port of harlem magazine
ivan brown realty
Are You a Secondary Guardian to White Skin Privilege?
October 8 – October 21, 2020
elena featherston and wayne young

In November 2020, Port Of Harlem will celebrate 25 years of publication. As we count down to our birthday, we will republish some of our most popular articles from our print issues. Thanks for subscribing and inviting others to join you in supporting our inclusive, diverse, pan-African publication - - now completely online. We originally published this article in the Nov 2000- Apr 2001 print issue.
It is important to say: I am not neutral. The dynamics of white supremacy, which are addressed here, have affected my life. So, let me put my cards on the table: I am a “dark-skinned” woman with “light-skinned” children and grandchildren. The experiences of those I love have been radically different from my own and have informed and expanded my thinking.

I come to this subject with a perspective and an agenda. My conscious agenda is the long-term well-being of my people (indeed all people) and our healing from the ravages of slavery which still haunt our lives.

My reflections have also been molded by the scholarship on the role that race/color plays in U.S. society. Being human, my reasoning may be flawed and readers my find ways in which my experience has restricted my vision rather than augment it. I look forward to our shared wisdom. This said, I ask: Are you a secondary guardian of white skin privilege?

In western-influenced cultures—globalization makes that most cultures in the world—skin color is the great significator. It is the first thing people see and is used to define who one is and to what one can “rightfully” aspire. There are privileges and a lack thereof attached to different shades of skin, texture of hair, size of lip, and shape of nose neatly encoded into the social fabric of the nation.

Sadly, it is also woven into the social fabric of Black communities. More than Black folk care to admit, our socialization—through centuries of conditioning by European ideals and values—has taught us to live out myths devised to dehumanize us. The internalization of those standards renders us secondary guardians at the gates of white supremacy.

Our watchfulness at the gates of white is time-honored. Even our celebrated dead have stood lookout. When the men history remembers as the Buffalo Soldiers were removed from protecting newly freed men and women in the South and transferred west to quell Native people for a racist, expansionist government, these brave men became sentinels for white supremacy.

Many of us accept the argument that people of color have more in common with the Europeans who colonized, captured, conquered, and commodified us than with one another.
Like many people of color, they committed murder to protect property and uphold precepts that White men held dear because they (like us) were trained—miseducated—to revere whatever White men  thought important. In struggling to prove their human worth, they defined “duty” as their former masters defined it, not as their Red brothers and sisters who gave them their illustrious name defined it.

The Native people they fought were often our relatives and relations, cut down to further the land-greedy aims of white supremacists. We, modern Blacks, must remember that in the South many African people were also of Native descent. Indigenous people welcomed escaped slaves—so called renegades—into their ethnic groups and families. Every time we enforce the domination of white supremacy in the lives of other peoples of color, we are guardians.

Read More

Return to this issue's Main Page
sign up
follow us on
facebook  instagram twitter  youtube
Advertisers | Contact Us | Events | Links | Media Kit | Our Company | Payments Pier
Press Room | Print Cover Stories Archives | Electronic Issues and Talk Radio Archives | Writer's Guidelines