindu social order differs from free social order.

In a free social order, society sees the individual and his development as an end in itself. Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity are the cornerstones of the societies values. To justify man being the impetus for creating a society, Ambedkar uses a quote from French philosopher Jacques Maritain that states that people are unique in the universe because they possess a divine spirit.

Ambedkar uniquely defines equality and fraternity. Equality further specified as moral equality, the belief that all people deserve to have their rights respected. As the Declaration of Independence states, “All men are created equal” meaning they begin equal. Ambedkar does not mean that all men have equal ability. Fraternity is defined by reverence for the fellow man and the desire to be in unity with him.

Liberty has two parts, civil and political. Civil Liberty is the freedom of movement, speech, and action. Whereas, political liberty is the right for individual people to share in lawmaking and governance. These two aspects of liberty are intertwined and inseparable.

In contrast, the Hindu social order does not recognize individuals or individual responsibility. Instead, caste serves as the basis for social order. The four castes are Brahmin (Priest), Kshatriya (Soldiers), Vaishyas (Retailers), Shudra (Menials). In addition to the four major castes, there are over 3,000 subcastes. These castes are solidified, and individuals do not pursue their purpose to maintain social order. The base institution of society is caste. Marriage and inheritance are the only subjects in which Hindu society recognizes family. Castes are a division of society by occupation given at birth. Hinduism further separates caste for purposes of dining and marriage.

The three unique features of the Hindu Caste System:

  1. Worship of a Superman
  2. The Brahmin serves as the object of worship for the lower castes. The lower castes, especially, the Shudra exist to serve Brahmin. The servitude of Brahmin lasts until death. Hinduism does not permit Shudra to retire. In the same vein, a Brahmin has no obligation to a shudra.

  3. King is responsible for maintaining the Social Order
  4. The king must maintain social order. If he fails in doing this, he will suffer prosecution like any other criminal. The king also heads a legal system in which penalties are dependent on the caste of the victim and perpetrator. If someone of lower caste injures a person of the higher caste they receive a harsh sentence. The reverse is also true, to the point that someone outside the Caste system could be killed a will by a Brahmin with no penalty.

  5. The social order was ordained by Brahma (God)
  6. It is believed the Brahmin sprang from God’s mouth. The Kshatriya from God’s shoulders. Vaishya came from the thighs, and Shudra came from the feet. The origin of each caste is different, and therefore, so should their station in life. Because the caste system is divine, no modification or change is valid. Ambedkar reiterates that caste is not equivalent to class. Class is something one can ascend or descend depending on individual efforts.

There is also an interesting discussion of the revolution in the book. Three conditions lead to rebellion. The first is a wrong being committed to a group of people. The second is the capacity for the people to realize they suffer a slight—finally, the availability of arms or other means in the overthrowing government. The Hindu social order exists because Hinduism keeps people blind to the fact they suffered wrong. Hindus believe the social order is divinely prepared. Ambedkar lists Nazi and Muslim examples of societies that allow their people to realize they were wronged and then violently suppress the rebellions once they happen.

In the last paragraph, Ambedkar differentiates between Savarna, caste observing, Hindus and Avarna, non-caste observing, Hindus. Ambedkar says there is a class division between them, but not much other information is available.

There is no discussion on Communism because the work is unfinished.

Dr. King and Ambedkar Agree on Communism

Two names are synonymous with social justice in their respective countries, Bhimrao Ambedkar and Dr. Martin Luther King. Both men were considered radicals in their time and even smeared as Communists. Anyone that reads what these men wrote understands the ridiculousness of the accusation.

Ambedkar was an advocate for untouchables, now known as Dalits. As a Dalit himself, Ambedkar faced many hardships. He overcame them to become educated at Columbia University in New York. He returned to India in the late 1920s. He worked to give Dalit’s voting rights, access to water, and education. In advocating for Dalits, he often found himself at odds with Gandhi. Despite political opposition, Ambedkar wrote the Indian Constitution. Toward the end of his life, he promoted Buddhism and held a mass conversion of Dalits to the faith in 1956. He died of natural causes a few months later.

