To be Black and to be a Slave

RTB DISSERTATION SUMMARY BY EZIPROSE

To be BLACK and to be a SLAVE is one and the same is a first class dissertation by yours truly to fulfil the requirements of my Bachelors’ degree in Politics and International Relations.

(Yes you read correctly. I said FIRST CLASS because we celebrate our achievements around here, and like a true African woman, I will tell anyone and everyone who will listen!)

In all honesty, I could give you an academic summary of my writing. In fact I really wanted to! For once I wanted to do a normal piece of writing; sticking to the brief I’ve been given. You know; go through the correct motions, the intro, the background, key themes, methodology etc etc.
Or I could let you have a peek at my life.
And why this dissertation is my baby. My first ever academic body of work, a piece I poured into, sacrificed for and cried over for almost two years.
It’s my baby because it’s me. It’s my life, my frustrations, my motivation, my hurdles, my background, my loved ones.

So in true ‘Prose’ fashion, here’s my summary, raw and unedited.
I cannot even lie, I really wanted to plagiarise myself and just slap my abstract here but, let me honour myself, and all that I’ve learnt in the past 3 years, and create a seamless blend of this explanatory piece and my actual work.
(Don’t worry I promise I know what I’m doing, it will all come together in the end!)

My dissertation was split into 3 chapters. In fact I took such a risk with the format of my work, it’s even a miracle I got such a good mark. Dissertations are typically split into 4 or 5 chapters.

My disso was ultimately an ‘exploration of the way in which the transatlantic slave trade’s legacy of the ‘Black’ identity, has affected the perception of race and the tone of race relations in the UK’ (Klouvi, 2019). In an attempt to simplify a complicated reality, I established that one of the legacies left behind by the transatlantic slave trade, is the ‘Black’ identity. The piece explores how this identity, has set the ground for ideas about race, racism and race relations here in the UK. Afro-pessimism is a critical political framework or lens that explains the ongoing effects of racism, colonialism, and the slave trade and their impact on structural conditions and lived experience. This is the theory I used as the basis of my work, and I go into depth to explain it in my new YouTube series:

#TheDeconstructionClinic (YT: EziProse) where I break down problematic ideas on race and gender that we all hold! (Shameless plug lmao.)

‘The personal is the political’ and in my final chapter, I took a leap of faith and talked about my own ties and relationship with my chosen topic, and wrapped up my experience within my concluding thoughts. I was able to do this because our daily lives and interactions are simply an indication of the state of wider society. But it was a risk that paid off. It was extremely emotional for me to write (reasons for which will become clear) but one of the deepest and more thought provoking.

‘The ideas of social death and the absence of recognition or misrecognition are crucial to this dissertation and intertwined with the structural conditions of blackness that Afro-pessimism defines’ (Klouvi, 2019). When discussing the unfortunate and tragic passing of one of my black female friends as a result of COVID-19 and the fact that black people; my people, were more likely to die from the virus, my work reflected on this not being new information. I explained the way in which black people – women especially and during childbirth were more likely to die at the hands of healthcare, partly because of predominantly being from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and being more likely to live in unhealthy environments with unhealthy habits. But more importantly because black people have had a strained relationship with healthcare and medicine due to the fact that during slavery black people were used by doctors and medical researchers for medical testing without anaesthetic or pain killers. They did this and they did the whipping, beatings, rape and other physical violence carried out towards black people because they didn’t (still
don’t) see black people as humans. They justified this violence by creating a false narrative that black people were more tolerant to pain or had higher pain thresholds. These notions overtime crept into scientific theory, with a 2016 study showing that ‘a majority of medical students still believe it’ (Milano, 2019). I didn’t even mention this in my work but at one point during lockdown, ideas of testing COVID-19 vaccines on Africans were being thrown around. It also should be known that a former member of South Africa’s apartheid-era intelligence service confessed to deliberately spreading the AIDs virus there using bogus vaccinations (Baffour, 2019). (All these texts will be linked if possible!)

This is an example of the structural conditions that were attached to slavery, now being attached to blackness. What this means, is that even though the physical state of being a slave has been “abolished” and black people are now “free” (ka… hm) the structural conditions of our lived experience has not changed that much at all. Let’s compare shall we?

BLACK SLAVE = USED FOR TESTS/NOT HUMAN/MORE LIKELY TO DIE FROM HEALTHCARE
BLACK FREE MAN = USED FOR TESTS/NOT HUMAN/MORE LIKELY TO DIE FROM HEALTHCARE

Throughout my work I explain some other facts and figures such as stop and search rates, school exclusion rates, as well as diving into some other issues such as colourism and internalised racism, the problematic use of the word BAME, the plight of forgotten black women and more. The theory is not without its shortcomings and in fact fails to provide an answer or place for the black descendants of colonial subjects that have no ancestral ties to slavery, as well as an actual solution for the problem it so accurately identifies and highlights. Again in my final chapter – I explain my irritation with being a Francophone African who speaks both French and English and uses both everyday but doesn’t speak any African languages. This if you didn’t know, is a direct result of colonialism. Afro-pessimism doesn’t account for the fact that for a lot of us- the descendants of colonial subjects, a lot of our quotidian structural conditions are a combination of those attached to both slavery and colonialism. All in all however, my disso comes to the conclusion that Afro-pessimism is a solid theory, and with the concept of common structural conditions, proves almost immaculately that slavery’s legacy of the black identity dictates modern day race relations and the perception of race.

I haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg but let me stop myself before I get carried away because it will be available for your consumption soon and I don’t want to ruin it at allllllll. Like at all.

My baby. She’s assertive, direct, emotional, powerful, thought-provoking, yet willing to evolve.

I can’t wait to share her with you.

Ezi xxx

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