The Insanity and Audacity of Racism and White Privilege: A Memo from the Gullah/Geechee

As I checked emails, I received an alert about another attempt at exploiting and misrepresenting Gullah/Geechee culture.  This is not the first one.  I have received so many over the years, I can no longer count them!   The difference this time was that this alert came within only days of the launch of the petition to

Stop Mascotification and Economic Exploitation in the Gullah/Geechee Nation

https://campaigns.organizefor.org/petitions/stop-mascotification-and-economic-exploitation-in-the-gullah-geechee-nation

The humility of the person that decided NOT to continue in the exploitive practice of profiting off Gullah/Geechee culture while not being Gullah/Geechee was refreshing.  Tweets from this young woman read as follows: “I have tremendous respect for those authors and the Gullah Geechee community and feel sick to think I caused anyone harm with my work.”  She is also quoted saying that her “own limited view of the world as a white person” led her to assume that she could responsibly represent this culture.   This is a very pleasant way to describe the audacity of white privilege.  She proceeds by saying,  “Clearly, the fact that I did not see the signs of the problem with my book’s premise in my research or conversations about the book is evidence that I was not the right person to try to tell this story. I am deeply ashamed to have made a mistake of this magnitude and hope my actions will not negatively affect the cause of bringing greater diversity to children’s literature.”  “It is wholly my decision to withdraw the book in order to mitigate the harm I have done. I have work to do to improve myself and my writing, and I will continue doing it.”

Alexandra Duncan (@DuncanAlexandra) has done what any concerned human being that has not had arrogance compounded by white privilege should do-stop exploiting Black people and Black cultural traditions!  There are many artists and writers that do not realize how their films and books have watered down and damaged the human rights movement in the Gullah/Geechee Nation while they went to the bank to cash their checks from fictional stories created at our expense!

Instead of Ms. Duncan finding support for gaining a conscience and seeking to remove herself from a long running list of Gullah/Geechee cultural exploiters, she is currently being dragged by arrogant Anglo and Latinx people of white privilege via Twitter and articles online because the insanity and audacity of racism tells them that they and she have a right to write about and financially benefit from anyone’s culture.  Aaah, disya ain da hunnuh oin’t fa hunnuh crak ya teet bout doe!  Hunnuh shoulda leff Gullah/Geechee out hunnuh mout and off hunnuh page cuz hunnuh ain fuss kno who webe tall tall!

Beatriz García (@gretadaro) showed her utter ignorance and complete disrespect for the Gullah/Geechee Nation by writing that we live in “swamps.”  Before trying to teach, Alexandra how to behave, Beatriz needs a lesson in environmental science and the landscape of the Lowcountry of the Gullah/Geechee Nation so that she will learn that native Gullah/Geechees live on the Sea Islands along the marsh strewn and ocean front coastline of the Intercoastal Waterway.  Marsh and swamp are not the same thing nor do we live in either!   Ef hunnuh ain kno, hunnuh need fa ax somebodee!

Beatriz and several others have taken the time to attempt to convince Alexandra of all of their racist rights to a term that others call “appropriation.”  Many of these people that are harassing Alexandra for making a safe and appropriate decision not to do as Virginia Geraty, Julia Peterkin, Joe Opala, the Society to Preserve Negro Spirituals and others that are Anglo / white have done i.e. build careers by exploiting and misrepresenting Gullah/Geechee culture and history.   Their writings and live presentations are part of the “erasure” that Bethany C. Morrow pointed out that Alexandra would contribute to if she as a white woman wrote about a mulatto woman passing and hiding in a white magic group in Charleston, but couched this character as “Gullah/Geechee.”

These people that are offended by Alexandra recognizing her own inappropriate behavior and taking measures to correct it in the current climate in which people are calling for racial equity and respect seem to continue to banter about the term “cultural appropriation.”   They must believe in the sociological definition in which “appropriation” is “the assimilation of concepts into a governing framework…[the] arrogation, confiscation, [or] seizure of concepts.”  This continued seizure of African people and their intellectual ability and intellectual property is part of what the Gullah/Geechee Nation‘s citizens stood on our human right to self-determination to confront and bring an end to.  We refused to allow America to assimilate us and to be the only governing framework in which we would be boxed and caged.  We wrote our own constitution and put together or own governing structure that would be one that is uplifting and would bring about sustainability of our land and equity for our people.

Our African ancestors’ bodies were seized and taken from their continent to North America and their concepts of how to transform the environment into a cultural landscape on which the colonies that became the foundation of America could be built is a prime example of the seizure of their intellectual property.  The constant miseducation perpetuated in America’s classrooms presents a narrative in which the Africans were somehow ignorant and were taught by the Europeans that enslaved them and who financially benefitted from the African Holocaust-the Maafa.  This miseducation system which thrives on revisionism through a eurocentric lens and a media that works as an engine of propaganda to keep that narrative told continues to define what these writers do as having a “poetic” or “artistic license.”   Their American dictionaries define this as a “technique of reworking images from well-known paintings, photographs, etc., in one’s own work.”  As a person that GOD gifted with the ability to create and as one that has met many that simply seek means by which to justify inappropriate behavior, I reject this notion.  This practice best fits the definition of appropriation which is “the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission.”  In the Gullah/Geechee culture, my mama and elders taught me, “Disya da tiefin!”  This is theft!