The story of Dr. King is far better known to Americans. King was born in the American South and suffered through segregation. Like Ambedkar, he went to prestigious schools such as Morehouse and Boston College. The Montgomery Bus boycott was King’s first civil rights campaign. While aiding a sanitation workers strike in Memphis, he was gunned down.

The rise of Communism is one of the most important events of the early twentieth century. Communism was billed as the dawn of a new classless Utopia. Unfortunately, the actual implementation in Soviet Russia proved Communism was far from the mother of paradise.

Ambedkar and Dr. King wrote on the subject in their lifetime. Ambedkar’s The Buddha or Karl Marx and Dr. King’s “How Should a Christian View Communism” echo similar themes. A later version of King’s view on Communism is “Can a Christian Be Communist?”. Both works fundamentally rebuke Communism as antithetical to their religion. Due to Communism’s lack of moral absolutes, violence is used to suppress dissent. The result is a totalitarian government with no individual freedom.

Even though both men denounced Communism, they did not dismiss its critique of religion out of hand. Both agreed that the standard form of their faith was “otherworldly.” Most practitioners distracted themselves from the material lack in their life with spiritual pursuits. These religious endeavors foster an unhealthy individualism and a disconnection from social justice.

Ambedkar’s Buddhism and Dr. King’s Christianity were not the mainstream versions of either religion. The clergy of Burma rejected Ambedkar’s attempt to become a lay teacher. Fundamentalist Christians, white and black, opposed Dr. King. Instead, both men forged a new path for their religion infused with social justice. Their advocacy was their spiritual path.

The two works can be found below:

How Should a Christian View Communism

Can a Christian be Communist?

The Buddha or Karl Marx

The Psychology of Blacks Part II

Chapter 5: Approaches to Developmental Psychology African American Perspectives

Developmental Psychology asks four basic questions:

  1. What is the basic nature of humans?
  2. Is developmental qualitative or quantitative?
  3. How does nature contribute to development?
  4. What is it that develops?

All the developmental models fall into one of five theoretical approaches.

  1. Organismic: insists development is qualitative, not quantitative. Also, the process is unidirectional and irreversible. (Piaget)
  2. Psychoanalytic: insists development is qualitative and stage-like, proceeding through conflict resolution from one stage to the next. Progression is linear, but regression is also possible. (Freud, Erikson, Jung)
  3. Mechanistic: humans are machinelike composed of disparate yet interrelated parts. Environmental forces are the chief driver of behavior. Ultimately, the organism is a passive member in an active environment.
  4. Contextual: insists that the organism and environment are mutually effectual and symbiotic. The basic impetus is social-cultural or historical events. (George H Mead and Charles Sanders Pierce)
  5. Dialectical: insists that development happens in the context of contradiction or conflict. Once development begins, it is a continuous process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The change also occurs on multiple levels. (Marx and Hagel)

Parham’s research has found three fundamental flaws with our current perception of human development that necessitate the need for black psychology.

  1. The first three forms of developmental psychology do not account for culture in the development of the theory. By not accounting for culture the theorist cannot account for their own cultural bias
  2. The first three approaches assume cultural universality. Again they saw the European perspective as the standard. Cultural strengths of those in other communities are not acknowledged.
  3. The ones that do account for culture view it as just another variable among others to be controlled.

Now everyone in the black psychology community does not agree on all aspects of the theory. For example, Dr. Joesph White, the father of black psychology, believes the methods should be rooted in the experience of blacks in America. Dr. Wade Nobles believes methodology should be rooted in African culture.

Whether rooted in Africa or the Black American experience, nine principles undergrid Black culture philosophically.

