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A Black Manifesto :

Darell W. Fields

As a child, I used to sit on Sunday mornings and listen to the minister speak
eloquently about this world, heaven, and hell. With his mastery of the Bible,
he was able to weave a certain truth that was affirmed by a comforting
consensus of "Amen!" offered up from the congregation. This was possible
because we all believed in that textual absolute known as the Good Book and
in the solace it offered. We were able to suspend concern about the threats
inherent to life—a life existing just beyond the pulpit.

While holding the Good Book aloft in his right hand and pounding it with his
left, this voice, this black voice, admonished self-interest, spoke of pride
of self as if it were the worst of evils, and cautioned members of the
congregation not to partake in activities, just beyond the pulpit, unbecoming
of Christians. And the congregation, with a great many black voices, all
concurred with a resounding "Amen!" He then slammed the book closed with
resolute force while quoting scripture:

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or
else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Matthew 6:24

But the minister, while making clear the master distinction, obliterated it
as well. For it was he who chastised the congregation for not giving their
share of mammon to the church-so we gave and felt guilty when we couldn't.
It was he who rebuked us for craving worldly possessions rather than those
treasures that would be provided for us in some other world. All the while
he was saying this, I was aware that the minister always seemed to have the
largest and newest car in the parking lot, while my mother and I were relegated
to the church bus. I became increasingly cynical when I began to realize that
the possessions that showed our relative ranks in this world became the
criteria used to distinguish members within the church. It seemed to me, if
the minister was correct, that the church should be neutral ground, a
territory on this earth where the tools of one master could not contaminate
the work of another. But as I grew, it became clear to me that the distinction
between the world and the church was not always evident and at times, far
too many times, there appeared to be no distinction whatsoever.

"The meek shall inherit the earth" reinforced this blinding contradiction.
It seemed fair that those who had suffered some great historical tragedy
should get something for their suffering, and I believed this line of
thinking to be consistent with the church's "you reap what you sow" theory.
However, the "earth" that the meek were supposed to inherit had a master that
we were taught fiercely not to serve. I began to wonder how our meekness,
at this historical moment, could wrench the earth from that other master;
what made us think, what made the minister think, that the master of the other
world would relinquish an acre (let alone forty) without a fight?

During his sermons, the minister would preface his references to the
scripture with "the Gospel according to Matthew" or "the Gospel according
to John." I didn't have any problems with Matthew or John or any of the
others—it was the "according to" that bothered me, for it allowed the
minister to speak without speaking for himself. And it followed that the more
adept he was at citing analogies or references with the legitimizing
authority of the Good Book, the more easily he could "say" just about anything
he wanted without fear of retribution from us and our meek souls. All that
was necessary was to find refuge in the pulpit, in the Good Book, and in the
authority of the church.

It seemed to me that the pulpit was quite a place—a place where one could
conceal one's self, both practically and figuratively. I began to despise
not the minister or the church, but this place—a place or space that could
offer a man, a black man, such vast and unlimited authority while silencing
him at the same moment. This blinding silence was so pervasive because we,
the congregation, heard the words but could not see the space that made them
possible. To this very day, when visiting that church and those people, I
wait until the sanctuary is empty and go to that place and face an audience
that is no longer there—an audience, a black audience, that has dissolved
into the complex and daily contingencies required of each of its members just
beyond the pulpit.

Now I am just beyond the pulpit. Here the soothing voices of my spiritual
family are silenced. They are silenced by their pursuit of an unobtainable
comfort, their lack of self-worth, their lack of self-pride, and their
refusal to participate in activities that may be described as unbecoming.
Regardless of which master they believe themselves to be serving, they crouch
in the shadows of both: on the one hand, a moral authority seemingly having
answers to the most profound questions, and on the other, a more tangible
persona who controls aspects of day-to-day survival. However, this scenario
provides only a simplified version of reality. In another reality I find
myself, at least my black self, serving more than just two masters. There
is not only God and money, but any number of wonderful, beautiful, and awful
things in between. A more appropriate rendition of Matthew 6:24 would be:
"No black man can serve two masters; he must serve at least this many and

The two-master scenario is fathomable only from the pulpit, but beyond that
place, how am I to reach such an ultimate simplicity? This is possible only
if one is willing to construct or reconstruct a voice on the spot at any given
moment, rather than adhere to the monolithic reinterpretations of the
minister or the master—especially when these seemingly opposing forces are
one and the same. To provide instantaneous clarity to any situation, one must
not only nurture the voice but speak it as well. To do so allows one to assume,
at least for a moment, the authorial position of the masters. Any rule, any
law, must first be spoken before it is written and deployed in some more
efficient manner. The infinite and pervasive reality of rulers' power is that
their words became law and their thoughts the fine print. It is ludicrous
and a waste of time to belittle and rail against the ruler if one is not
prepared to offer an ideal voice in resounding opposition. If one wants to
change the world, or at least some small part of it, one must be willing
to speak and use his own words and be guided by his own passions.

