Using Black Inferiority as a Measure of Status - Tom Burrell's Book Review

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University of California, Santa Barbara
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Tom Burrell, in his book, Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority, examines the background and reasons why a considerable number of black people think of themselves as slaves in the contemporary society. Many of the black people look upon themselves as slaves regardless of the Emancipation Proclamation that occurred more than a century ago. The author questions why the black community consider themselves as inferior individuals, to which he provides different examples, such as the idea that young people within the community cannot find it offensive when their black peers call them niggers (Burrell 281). He also questions the notion that the people care more for their pastors than the care that the pastors are obliged to provide to their flock (Burrell 275). These examples support Burrells theory, which states that black people have been brainwashed to believe that they do not deserve to prosper, earn fundamental human dignity, and achieve their dreams or desires. In this regard, the consideration of black people as inferior could be the element that hinders their achievement or advancement in the modern society.

The author dwells on the different elements that have infected the mental spaces of the black people, consequently providing explanations regarding the reasons for their feelings and beliefs. These reasons are primarily based on the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and societal generalizations that lead to the brainwashing of the African American people. In this case, the author asserts that the black people in the American society are mentally enslaved through brainwashing, which has led to the overall acceptance that they are inferior. The affected to not only accept their situation, but they perpetuate it as well. Burrell provides that the black members of the community have been conditioned to view themselves as individuals without the power to make positive decisions. They have not made a collective effort to stop the manner in which the media portrays them as sluts or studs, among other negative tags (Burrell 98). He displays the parallelism that exists between the foundation of their attitudes and the untruths that did not only begin during the era of slavery, but they endure to this date. However, he also presents different proposals that would assist the black people to redeem themselves from the mental enslavement.

In the second chapter, the authors primary argument is that a significant number of black men are not available for their families as well as from each the lives of other women. The later argument seems to be the case for numerous black men and women, who are not present in the lives of each other (Burrell 41). In the light of this argument, the author indicates that the addiction of the black people to their inferiority brand appears to be the issue that causes relationship wrecks. He uses elements such as the messages derived from the music the black people listen to, which influences their behavior in terms of encouraging them to get prepared for doomed relationships in future (Burrell 44). The author further looks into the dynamics of the relationship wrecks, all of which indicate that the black people are stuck to the idea that they are supposed to be emotionally tough. He consequently assesses the dysfunctions linked to the wreckage of their relationships through the marketing perspective, all of which point towards slavery. In most of their conversations, black people seldom talk about love, but violence and the lack of trust between their relations, among other negative topics.

To support the argument that one of the characteristics of black people is that they are relationship wrecks; Burrell indicates that easily accept infidelity. He uses the studs and sluts dynamics to indicate that men have prioritized sex over having real relationships, including fatherhood (Burrell 76). Conversely, he uses this dynamic to indicate that women have to be good at sex since the men in the black community have objectified them into sexual beings, which has made them emotionally uncommitted to their women. The women have equally accepted the situation, consequently using sex to make money from the men (Burrell 77). Since most of the families accepted the fracturing of their families during slavery, parental norms also diminished, thereby creating dysfunctional families. From this basis, the rise of the hip-hop culture, in which most videos and produced objectify women. The author uses the Jezebel stereotype to indicate that rape was excusable (82), which is a derivative of the justification of rape by slave owners, who fulfilled their sexual desires on their black slaves at their will. In this light, most of the black men internalized this situation, consequently creating disconnect between the need for them to be available for their families and children, and the need for them to fulfill their sexual desires.

In this unprecedented as well as a powerful point in the history of the American nation, a considerable number of people are frustrated with the idea that the African American people are still dependent on handouts. The frustration primarily emanates from well-wishers or colleagues. The other frustrating element that affirms the argument that the black community is inferior is based on the aspect that they young people do not have respect for anyone or anything. More damning is the idea that they do not have respect for themselves. These provisions could be used as reference points that could not only call out but also reveal the manner in which the contemporary culture reinforces the negative images of the black American population.