  1. Spirituality: The belief life is vitalist and non-material forces influence people everyday
  2. Harmony: living in a manner conducive with nature
  3. Movement: the idea percussive music and dance are vital to psychological health.
  4. Verve: the propensity of relative high level of stimulation energetic and lively action
  5. Emotional Expressivism: communicating one’s emotions because emotions are not viewed negatively.
  6. Communalism: social connectedness more important than individual privileges
  7. Expressive Individualism: proclivity for spontaneous, genuine personal expression
  8. Oral Tradition: speaking and listening in a charismatic tone, seen as a performance
  9. Social Time Perspective: the idea that time is passing through a social space not a material one. Time is to be enjoyed in the present.

Along with the communal/emotive/physical disposition, blacks have to navigate a world not designed for them. Triple Quandary Theory best expresses the simultaneous realities blacks have to navigate.

  1. The mainstream experience which centers eurocentrism.
  2. The minority experience as a marginalized member of society.
  3. The African cultural orientation that sustains and individuals very existence.

Mental health for black people is the ability to navigate these realities simultaneously.

Chapter 6: Mental Health Issues Impacting African Americans

Dr. Parham believes that mental health is defined differently for blacks and whites. A psychologically healthy black person is one who interprets the African American ethos in their daily life. The ethos being defined as an emotional tone of a group of people or bond of cultural heritage and life experience.

Western psychology not only does not correctly account for the racial differences, but it also views the racial differences as inferiority. This racial bias has lead to misdiagnosis. Dr. Parham points to blacks and whites showing the same symptoms, but blacks were disproportionately diagnosed with schizophrenia. Also, state-run facilities supplied the data for statistics on the mentally ill population. The reliance on state-run facilities and not private lead to a disproportionate number of the mentally ill being poor black people. So the numbers of mentally ill were inflated, showing blacks had a larger population of mentally ill people. These numbers were not questioned because most of the whites reviewing the information assumed that blacks were inferior.

Because black people understand the bias in the field of psychology, they go to people within their community with mental health issues. Often pastors, elders, and extended family are called upon for guidance in hard times. When blacks do seek help within psychiatric facilities, they are in more advanced stages of mental illness, or the court or school ordered them to get treated. The providers must be cognizant of difficulty in treatment. So Dr. Parham recommends cultural awareness training to all providers.

Now all black patients should not be treated by black providers. If providers are culturally aware, they can treat anyone. However, for patients, their stage in Nigrescence will affect how well a service provider can treat them. A white provider would best serve someone in the pre-encounter. They will be predisposed to not believing a black person could provide adequate service. A black provider would best serve a person in Immersion-Emersion because they would not trust a white person.

Not only does the race of the provider matter, but therapy methods are also important. Because black people are more communal than whites, group therapy could be more effective. Also, therapies that focus more on the action and not merely talk therapy.

Chapter 7: Praxis in African American Psychology: Theoretical and Methodological Considerations

Praxis is the alignment of thought and practice of a given ideology. Black Psychology has been centered around three key issues. Protect black people from cultural bias in psychology is the first issue. The second, develop psychological theories to give meaning to the African American experience. The third is to make western psychology more pluralistic and inclusive.

Now within Black Psychology, there is not a critical mass of consensus on many concepts. One of the most important is should black psychology be rooted in the experience of Black Americans or Africans. However, there is consensus on Western Psychology being inadequate in its current form to interpret the lives of a diverse population.

All epistemology is rooted in culture. Unless there is a conscious effort to understand and expel cultural bias, the study of psychology will never be inclusive. Western Psychology is more interested in justifying ideas than advancing them. One example of this is the idea of black intellectual inferiority and IQ testing. The early test did not find any difference in the intelligence of whites and blacks, but those psychologists kept modifying the test until blacks scored lower than whites.

One problem with Western Psychology is the over-reliance on quantifiable data to prove an idea. Quantifiable data is not sufficient in understanding a complete range of human behavior. Even when black psychologists do provide studies on black life, many mainstream journals will not publish it unless whites and blacks are included in the study. When studies do include whites and blacks often, it is difficult to get an equal sample size for both groups. For example, when studying college students, getting a large sample size of white students is very easy. Because there are so few black students in most major universities, it is difficult to get even a hundred subjects. There needs to be a provision to allow small sample sizes for black populations in mainstream psychological journals.