This is particularly true of the black voice. The stereotypical

singularization that occurs when it is assumed that we not only all look
alike, but think alike as well, must be shattered both from within and outside
lines defined by color. Therefore my voice, or any black voice, should be
understood as singular—as one utterance of many but with the power to bring
about resolute action.

I remember the day that I dropped the

African-American label forever.
But what is this blackness that should speak or remain
silent? It is obvious, at least to me, that the term "black"
is embodied with infinite meanings; if one assumes that
such meanings can be isolated, he or she will be sadly
mistaken. I have begun to pay close attention to newscasts
and other "formal" patterns of speech and have noted the
ongoing construction of euphemistic language that attempts
to veil how we feel about ourselves and how others see us.
In these instances, the term "black" usually refers to some
criminal person or activity, or to some type of repression
by the establishment, or it is used as a manifestation of
the pervasive "example" theology that sustains the belief
that all of us exhibit specific types of behavior or condone
particular constructs of thinking. The term
"African-American," usually considered interchangeable
with "black," most often refers in reality to "other
blacks"—law-abiding individuals who go to church (similar
to my own), aspire to higher education, and pay their share
of taxes without it being necessary for them to ask for
government assistance. This term is used to represent the
epitome of "good blacks." In the back of my mind, I am
certain that this is nothing new and that this ideological
split has occurred elsewhere. I myself have been named and
renamed (Negro, black, African-American) at least three
times during my lifetime. Nobody asked me.

For awhile, I was one of the "good ones." I followed

instructions. I did what I was told. I never spoke out of
turn. I never questioned authority. I was a "credit" to my
people, a role model for youngsters. I was a conscientious
worker. I was a conscientious Christian. I was independent
(in a mere financial sense). I was civil, even when
circumstances did not require such consideration on my
part. I was pleasant. I never initiated discussions I
believed to be controversial. I was patient in all
circumstances. And, in this sense—in the sense that I was
living up to everyone's expectations but my own, in the
sense that I hoped to live in a world where race did not
matter and was conforming myself to those expectations
without dealing with my own day-to-day realities—I was one
of the good ones. I was an African-American and I embraced
the term religiously—that is, until I returned to my home,
my mother's home, after seeing the world from the vantage
point of the ivory tower. Until that moment I had never
thought to critically question those situations or
circumstances that found it necessary to rename me.

My father, or at least the man I called father, used to say

"the strongest man is the one who's left standing when the
fight is over." In a not-so-recent visit back to the place
that houses my childhood, I was reminded of this statement.
The buildings most prominent and most numerous were liquor
stores, funeral homes, and churches. I wondered why the
church maintained such questionable company when it had
taught us—me—to avoid such relationships. But in
listening to my mother speak during visits to her home, the
place that houses my childhood, she reiterates these
interwoven themes incessantly. She speaks about the death
of my father, or at least the man that I called father. She
speaks about a brother who, as she sees it, drank himself
to death. She speaks of another who ought to stop drinking
before he too kills himself. She speaks of the loved ones
who have died under other, more tragic circumstances. And
most of all, she speaks of God and the church. My life is
quite different from my mother's, the precious woman who
raised me. Throughout my life she spoke of color only with
pride, and emphasized how I should use it to nurture my
self, my black self. She spoke of how I should nurture that
black self and protect it at all costs, under any
circumstances. She never knew how much these teachings,
these daily iterations, cut across the grain of those of
the church.

