Why Only the ‘Good Head House Negro’ Can Be an Effective Afro-American Leader
In his ‘parable of the House Negro & the Field Negro’, Malcolm X gave the world the most devastating attack on the black Southern oral tradition of the ‘House Negro’ that has ever been put to paper. In fact, the whole narrative of The Autobiography of Malcolm X is an attack on this black Southern tradition of leadership, for Malcolm X himself, epitomized in the post-emancipation world by Booker T. Washington, and in slavery, by Paul Jennings, James Madison’s mixed race slave Courtier, who rescued George Washington’s portrait, when the White House was burning, during the War of 1812. Malcolm X lionizes the so-called ‘Field Negro mentality’, but he is in fact celebrating a specific type of Field Negro, which is to say the bad Field Negro. The so-called ‘Negro slave agitator’.
His whole Autobiography is in a sense a celebration of the bad Field Negro Mentality, and how far you can take it in life. This is the mentality of ‘Malcolm Little’, his former self, and the criminal class of the Northern ghettos. They are more alienated from the ‘white establishment’ than anyone, and literally see no place for themselves in this world. This is the mentality that Malcolm X wishes to cultivate in his black audience, total alienation from the white establishment, in sympathy with the lowest class of black civil society. He wants to cultivate a new black leadership class that are in condition, House Negroes, but have a so-called bad Field Negro mentality. He wants to create ‘bad House Negroes’ in order to destabilize white Master’s contemporary Slave Power, just like during the Civil War, and the fall of The Confederacy & its Slave Power. More than anyone else, Malcolm X hates ‘good Head House Negroes’, people like Booker T. and Paul Jennings. They are the black Lex Luthor and Joker to his black Superman and Batman. They represent an outdated black Southern leadership mentality that must be wholly purged to achieve black freedom. Malcolm X seeks to destroy this type, just like black Batman.
Malcolm X, with a major assist from Alex Haley, was very successful in spreading his new black leadership model, the bad House Negro, both during and after his death, with the huge popularity of his Autobiography. The bad Field Negro mentality was central to the black leadership model of the Black Panthers, and the bad House Negro has emerged as the black leadership model of my generation of black spokespeople, intellectuals, and leaders, affiliated with the Democratic party or the ‘black left’, Generation X. They all want to be bad House Negroes, with bad Field Negro mentalities. This is in effect the problem in black American leadership today. For the Plantation to be productive and run effectively, House Negroes must have largely good House Negro mentalities. They should have sympathy with the condition of the Field Negro, but never misunderstand their role, because this will ultimately lead to disaster. The key figure here that makes everything work, without whom the whole system would collapse, is the hated good Head House Negro. He is the Prince of the slaves on the plantation, and he governs this slave principality in the fields, with the force of a Luca Brasi of The Godfather or a Tommy DeVito from Goodfellas. In contrast, in the white Master’s Big House, he governs with the fine manners of a cultivated Southern gentleman.
This Head House Negro is a man of extraordinary character: one part Southern gentleman, one part Negro slave, & one part savage beast. There is no one quite like this guy in the whole world, and he is the only Negro slave that gains the respect of the white Master & Overseer classes, because they recognize his ‘inner greatness’, even if he’s not really white. They could never do what he does, and without him their whole world would quickly collapse. He is the Negro slave Atlas, on which this whole Slave Power balances itself. Moreover, the white Master class loves this guy and trusts this guy, sometimes more than their own white friends and family. He is that one Negro in ten thousand that you can really count on, in their eyes: the Magic Negro. Part of the reason is that he actually understands the dynamics in this world better than anyone. He is really the only person that grasps the so-called ‘race problem’, and its true character. In effect, this is why he has his role, because he knows the system, what needs to be done, and he executes it without hesitation. He is a man of action, but also a superior political animal. He knows how to bend the will of the most powerful men in the country, including US Presidents, better than anyone. He is a man of extraordinary power, a kind of Negro slave Vizier or Consigliere, whose power exists to the white establishment wholly in the shadows. This means that he could bring down this whole system if he really wanted to, and that may in fact be part of the untold oral history of the Fall of the Confederacy. A possibility indicated in the opening chapter of Booker T. Washington’s own good Head House Negro slave narrative, Up from Slavery.
The good Head House Negro really is a man of the world, a true Negro slave Renaissance man, and a character straight out of the parables of Niccolo Machiavelli and Aesop’s Fables. He is the virtuous Negro slave Courtier. Of course, his condition is still that of a Negro slave, but his character is very different than any other Negro slave on the plantation. He is a different breed of Negro slave, and in some sense, he is the product of the historical evolution of the institution of American Negro slavery. He is a new type of American that has been produced and breed by this Southern slave system. He is a unique individual and is really the only slave on the Plantation who truly understands why the cotton needs picking, regardless of the unfortunate circumstances. Without this guy, nothing would ever get done. No one would eat without this guy. Not the white Masters, not the white Overseers, and definitely not the Field Negroes. He is the Negro slave Prince, sometimes the biological bastard son of the white Master, and his level of authority over the other Negro slaves is staggering. For all these reasons, he is hated, just like many Princes are hated, but like any good Prince, he understands his role and has the know-how and will to execute this role without hesitation. To this day, there exists tremendous black ancestral racial hatred from everyday black folks towards this type. But in truth, he is by far the closest to real freedom when emancipation actually comes. This guy will know exactly how to set himself, his friends, and his family up in a very cozy environment when ‘freedom comes’. He’ll go to the city and open up catering businesses, with the finest House Negro service class, a highly sought after commodity at that time, and make a fortune. He’ll become a Reconstruction Congressman or Senator. He is completely ready for emancipation, because his character is already that of a free man. For this, the other so-called freedmen, mostly Field Negroes, who generally still have strong remnants of a ‘Field Slave character’, and will ultimately end up in another condition of harrowing servitude after Reconstruction, are jealous and resentful.
This is the core of the problem with the original Head House Negro leadership model. It is not designed to ‘uplift the race’, but instead it just effectively runs white Master’s Plantation, and sets him and his House Negro friends & family up after Emancipation. This is kind of what happened after the Civil Rights Movement as well, despite the use of bad Field Negro rhetoric by today’s bad House Negroes. And this doesn’t really help the Field Negroes, who are the vast majority of black people. This is a black leadership model born under servitude, and is effectively tyrannical and exploitative, because these House Negroes were not really educated to be proper black leaders. Booker T. Washington updates this model by incorporating Frederick Douglass’ innovations in elevating white public opinion on black capacity, and a black development model, largely centered on character and institution building. Black radical activists can play a role, but they must be wholly subordinate to his agenda. He refuses to make Douglass’ mistake of playing the perpetual radical black activist, as MLK also does after 1965. The black Southerner needs a Negro Statesman, and the Head House Negro is the only model. This must be used and updated, and that’s what Booker T. does, but his model is more rooted in Paul Jennings than Fredrick Douglass, and black Northern leaders, like WEB Du Bois and Malcolm X recognized this, and detest him for it. But they are wrong. This is an ancient black Southern oral tradition of leadership lost on black Northern ears, and while deeply flawed in its original form, contains elements that are still necessary for not only racial progress in this country, but black progress. Today’s black political science deeply misunderstands the good Head House Negro, the Negro slave Prince. Consequently, black leadership, the black demos, and racial progress in this country has greatly suffered. The bad House Negro model doesn’t work, but has similar effects to the original good House Negro model of emancipation, just with bad Field Negro rhetoric, so it is more sophisticated in its hustle.
Il Trovatore (Aristarchus Patrinos) ; September 6, 2020 ; < 1600 words