Chapter 8: Issues Confronting the African-American Community

There has been much progress made in racial equality, but there is still a long way to go. Black people have more access to schools and other areas of American life. At the same time, there has been little change in racial attitudes. There will be minimal improvement going forward unless whites decide to confront their attitudes on race.

There has already been work done in the way of whites confronting racism—white Identity Development, which is a framework to explain how whites move toward multiculturalism. Dr. Parham also recommends a yearly conference on whiteness to confront questions about racism.

Racism helps to create and perpetuate invisible systems that confer status and privilege or otherwise unearned assets to whites. The system is perpetuated by taking action to harm people of color and also inaction of not speaking up when one sees someone inflicting racism on someone else.

Once one understands and couples racism with an increasingly competitive work environment, it is easy to see why anxiety is widespread. Difficulties in the workplace were especially true when the book was written in the mid-1990’s. Austerity measures were in full swing. Dr. Parham prescribes building a corporate culture that takes into account the mental and spiritual well-being of its employees. The company should remember it is not always the employee’s job to conform to company culture. It is, at times, necessary for the company to conform to the employee. There is a distinction between desegregation and integration. Desegregation is giving people of color access to institutions. Integration is when people of all cultures see their values reflected in the policies of that institution.

The Psychology of Blacks: Part 1

Chapter 1 African-Centered Psychology in the Modern Era

The guiding principle to the book is African Americans have a unique, coherent, and persistent psychological perspective or worldview. The book is not anti-white, nor does it claim all black people are the same. In addition, African Americans have a unique culture influenced by its African roots, not white oppression.

The African worldview starts with a holistic view of the human condition. The view asserts there is no mind/body duality, and the basic unit is the tribe. Africans live in the present moment with a reverence for the past. In African languages, there is no term for the distant future. Africans revere the spoken word along with their ancestors. Ancestor worship and reverence leads Africans to view death as another stage of life. Living in harmony with nature undergirds their value system.

The study of psychology started in Africa, but it was very different than its modern conception. In Africa, the study of psychology was the study of spirit, defined as will and intent. Western Psychology is a perverted version of the original and focuses on quantifiable human behavior. When one starts by measuring behavior without understanding underlying motivations, differences are seen as deficiencies. Dr. Parham believes that a fundamental misunderstanding of what culture is could be to blame. Culture is a complex constellation of mores, values, customs, traditions, and practices that guide and influence a people’s cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses to life circumstances. Many have inappropriately equated culture with food, music, and clothing.

Because many white psychologists don’t understand culture and how their own culture affects their behavior, they can’t understand the difference between the behavior of blacks and whites. This misunderstanding leads to the presumption that blacks are deficient instead of different. Some white analysts believed that blacks were inferior due to genetics and the inferiority could not be corrected. Others believed blacks were inferior because of oppression and could be reformed with proper rehabilitation. Dr. Parham takes the multi-cultural perspective that all groups have strengths and weaknesses.

Psychological health for black people is dependent on understanding and living your true African nature.

Chapter 2: The African American Family

As stated in the earlier chapter, psychology generally judged blacks by how closely they resembled whites. The family was no different. The black family was considered dysfunctional and a hotbed of various pathologies.

No one evaluated how black families developed in light of the different conditions that they faced. It is no secret that the black family is statistically more likely to be headed by a single parent, usually the mother. However, no one looked at how black extended family networks often shoulder the load of a missing parent. The community generally is more collaborative in child-rearing. The tendency toward collective struggle originated in Africa and never left our community.

Dr. Parham questions whether the white researchers weren’t purposefully painting the black family in a negative light to justify blacks inferior social position. Propagating the idea that blacks were inherently inferior would justify not implementing social policies to help black people. In reality, all families should be judged how they help members build a positive self-concept and face the burdens of life.

Chapter 3: The Struggle for Identity Congruence in African Americans

To create a realistic and positive concept of self, one must ask three questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Am I who I say I am?
  3. Am I who I ought to be?

