Musing by poet Bro. Yao whose work has been published in Ploughshares, Crab Orchard Review, African American Review, Tidal Basin, and elsewhere. He also hosts the Free Black Space Blog.
At the crossroads of race, logic can either support or work against racism. There logic is not the master, but the servant. Then who is master?
The metaphor is the master.
For metaphor allows the connotations of the word and its uses to connect with the perception employed by the users of the word. Metaphor is logic linked to human experience/perceptions; or, to state another way, feeling and logic combined. If we are mind, emotion, and spirit, metaphor manages to mix mind with emotion and ultimately spirit. The power of negative connotations being attached to “black” is not simply the logical flaws, but the ways in which the flaws attach themselves to human behavior and decisions.
The common trend of standing against hate speech represents the country’s attempts to regulate the promotion of this language in the larger society to better protect its citizens. These efforts are to be commended; however, too often they pass over the more serious concern of the connotation’s influence on behavior. This is the public justification for the actions; but the analysis is only skin-deep. We attack the hate speech as though it exists outside the fundamental metaphorical construction of the country as if it was virus. It is not virus. It is symptom. It is flowering. Racist and hate speech exist with the empire of language as pre constructed pathways that aid the empire in the work it does.
For beneath the hate speech is the idea of complete metaphorical separation from our enemies or those positioned on the opposite side of our binary. The actions taken against those who use such speech are public defamations that suggest as punishment for their stances against haints and other enemies that they be converted to haints and enemies themselves. This idea needs to be thoroughly thought through.