Report from The York Union: ‘Kehinde Andrews: The West is Built on Racism.’
“Whiteness is a psychosis”
Most of modernity has been built on the exploitation, suffering and discrimination of the black race. Our modern values of democracy, enlightenment and scientific advancement are directly a result of past exploitation of the black race. Throughout the formation of the modern era with the Scientific Revolution, the Industrial Revolution and the Commercial Revolution we have subjected the black race to continuous exploitation – most obviously, with the slave trade and the consequences of these actions are still lingering today.
Kehinde Andrews is one of the most prolific black, British political voices in current times. He is a professor of sociology at Birmingham City University and is currently working on a book entitled, ‘Black Radicalism.’ Andrews began the discussion with a brief overview of how modern history has been built on the suffering of black citizens and how this has continued into the present day. Our modern ideas from science, democracy and capitalism have been formed from the expense of black suffering. As he so hauntingly points out, the largest UK company – Lloyd’s of London who celebrated their 400th birthday just a few weeks ago, was built on the slave trade and shipping industry. What we assume as Enlightenment was built on figures such as John Locke who favoured scientific Darwinism and thus, justified racism. The Holocaust which is so often the symbol of the dark side of the modern world and an unexplained phenomenon to many – Andrews argues, could only have happened in the modern era as it was the result of prevailing white psychosis and exploitation of the black race for white, social advantage. Essentially, what we perceive as the achievements of the modern era, were built on a accumulation of acts of genocide towards black citizens. Andrews argues that we need to abandon these historical progressive myths, if we are to escape from prevailing psychosis.
Andrews is openly critical of the education system and believes even with changes to the curriculum – adopting black history and the real narratives of the British Empire, it will do little to change something that is ingrained in universal white consciousness. It is fair to say that current History curriculum prior to university barely scratches the surface of understanding black history and the extent of their suffering, however, it is a very broad generalisation to categorise all white people as being under a notion of psychosis and disillusionment with history. As a history student myself, I am completely aware of modernity being built on the suffering of the black race, and would never dispute this. But I would dispute the argument for current universal white psychosis. Essentially, Andrews argues that universal white psychosis allows white people to obscure their sense of modern history, they see the dawn of modernity as positive because of improvements to society such as democracy. But not everyone subscribes to this narrative, most of this is currently disputed in modern historiography.
Fundamentally, everything Andrews said about racial discrimination underlying every aspect of modernity is true and that can never be disputed. However, when asked questions from the audience about how we can defy this ‘white psychosis’ he failed to offer any ideas or solutions. In Andrews pessimism, maybe he denies the possibilities of change and a world completely free from racial inequality. As an optimist this is something I do not subscribe to and I have every hope in humanity that one day this will be possible. However, that might be because of my, ‘white psychosis’ who knows. It would have been nice to know his thoughts on solving the issue – seeing as he denied education, democracy, capitalism, and aid as being potential solutions to this ongoing blindness. In being so opposed to these solutions it became clear that he did not have an answer. Andrews drew on many well distinguished arguments in current historical thought and denies the concept of modern progressivism in doing so – however, it is very easy to view past intentions in hindsight and with perspective. If we are to truly understand our racist past and future, we need to look beyond perspective narratives which could obscure total understanding.