Dr. Frances Cress Welsing’s The Isis Papers (Third World Press, 1991) is one of the most popular texts of the much debated but loosely defined ideology of afrocentricity. Arguing for the African origins of civilization by highlighting Egyptian and other Africans’ pioneering achievements in architecture, science, and philosophy, afrocentric interpretations of history subvert traditional eurocentric fabrications. Afrocentric scholars also potentially open a path toward a new humanism, one which includes everybody with an African ancestry—the whole human race. […]
The Origins of White Supremacy
Welsing articulates a familiar critique of white supremacy as the dominant system and culture in the Western world. However, her notions about the origins and perpetuation of racism are far from conventional. White supremacy, according to Welsing, began with the birth of albinos in Africa. These “recessive genetic mutants” began to mate with one another and multiply, producing what is now known as the white race.
Besides masking their African origin and proclaiming their affinity with Greece, whites avoid the true meaning of skin whiteness: “a mutation and genetic deficiency state from the Black norm, ‘hue-man’ norm.” White supremacy is a psychological defense mechanism to genetic color inadequacy (whiteness). Dr. Welsing believes whites are “genetically vulnerable,” and therefore overcompensate for their insecurity with oppressive behavior towards people of color.
Effeminization as Oppression
A major tool of those who subscribe to white supremacy, according to Welsing, is the perpetuation of Black male passivity through encouraging effeminization, bisexuality, and homosexuality. Welsing believes this is “a problem of epidemic proportions amongst Black people in the US.”
Homophobia in communities of color is rampant…to the tenth power of the white mainstream. Why? Because the struggle for human rights against white supremacy has been disproportionately explained as the need to achieve “manhood” rights, from the period of the slave trade to the present.
Welsing believes homosexual patterns of behavior are simply expressions of male self-submission to other males in the area of “sex,” as well as in other areas—economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, and war. Oppression is defined as forced submission, homosexuality as a sign of weakness.
Welsing defines “primary effeminacy” and “secondary effeminacy” to distinguish white causes of homosexuality from Black ones. “Primary effeminacy” is a self-derived response by whites to their genetic insufficiency, causing a negation of self-reproduction due to disgust with their own genetic weaknesses.
“Secondary effeminacy” (Black male homosexuality) is consciously imposed on the Black man by the white man for the purpose of destroying the Black family. Welsing attempts to propagate a patriarchal concept of the Black family, which is curious, since it is afrocentric conventional wisdom that there was no patriarchy in traditional African societies.
Welsing does have a concept of gender roles being environmentally conditioned. However, a continuum would not represent qualities such as aggression and nurturing as universal that all humans can embody. Rather, the author clearly believes that in the process of the Black man taking on homosexual tendencies, he is acting like a woman. She is firmly against this as illustrated by the following examples.
From her work with incarcerated Black [men], Welsing concludes that, as they have been broken by the system and forced to submit to an authoritarian environment, prison is the epitome of white supremacy. Black males are “feminized in jail” in the following ways: They are given orders by men to whom they must submit; they wait passively to be fed three meals a day by men; and finally, they have sexual intercourse with men.
Welsing, in an attack on cross dressers of the “Flip Wilson/Geraldine” variety, implies that a real Black man wouldn’t wear earrings or bracelets. How can an African-centered critique of white supremacy discount the earring and bracelet wearing Masai warriors or the “Mau Mau,” just two of many examples of “manhood” in resistance?
The author, angry with the American Psychological Association’s relatively recent repeal of their former opinion that homosexuality constitutes poor mental health, prescribes a distinct position for Black people. Black psychiatrists must understand that whites may condone homosexuality for themselves, but we as Blacks must see it as a strategy for destroying Black people.
Welsing argues that homosexuals or bisexuals should neither be condemned nor degraded, as they did not decide that they would be so programmed in childhood. The racist system should be held responsible. Welsing believes the task of professionals who concur with her should be proactive treatment and prevention of homosexuality among Black people.
Welsing argues that, since there is no patriarchy in traditional African societies, a feminist critique is not necessary. Besides, feminism is eurocentric. I wonder what Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, Michele Wallace, and Bell Hooks would think of that. They’re anything but eurocentric.
Welsing, disgusted with the stereotyped image of the Black [man] as “sex-machine,” believes the Black [man] should be the guardian of Black civilization, not only in protecting the family even at consequence of death, but by procreating. It is their sperm which is endowed with the melanin that preserves the “hue-man” norm.
Welsing gives the Black woman agency in preserving Black manhood from becoming the female, clown, infant, buffoon, transvestite, homosexual, etc. This should be done by denying these “effeminized men” “the right” to procreate, and should be enforced by the “self-respecting” Black woman.
Welsing offers The Isis Papers as a revolutionary treatise. This makes many of her assertions even more problematic. By equating Black manhood with “not macho or money” but “warrior or soldier against the system,” she attempts to deny Black homosexuals and women, whites, and others, their necessary role as revolutionaries against white supremacy. She suffers from the common reasoning among Black middle-class voices (common especially now in books articulating their “rage”) that are surprised and/or disappointed that “even when high income is allowed, there is no true power in its ultimate sense—meaning to support, protect and defend the lives of one’s self, one’s wife, and one’s children.” Dr. Welsing remains adamant that a class analysis of capitalism is not relevant to Black people, as most afrocentrists claim, because they are oppressed as a race.
Dr. Welsing, like many afrocentrists, puts forward a conception of revolution that is doomed to fail. However, it has already been successful in provoking the politics of reaction, though not on the scale of her eurocentric predecessors. Under the guise of unity she continues the alienation of Black homosexuals as acting white and/or acting abnormal.
Under an American system of white supremacy and capitalism, she attempts to put forward an Africa-centered agenda for Black revolution that is woefully ignorant of the political economy that destroys both Africans and Americans and, for that matter, the diversity of the culture of the diaspora. No one should hesitate from pulling out all the stops to oppose such retrogressive ideas, even at the risk of being proclaimed an “Uncle Tom” or a race traitor.