As the New World began to flourish with white supremacy as its foundation, black masculinity shifted continuously to cater to the needs of whiteness. As slavery expanded, white people used ancient, incorrect anthropologic observations of Africans made by racist Europeans to form racial ideologies which would justify the brutality of slavery.
During this time, black men did hard manual labour and justifying the harsh conditions forced upon them required objectifying their bodies as big, strong, and stupid. They were defined as beasts who had to be controlled and tamed to be put to service. This imagery possessed a sexual component as well. Fear of black men’s sexuality remained pervasive, and they were constantly depicted as a threat to society. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a young White woman accused an innocent black man of sexual assault. As a result, White mobs killed roughly 300 Black people and left more than 9,000 people homeless as they destroyed the Greenwood community.
As black men across the diaspora acquired social mobility in the form of rights, wealth and opportunity, whiteness increased its efforts to depict black masculinity as the biggest danger to civil society. Through media and educational institutions, black men are depicted as brutes or thugs who can destroy the world. The result was that Blackness became closely associated with criminalization. The criminalization of Blackness allowed for White supremacy to use Black people as their scapegoat for all problems, real or fictional.
In modern times, this perception of blackness as inferior and abhorrent has been weaponized against Africans. Most Westerners have never visited Africa and may never visit the continent. Yet there is a particular image of Africa in the Western mind. When one is asked to think of Western images that come to mind when thinking of Africa, the overall mental images are of primeval irrationality, tribal anarchy, hunger, famine, civil war, managerial ineptitude, political instability, flagrant corruption, and incompetent leadership.
These images play a significant role in the continued underdevelopment of Africa. They are used to justify the ways in which Western countries use the continent for its resources and labour and continue to intervene and disrupt African life. The entire global system functions because of Africa’s position at the bottom of the totem pole. The growth of the continent puts the future of Western life in peril. France has continued to play a big role in West Africa and profits greatly from its influence. Without Africa, France would not wield the power they do today.
The negative view of Africans also decreases the amount of sympathy and aid Africa receives in times of tragedy as many believe it is the natural order of things. African immigrants in Europe are seen as threat to society who increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks, steal local jobs, and increase crime rates. The war in Ukraine reaffirmed this notion. While trying to flee Russian invasion, Africans were barred from trains leaving Kyiv even though there were empty seats and were continuously discriminated against while seeking asylum in Belarus and Poland.