Posted by : Halima Khait Thursday, April 24, 2014

I'm a little embarrassed to say that as a scholar of African American Literature, I'm just getting around to reading Frances Cress Welsing's The Isis Papers: The Keys to The Colors. I'm also a little reluctant to admit that just about every one of the 206 pages I've read so far has been a struggle.

As a brief overview, The Isis Papers is a collection of Welsing's essays pertaining to white supremacy, its effect on blacks and what we can do to break this cycle. Summarized, this sounds like a good look, but upon reading it, I've discovered this book comes with its own set of problems, two of which I'll address here.

1)You can't address hate with hate
If an individual gives you reason to dislike them, fine. But hating a group of people has never solved anything. And it may just be my perception, but I feel that in trying to define and break down the white supremacy structure, the author has to categorize all white people. I don't know about you, but I'm not aware of any people that are so homogeneous, they don't mind being categorized in a negative light. Do I believe all white people have benefited from their push for power? Yes. I also believe there are those who haven't actively contributed to the movement and aren't aware of the extent of their privilege. I can't hate them for this, all I can do is try to educate them and in turn hear their experiences.

And while we're on the subject of my beliefs, I believe every group has their good and bad and as is often true in this sinful world, the negative gets more attention. I also believe God made us all and made all of us different for a purpose. And I believe we all share the common purpose of love.

All that being said, the best way to address people and situations is as they come. Goes along the lines of one of the book's gems.
"Truth is 'that which is.' It is specific energy in the universe"
- Paper Money and Gold As Symbols
Frances Cress Welsing
2) You can't define yourself through someone else
The above statement is something I couldn't quite put into words until I ran across this statement in the essay Justifiable Homicide:
"Black manhood does not mean macho or money, but instead it means warrior or soldier against white supremacy."
All of which I agreed with up until the last part. Manhood should mean all that all the time not just in the face of white supremacy. Definitions like this one are scattered throughout the book and have left me thinking, if we define ourselves solely in the context of fighting white supremacy, we're left without anything outside of this struggle. I'd like to think that I'm so much more than that. And based on Welsing's call for black self-respect, I'd like to think that she wants all of us to know we're much more than that.

That's all the analyzing I have energy for. Like I said previously, there were some gems in this book. I highly recommend The Symbolism, Logic and Meaning of "Justifiable Homicide" in the 1980s. Taken with a grain of salt, it's a very interesting essay.

I almost didn't write a review for this book because it's been so hard for me to read, but then I realized it deserved more than that. Although I didn't agree with a lot and found many of the metaphors stretched to the point of being loopy, this book opened my eyes to different schools of thought and forced me to analyze my own belief system. It tested and taught me. And after all, nobody said growth was easy.

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