“His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same color as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion and straight black lips.” ~ Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Currently in America, there is a paradox hidden within the societal designation of some as being monsters wearing human skin. Mary Shelley’s classic text, “Frankenstein“, depicts the workings of the mad scientist, Victor Von Frankenstein, who creates an 8-foot, super-human monster out of the body parts of the deceased. Using science, his creation comes to life and escapes to wreak havoc upon the lives of those who encounter him, primarily through their perceptions of the monster as well as his monstrous acts, which arise as a result of Victor’s rejection of him upon his birth into consciousness. This is the fundamental conflict, existential in nature and key to the evolution of the tale. Juxtaposed over the narrative of the monster as Other is the discourse centered on his perception of himself. Alternately servile yet confident in his own abilities, he traverses the bewildering world of human perception in a confused and horrific journey whose ending was determined before his creation. The tale twists and turns and attains a specificity of purpose that intertwines with the black American journey as viewed in general turns, with a hefty wish-fulfillment aspect that diverges, eventually, as the tale turns toward its darker passages and finale.
The journey of the black American has followed a similar trajectory across the 400+ year span since the first Africans were enslaved and brought to the Americas as chattel. Being comprised, genetically, of many of the disparate ethnic and racial groups to have come to this continent, black Americans are a racial and cultural synthesis of them all. As quiet as it has been kept, programs of genetic manipulation were consciously designed and instituted during the era of chattel slavery in order to breed Africans, with the addition of a liberal strain of European genetics, often infused forcefully by slave masters seeking to increase their stock as well as indulge in the dark and peculiar passions inspired by the perceived ownership of human bodies.
This purposeful manipulation has been augmented by the subsequent and natural addition – following formal slavery – of diverse genetic lineages representing the full range of native and immigrating ethnic groups that found some level of acceptance, and love, among those considered Other in American society. Every ethnic out-group that has voluntarily migrated to the Americas has found inclusion within black American life and culture until such time as they have progressed to a higher status of acceptance and integration within majority American society. Due to societal forces that defined blackness by the presence of “one drop of African blood”, the offspring of any non-African individual with an American of African descent was invariably defined as being black American. This continuous interaction has resulted in a population that, by its very nature, comprises what can be considered to be a quintessentially American phenotype, as distinctive in appearance as any other ethnic group to be found the world across. As a result, those hybridized descendants, bearing a drop or more of African blood, have been included by societal prescription within that diverse and robust grouping of melanated people who now fall under the auspices of the term, black American.
An “Afrostein“, if you will, is that being comprised of a nebulous collective of traits gleaned from the broad-based society which has coalesced over the centuries on the northern half of the American continent. Much like the Frankenstein monster – made from body parts stolen from graves – it is comprised of the souls of the Maafa melded with the horrified shades of slave masters, their decaying and hoary bones littering the loamy and watery graveyards of America and the Atlantic. Elizabeth Young’s text, “Black Frankenstein: The Making of an American Metaphor (America and the Long 19th Century)” examines this parable in the context of societal control in the 19th century. As an effective metaphor for the situation of black Americans, Afrostein represents the illimitable Afro-future implicit within the sojourn through time and space that manifests irregardless of conscious purpose or intent, boundless yet dependent upon current conditions that morph constantly in search of the highest potentiality of expression.
As the prototypical Other within American and all other eurocentric societies, melanated peoples have served as the foil to prescribed conceptions of goodness, exemplified by polar designations archetypal in nature. Simply stated, everything white is good, everything black is bad. Black American collectivization as the embodiment of Otherness across the centuries has standardized this stereotypical projection in myriad ways and it has permeated population culture to the point of being nigh unconscious in its manifestation as societal and cultural perceptions and beliefs. Black culture in the United States is centered around African-based demonstrative material and spiritual expression but has incorporated aspects of eurocentric and Indigenous culture during its evolutionary trajectory through time and space, encompassing all aspects of human expression from the physical to the intellectual and beyond.
As predicted by Shelley’s text, Frankenstein, the black American hybridized Afrostein has been denigrated and rejected by society’s majority-culture, alternately seen in the popular purview as dangerous and beautiful, more powerful and less intelligent, capable of magical or superhuman abilities yet ruled by passion and emotion and therefore lesser than the ascendant and stereotypical conception of white goodness and perfection. Inherent to and yet still divisible from normative American culture, the experience of those of African descent remains the canary-in-the-coal-mine for this nation’s societal and material evolution. Where go those considered to be the least of us, eventually, go us all.