Once you steal something and then receive financial gain for it, that is exploitation!  You have “capitalized” on something that was not yours.  Aaah, but that is the very story of America that people have not wanted to discuss and that is fueling the fires that are burning off the masks that people have worn to cover up the ugly truth.  The capital that America has is based on the exploitation of human bodies and their intellect.  This is what happened with the sale of African bodies called “Black gold” and “Black cargo” that are my ancestors of the Gullah/Geechee Nation.  The Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition (www.GullahGeeechee.net) has called for an end to this exploitation and misrepresentation since 1996 when the organization was founded and became the first in the world to exist with Gullah/Geechee in its name.  We also were the first organization specifically dedicated to fighting for the land and human rights of Gullah/Geechees worldwide.  We stood with the other native Gullah/Geechees that did not want to be assimilated and melted into a pot that was slowly heating up and destroying Black people.   We have fought to insure the continued existence of our cultural heritage and of our people.  We are the ones that are to tell our story!   We have received pushback for telling it in its totality, but we have not ceased from telling it and will NOT forego doing so with or without book deals!

I am blessed today to have lived through character assassinations and death threats which were issued because I have spoken out against anyone one that has misrepresented and exploited Gullah/Geechee culture.  I am blessed to see that we have reached a time in which others are willing to stand up and speak out with me instead of thanking me privately for saying what they wanted to say out loud.  So, since Twitter has become the platform in which the world is speaking now, I used it to speak back to Alexandra and let her know that she made the right decision.

She is not the first one to make a conscious decision.  There are others in academia who have chosen to assist with deconstructing whiteness as a means by which to dismantle systemic racism and white privilege.  There are writers such as Mary Alice Monroe (author of “Skyward“), J.D. Horn (author of “Jilo“), F. Rutledge Hammes (author of “A Curious Matter of Men with Wings,” and E.Q. Rainey (author of “Reuchmaire: Ju Ju and the Mammy Queen” ) who not only contacted the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition to inquire about whether or not the characters that they wanted to write would be acceptable in a novel.  They sent their manuscripts to the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition to be reviewed, edited and vetted.  They put pages in each of those books to direct people that read them to accurate living sources of Gullah/Geechee knowledge by sending them to www.GullahGeechee.net and www.GullahGeecheeNation.com.  They donated books to be distributed to our community and libraries for FREE and donated proceeds from these novels directly to the work to insure the continuation of Gullah/Geechee culture.  They did not deem themselves “experts” on the Gullah/Geechee culture nor did they feel that they had a “right” to do so simply because they had the ability to write and are backed by major publishing houses.  Many of these major publishing houses have intentionally NOT published the writings of Black authors about their own experiences and have rapidly given contracts to white people that are intrigued by or that “study” various aspects of Black culture especially if that culture is seen as “exotic” and/or “magical” and “mystical” like Gullah/Geechee culture comes across to those that have not lived our experience.

The magic is that we have reached a moment in time in which there are Anglo, white, and European people that are now having to defend themselves for seeking not to participate in racist exploitive practices.  I’m sending this out as a memo to all of them that seek to dismantle systemic racism, exploitation, and mascotification of Gullah/Geechee culture and the Gullah/Geechee Nation to let them know-we gladdee hunnuh got a mind fa disya!  Now, we waan hunnuh fa hab a mind fa freedum, justice, and equity.  Ef hunnuh got disya, we kno hunnuh gwine stand fa and support de Gullah/Geechee!  We look forward to you having the audacity to work with Black people sincerely to end this racist exploitive insanity!

By the way, if you want novels written in Gullah/Geechee by a Gullah/Geechee, then go to www.GullahGeechee.biz and purchase the novels from me!  Tenki Tenki!  Let other folks go ahead and write about their cultures and tell their own story.

by Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com)


If you stand with the Gullah/Geechee Nation, please sign the petition at

https://campaigns.organizefor.org/petitions/stop-mascotification-and-economic-exploitation-in-the-gullah-geechee-nation

You can also donate at https://www.gofundme.com/gullahgeechee-land-legacy-fund or CashApp to $GullahGeecheeNation.

 

1 Comment

  1. Ser Seshsh Ab Heter-CM Boxley

    White folks acting as “gate keepers” of our history is what they do time and time again. The SUS tells us this is why they cannot be initiated into AAS because they would gather just a little information and go write books. Great ya wa able tu stop dem from gate keeping Gullah/Geechee stuff.

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