Western Psychology has not aided black people in asking these three questions. Originating with the Clark Doll test of the 1940s, psychology has viewed black people as self-haters. A group of people that have fundamental low self-esteem because whites won’t validate them.

The problem with the early “self-hate” models is that it assumed that black people only seek the validation of whites. Many blacks value the opinion of their peers above any outsider. The identity of black people is not totally the result of oppression. Much of what makes blacks unique can be traced to Africa. However, many black people need to grow into the knowledge of themselves.

The process of becoming black is called “Nigrescence.” The word Nigrescence derives from French and means “becoming black.” The theory states that people grow in the knowledge of self in several stages. The stages are listed as:

  1. Pre-encounter: a person has never been faced with the race problem and sees themselves as part of mainstream America. Their orientation is pro-white and anti-black. They downplay their uniqueness to assimilate into mainstream culture.
  2. Encounter: one is confronted with race through discrimination. A person realizes the world will not simply see them as a human being. If psychological defense against adverse stimuli is low, a person is more likely to move to the next stage. If it is high, a person could need many more encounter experiences to move to the next stage.
  3. Immersion-Emmersion: one immerses themselves in black culture to emerge a new person. The Immersion-Emmersion stage can manifest as joining black political and cultural movements or just going to black spaces.
  4. Internalization: one accepts their ethnic identities with all their other identities and saliences. One can continue to stay in black groups and space, but one is also comfortable venturing out into the rest of the world. Security and confidence fortify their identity, and adverse stimuli do not cause much psychological damage.

Dr. William Cross created the original theory. Dr. Parham made a few adjustments to the original theory. They are:

  1. Everyone doesn’t start at Pro-white anti-black. Many in culturally supportive environments can start at pro-black
  2. It is possible that people stagnate in one phase, move up in stages in a linear fashion, or recycle through phase serval times in life as they face new encounter situations.

Parham also states that a person in the pre-encounter should not be given a black therapist. Those in pre-encounter don’t believe other black people could have the expertise or ability to treat them.

Once a person develops a healthy understanding of their ethnicity, they will naturally want to aid in the freedom struggle of their people. The African idea of consubstantiation, the principle that all things are of the same substance, will permeate their life. All acts of transgression to other people will be seen as an act of transgression against self. A healthy, supportive lifestyle will result from a healthy self-concept.

Chapter 4: Blacks and Education

It is no secret blacks lag far behind in statistics on education. At the same time, tests show that black and white children have similar cognitively, sensory, and motor skills early in life. So the question then becomes how and in what ways is the current education system underserving the black community.

Education is a collaborative effort between the school, parents, and the greater community. Dr. Parham has a prescription for improving institutions that educate black children.

The school should work with teachers to help them understand how their exceptions of students affect the students’ success. According to several studies, when teachers believe students have ability, they are more patient and attentive. Other studies show that teachers that believe boys are smarter than girl have boys that outperform girls. When teachers believe boys and girls have equal intelligence, both genders perform equally. So teachers’ beliefs can manifest in class performance due to their level of attentiveness to the students.

However, one study was alarming. The researchers paired 66 teachers with four students each: One gifted black student, one average black student, one gifted white student, and an average white student. The researchers then evaluated the teachers’ interaction with each student. They found the most gifted white student was treated the best followed by the average white student. Third was the average black student. The gifted black student got the worst treatment. So it is possible that gifted black children are punished for their ability.

Parents are also crucial to educational development. It is essential for parents to set healthy boundaries for their children. For example, ensuring homework is done before any recreation. Black households statistically watch more TV than whites. By making recreation subordinate to eduction, the child will develop the life skills needed in the future.

The community can hold the school system accountable. Dr. Parham has a school system report card template that can grade the school. If the school is insufficient, the local government can be lobbied to make changes.

The community can also supplement students’ education. The government will not be willing or unable to teach things like black pride. So community efforts are needed to teach students that success is rooted in their African ancestry. We can work to obliterate the notion that scholastic success is the same as acting white.

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