The time is here to bury Lynch

August 19, 1998|By GREGORY KANE

It's high time black America buried Willie Lynch. Let's bury him deep and bury him for good. Old Willie - or at least the speech he supposedly gave to Virginia slaveholders on the banks of the James River in 1712 - has been making the rounds in America's black community for years. Louis Farrakhan quoted extensively from Lynch's speech at the Million Man March in 1995. Lynch supposedly urged American slaveholders to use envy, fear and distrust to divide their slaves, the better to control them. Farrakhan said such envy, fear and distrust kept blacks of the 1990s under the control of whites. (The fact that most whites in 1712 owned no slaves seems to have escaped him.)

One of my favorite readers, Leo Williams, sent me a copy of the Lynch speech. I am not, I must make clear, Williams' favorite columnist. He figures I have problems with racial self-esteem. He sent me the Lynch speech, I believe, to try to convert me to something. I'm afraid of what Williams might wish to convert me to, but he did provide me an opportunity to give readers an excerpt from Lynch's speech.

"You must pit the old black male vs. the young black male, and the young black male against the old black male. You must use the dark skin slaves vs. the light skin slaves and the light skin JTC slaves vs. the dark skin slaves. You must use the female vs. the male, and the male vs. the female. You must also have your white servants and overseers distrust all blacks, but it is necessary that your slaves trust and depend on us. They must love, respect and trust only us."

That quote is from the end of the speech. It, like the rest of the speech, is pure bat guano. Sun Perspective editor Mike Adams wrote an article in February of this year casting doubt that Lynch existed. He probably didn't. That his speech can make the rounds in black America and be believed so uncritically shows we aren't in touch with our history. When "Lynch" says in his "speech" that he used his divide-and-conquer methods "on my modest plantation in the West Indies" it should have started alarms flashing.

The "Lynch speech" implies that West Indian slaveholders had found a way to keep their slaves docile and controlled. You have to wonder why black Americans of West Indian descent weren't insulted by this assertion. From the slave uprising led by Toussaint Louverture in Haiti to the resistance to slavery by maroons throughout the West Indies, there isn't a hint of evidence that West Indian slaves were uniformly docile and submissive.

A Willie Lynch appearing before Virginia slaveholders to lecture them on how to control slaves would have been laughed out of the country.

"Oh, yeah, Lynch?" they might have hooted. "You mean the way you've controlled the maroons in your own country?" Maroons were those blacks who escaped the plantation and set up their own communities. Slaveholders in Jamaica - where Willie Lynch was supposedly from - had to send out military expeditions to rout these feisty and uncontrollable blacks. Often the military expeditions went back after receiving a sound thrashing.

In Jamaica, British authorities had to sign peace treaties with a maroon group led by Captain Cudjoe. They never could defeat or come to terms with another maroon group led by a woman named Nannie. So what would a Willie Lynch look like preaching about how to control slaves? An idiot, that's what.

Which is what we look like when we assume, just because somebody told us, that some character named Willie Lynch gave a speech 286 years ago about slave-control techniques that whites are using to "control" black Americans today. American slaveholders of the 18th and 19th centuries couldn't control their slaves. Not all of them. Some resisted, like the maroons of Jamaica. Some fled to Florida, joined the Seminoles and forced the United States to fight three very expensive Seminole Wars - which should have been called Slave Raiding Wars - to get them back. Other blacks set up maroon communities in other Southern states.

The blacks who resisted gave the lie to Willie Lynch's claim that slaves could be uniformly controlled. Those blacks were heroes, not victims. But perhaps that's the appeal of Lynch. Some blacks today want to be victims. They want to believe that black Americans are still in slavery and that Lynch's advice on how to keep plantation slaves under control still applies. "Willie Lynch's" speech was most likely written by a 20th-century American black with a victimhood agenda.

Plantation slavery is dead. The last vestiges of the slavery that followed it - Jim Crow, sharecropping and the Southern prison farm system - started crumbling in the 1960s. Black Americans are probably the best educated and wealthiest group of blacks on the planet. Don't we insult ourselves by insisting that Willie Lynch's fictional legacy still holds sway over us?

Pub Date: 8/19/98

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