An individual could argue that the deliberate rationalization of slavery, which was a derivative of the spreading of lies that the black people were inferior, made them have self-esteem issues. Conversely, the attempt to explain the inferiority complex that is characteristic of the black population could be the foundation of the American politics, culture, literature, marketing, as well as industry. This position elucidates Burrells idea that black inferiority has been used as a tool for propaganda campaign in a successful manner. In this regard, the American media, as well as advertising campaigns, have been influential in promulgating propaganda, which has made it possible for individuals such as Shelby Steele to live comfortably (Burrell 283). Based on this stipulation, it would be possible to insinuate that the concept of black inferiority has provided individuals with a tool they could use in marketing themselves or their products.

The aforementioned argument could be supported by Rance Crains assertion when he refers to Burrell's argument that the black people are the most susceptible to modern advertising (Crain n.p). In this case, an individual might argue that the media is primarily responsible for driving the idea that a persons material wealth is an indicator of his status in the society. In history, the black population in the American society was treated as unworthy. For this reason, some of the black people might have absorbed the message communicated by the advertising campaigns to acquire material wealth that would ensure they remain relevant in terms of elevating their status in the society. As Burrell opines, the past centuries haunt the black American people (Burrell 19), which deprives them of the opportunities to advance themselves and achieve their goals. From this basis, the few black people that would not wish to be treated as inferior work towards proving to the world that they can achieve or acquire what is not expected of them.

On the other hand, some of the black people in the American society have accepted the idea that they are inferior. The acceptance is presumably the foundation of their inability to work towards advancing their lives. There is a possibility of considering such people as individuals that have succumbed to the systemic persuasion presented to them by the media. This argument could be used as an inference to indicate that the media has been one of the most powerful tools that are used to brainwash the black people. Through the content they receive from the media, the brainwashed black population deprogram themselves of attitudes and actions that are self-defeating. The position they assume in the society could emanate from the concept of storytelling, as used in advertising, which is considered as one of the most effective methods for ensuring that companies connect with their consumers emotionally (Olenski n.p). Through this method of advertising, the persuasive efforts therein assist in the promotion of black inferiority, which an individual could consider as a brand. Advertising inferiority, which could be done by overemphasizing on the success of a few black individuals, could create negative images on most of the black people.

Through his book, Burrell testifies that a larger section of the black community in America is casual with the idea that they are inferior. The issue that Burrell addresses is not related to the issue of race, but the manner in which the black people respond to this issue. He provides provocative realities that lay bare the wounds of the black American people, which people could use to heal. In spite of the exposure, the affected population is doing little to alter their position in the American society. As Burrell indicates, they have simply refused to act right and prosper (19). He makes the case that the black people have been brainwashed, which is an indication that their biggest threat is themselves and not the society and the existing institutions in it. In this case, the survival of the black population in America is no longer dependent on the white people and the institutions of their society, but with themselves. Their racist attitude gives rise to their self-loathing mindset has been programmed through the years in a systematic manner.

Contrary to the arguments presented above, an individual could refute the idea that being black is not a ticket to inferiority. As earlier indicated, the media is faulted for the position that the black people occupy in the society, as well as their mental enslavement. However, the media could also be cited as the tool that has enabled the black population to fight against the enslavement, which means that they are no longer considered as inferior individuals. According to Peter Beinart (n.p), there have been a significant number of campaigns geared towards ensuring that the society no longer suppressed the black people in the American society. One of the campaigns cited by Beinart is the Black Lives Matter Movement. Through this movement, the black people decided to protest against the racial injustice they were facing. Perhaps the movement could be seen as one of the recommendations provided by Burrell. This example introduces the notion that the black race is no longer inferior as portrayed by Burrell since they are now aware of their status in the society.

The recognition that a black person is not inferior disputes Burrells position. In this case, Burrell is wrong when he portrays African Americans as individuals that are addicted to their fervent belief in their inferiority since they are challenging previous notions regarding their powerlessness. Simply put, the black people are aware that the white population has historically undermined their ability as well as the existence, consequently working towards ensuring that they fight the propaganda that they are inferior and not accepting the position that the author has assigned them. For this reason, the idea that a black person has been brainwashed does not hold.

From this basis, it is possible for an individual to posit that Burrell generalized a situation that affected only a part of the black...

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