Ongoing in this modern-day saga is the continual repression of the paradoxical “monster” in all areas of people activity, despite the increasing depiction of black Americans in the mainstream media, to wit, movies, television shows, sports and music. Simultaneous to this increasing public consumption of “all things black” is the political and corporate inclusion of acceptable hybrids – successful iterations of the Afrosteinean dialectic – programmed for mental and verbal dexterity, genetically selected for physical beauty and representative of the progression of the “Great Republic Experiment“, as envisioned by this nation’s Founding Fathers. While the debate rages as to whether these august European Ex-patriots were referring to the states themselves or the people within those states, modern-day interpretations tend to see the collective experience of American citizens as the more accurate interpretation of their original intentions.
The Great Experiment, therefore, is exemplified by the text of the Great Seal of the United States of America, which states, in the Latin, E Pluribus Unum and is translated to mean, Out of Many, One. Many states, one State. Alternately, many people, one People. In effect, the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, in many ways, envisioned a nation of united political expression and united ethnic and racial expression as well. Even though, at the time, racialized chattel slavery was still legal, those engaged in the formulation of the nascent nation knew, spoke and wrote about the inevitable reconciliation of incompatible ethical paradigms and what might occur following that seminal series of events. But considering the social censure implicit in those times, directly stating some misogynistic intent in the racial hybridization process then well under way was political and social suicide for those innately political creatures and so forecasting the inevitable political and social inclusion of the enslaved blacks within the overall body politic – beyond that of being 3/5 of a human being as a compromise – of the nation would have been anathema.
Through the centuries of genocide and repression, the black American ethic has evolved in tandem with the majority American eurocentric culture, synthesizing foreign sensibilities into one cohesive and yet vibrant collectivity of societal mores and taboos. The English language has evolved in the process as well, as colloquial black English – sometimes called Ebonics – has influenced the spoken vernacular of a wide percentage of the American youth culture over many decades, as have other sociological traits of an expressly African origin. Along with speech and carriage, music and the literary and visual arts – as well as the technical evolution of the nation and the world – have been influenced by black American physicality, innovations and sensibilities, resulting in a coherent holism now known world-wide as Popular (Pop) American culture. The Frankenstein story, as the Modern Prometheus, bears witness to the purposeful guidance of an individual, apparently en-souled, and yet not beholden to its Creator, instead ravaged by regret and rejection and determined to chart his own path through life to whatever end fate has in store for him.
Similarly, the collective black American journey – from its genetically inclusive physical evolution resulting in a distinctive phenotype of diverse lineage to its social and cultural evolution peculiar to the North American experience – has had its twists and turns as any transcendent tale must, its explosive and continuous rebirth from the ashes of unending persecution and immolation within the flames of societal recrimination. The depths of psychic depravity inherent to this journey have twisted the biology and perceptions of Creator and Created alike, leaving them intertwined in an earthly dance of slavish co-dependency. The Oppressor and the Oppressed, the Rulers and the Ruled. The Afro-future manifests extant to American culture, its proponents now spanning ethnic type and situation, ranging across the entire breadth of class and race. In other words, no longer is the racial delineation so clear as it once was, if that were ever truly the case in the first place. Considering that the first legal judgment relegating enslaved Africans to the status of perpetual and intergenerational enslavement was meted out in reference to a black man and an indentured servant he considered his life-long property, the contradictions of the system have always been present, revealing the gamesmanship-like nature of societal and political forces of innate human qualities seeking advantage over others within a predatory capitalist system.
In the modern era, the situation has shifted explosively with the election of Barack Hussein Obama as POTUS. His rise to political office, unforeseen and transcendent, has resulted in the kindling of those ancient flames of xenophobia that have marked the European expansion into the world. The inherent contradiction of a mixed-race hybrid ruling from the bastion of white power has brought institutions to the brink of utter failure and subconscious racial imperatives back to the surface, roiling and seething with barely-suppressed ire. Those affected include many who now fall under the political categorization of whiteness.
The creation of the social construct and collective we now call the “white race” in the 17th and 18th centuries and the consolidation of race-based slavery and those institutional and societal restrictions subsequently placed upon black American populations even now continue to restrict their collective progress and inclusion within the nation’s business on an equal basis. And yet, despite these trends and the manifestation of the apparent collective majority will to continue oppressing black Americans, individuals and sub-groups within the population have achieved a measure of success undreamed of in previous generations. As the monster maintained his own freedom of mind and body during his life’s sojourn with his Creator – free to work his destructive and scorned will upon the life of Victor Von Frankenstein – so some representatives of the black American Afrostein continue to succeed despite the best efforts of the institutions and collective will of white Americans to relegate the majority of this minority population to continued marginalization and drudgery. Locked into this twisted relationship, will the outcome of the American Journey also mirror that ill-fated ending Mary Shelley’s novel portended?
The primary difference between the tale, Frankenstein, and the evolution of the bifurcated American collective – with its even greater-hued variations implied – is in the primacy of the human and spiritual element. The fact that the black American Afrostein, unlike the Frankenstein monster, possesses the spiritual fervor of its composite population, demonstrative and transcendent in beingness and physicality in opposition to an overwhelming proportion of those representatives of the majority population who have participated in its oppression across the centuries. A deeply soulful people who have infused that melanated spirit into the nation that they built for those who desperately hated and loved them simultaneously. While the Frankenstein monster is rent by the rejection he experienced from his Creator and society, the black American Afrostein has directed his anguish primarily at himself – at the black population, at each other – his hope for a better tomorrow and faith in life and love trumping any desire to obtain vengeance upon those who created and enslaved him and who continue to oppress him personally and institutionally. Rather than control, torture and kill those responsible for his state of enslavement, the transcendent intention to overcome the horrors of the past and present to create a better future has remained paramount.
The primary and underlying impetus guiding this collective decision is inherently spiritual in nature. Considering the genetic makeup of the black American population – again, comprised in varying amounts of African, European, Asian and Native American heritage – the question of vengeance rises only in the visceral and impassioned response to continuing outrages perpetrate against individuals within the collective. In that vein, it remains primarily an issue of self-defense and not expansive aggression driven by desires for material accumulation and restitution. Not necessarily against white people per say – irregardless of the beliefs which fuel the continuing growth of white militias and hate groups fearful of “race war” – but against a system of injustice that tricks whites into believing they are included within it and that continues to relegate black Americans to the lowest echelons of society while simultaneously elevating chosen individuals for mass media consumption and political and social capital. The deification of the Oligarchs and the petit Bourgeois is celebrated as the idealized triumph of capitalism in practice, while the stark reality remains one of increasing inequity and a return to economic and social conditions commiserate with half a century ago. But the monstrous Afrostein has achieved its own state of self awareness and sees its future beyond the strictures of society as it currently exists, envisioning a world of true egalitarianism that can and will manifest as the inevitable coalescences of the originating vision of this nation.
Beyond the limited and biased conceptualizations of those who have inherited the xenophobic imaginings of their forefathers lies a future nigh undreamed, of a space of manifestation that must encompass the highest technological and sociological aspirations of the human family. Infused with passion and soul and an intimate and total melding of body, mind and spirit, the resultant world must of necessity encompass the diverse populations of the world, which requires a perspective born of transfusion, of bodies, minds and souls. A collective that represents the human family fully, whose perspective has been driven by the extremes of privation and an ingrained desire to see the full-fledged manifestation of true egalitarianism, of a future of peace and prosperity for the entire human family. A people whose very essence
lies in the greatness of a storied past and a prophesied future. Now and through the times to come, people of good will, of all populations, must facilitate the healing of others. The suffering of centuries, expressed as the internalization and genetic programming of trauma that has affected the descendants of the Oppressed and the Oppressors alike, must be alleviated. If this is not done, then the remorseless weight of centuries of inequality will crash down upon current generations in a paroxysm of violence as programs designed to divide and conquer achieve their aims, resulting in a panopticon of draconian dimensions, driven to vampiric heights of consumptive and unearthly greed. But this is not the future that will manifest.
The Afro-future is not exclusive, it is inclusive in the most holistic of senses, as black American culture has always been, since its inception upon this continent. It remains liberating and transcendent, accepting both the depths and the heights of human experience while celebrating the deep blues, the joys and pains that color life and death with brilliant and scintillating tones. The inevitable release of intergenerational dysfunction suffusing the American collective as a result of centuries of inequity will birth a new world as the release initiates a fermentation of creativity and openness, of honesty and truth that will propel this nation and the world into a new era of achievement, one destined to transform the world into a sustainable, equitable reflection of the truest and deepest urges of the human soul. Afrostein Rising is the United States elevating to achieve its Manifest Destiny in a way hardly conceivable to those limited by xenophobic strictures upon thought and possibility that bind their prognostications to death and dysfunction-oriented paradigms. Only by accepting the weight of centuries of movement toward the negative can the movement toward the positive swing the pendulum in the direction of justice. Only by fully and openly accepting responsibility for the weight of injustice, can justice manifest and only by accepting the destiny of this nation’s mantra of E Pluribus Unum can the Many be made into One and the full weight of history dissipate beneath the spangled release of accumulated debt that currently threatens to destroy this nation and the world.
That it must happen, is inevitable. That it will happen is dependent upon world events that turn inexorably upon the fulcrum of justice meted out, which currently resides firmly in the negative. The world observes as Afrostein struggles in the political and economic arenas, in the streets and corporate boardrooms of America, on the Internet and in the popular culture. The paradox has been reconciled and the monster wearing human skin reveals as Prometheus Reborn, arising from the ashes phoenix-like to claim his birthright. It is a story that has achieved the acclaim of legend, deservedly so, and the weight of the entire world lies behind the monster that love and hate created, destined to be freed to achieve the highest aims possible as resistance falls away beneath the remorseless rush of potentiality and intention.