I remember the day I dropped the African-American label forever. It was the
day after the L.A. riots began, and South Central was still burning. I took
my usual walk through the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and although
I believed myself to be the same person I had been the day before, it began
to become obvious to me that somehow, on this day, I was quite different.
I was different because it seemed that every resident, student, and worker
on that morning in Cambridge went out of his way to speak, to smile, to say
"good morning," and, for what seemed like the first time, to look into my
eyes. These things were quite out of character for this place, but I returned
their greetings in the way that my minister and mother had taught
me—cheerfully and with a smile. I was still trying to figure out what was
going on when I got a little help from a stranger—a brother. A man, a black
man, came running from around the corner I was approaching. He was shabbily
dressed, not well shaven, and he had the face of many men I have been forced
to turn away from. His sudden presence shattered my own blindness. The moment
he appeared, the entire street, full of the morning's activity, gave way to
a vast and motionless silence. Only he and I allowed our bodies to move. The
couple that had just been so friendly to me became petrified by this other
black presence. As he tried to negotiate the corner, he slammed into an
unsuspecting pedestrian and proceeded past me. His presence transformed me,
or at least the "me" I was perceived to be on that street at that moment.
I was as black as he was, and the nonblack people on the street let me know
it loud and clear. On television the night before, no one was described as
African-American; there were only "black hoodlums." Tall, raging fires
revealed South Central to the world. And the long shadows cast by those
columns of smoke and heat blanketed the people below in a predetermined

It was on that morning that I was able to look at myself through the eyes
of the people who gingerly approached, smiled, and passed me. What I saw was
a contented African-American, carrying his satchel, newspaper (the New York
Times of course), and morning cup of coffee. Through these other eyes I
appeared quite harmless, and I detested what I saw and how it made me feel.
I noticed that when the other black intruder was present, the faces that held
these other eyes were drained of their smiles. People stopped in the street
and couples clung to one another because they recognized, quite vividly, the
fear that raced toward and passed them. I also began to realize that their
mocking smiles and greetings were small acknowledgments of this very same
fear. There was nothing I could do to explain to these others how meek,
tolerant, and restrained I had been taught to be, and how there was absolutely
no reason to fear me; but I could have shouted these things from the hollow
part of my soul and no one would have listened. My color, the pigmentation
of my skin, the part of me that has been named and renamed, the part of me
that belongs to a long and tortured history, the part that precedes me into
any situation—my color—shrouds me in silence. And suddenly, the minister
sprang before my eyes; he is shrieking, shouting to be heard, waving
menacingly his companion enclosed in a black cover. He appeared as a man,
rather than as a representative of his position—a man that I had never seen
because of the place from which he spoke. And at that moment I opened my own
eyes and began to wonder, after "knowing" him all my life, who he was.

In the same way that I would revisit the pulpit, the place I despised because
of its power and the silence that came with it, I began to oscillate between
my expectations and what others expected me to be. I dropped the
African-American view of myself and reembraced and rediscovered the power
of my blackness, as acknowledged by others' hatred, fear, ignorance, and
hypocrisy. On that very same walk in Cambridge, I discovered that I too could
make the smiles of others looking at "me" drain from their faces. And with
all my loving and forgiving heart I prayed to God that South Central's fires
would spread and burn the "city of angels" to the ground.

Within the confines of things known to us as identities or disciplines,

the formation of relatively clear and distinct definitions are possible.
I have more than alluded to the formation of the church, at least my
church, as a device that constructs, maintains, and deploys categories
as well as the identities within these categories. Of course, the church
is only one example of such a mechanism, and it would be simplistic not
to acknowledge that it is only one of any number of institutions that
bind "identities" to persons. But this definition is problematic
because it places priority on the categories and implies that these
circumstances result in a monolithic identity. It suggests that the
"whole" is constructed by the stacking or appending of events and/or
circumstances rather than acknowledging another reality that posits that
such identities could literally have been carved into the whole itself.
The former definition proposes that a society binds events and
circumstances, resulting in functional identities, which can then be
condoned and managed by that same society. The latter alludes to singular
and distinct formal identities, which are usually legitimized by the
mythical use of origins and an inane conceptualization of history. The
black body, or that body I am "calling" black, exists in neither of these
two poles but somewhere between them. On the one hand, it cannot help
but resist and attempt to reject those functions that attempt to bind
it to a stereotypical construction of blackness, while on the other hand,
it is not capable of locating and, more important, legitimizing a
particular origin or history stripped from it long ago.
For example, the tendency to vacillate between names is less necessary
among other ethnic or racial groups. In fact, relative to black culture,
the names for these other groups appear to be quite stagnant: the whites
have always been whites. Are we progressing so quickly in social,
cultural, and economic determinants that we achieve "new identities"
every ten to twenty years? Of course, the answer is no. This naming or
renaming comes more from within (if there is any such place) than from
anywhere else. These names are not constructed out of an objective
externalization of what is being produced by black—sorry,
African-American— communities. If anything, we are producing the same
things we have always produced: ministers, thieves, scholars, pimps,
musicians, families, doctors, lawyers, gangsters, politicians, and so
on. I believe that these naming distinctions occur under the veil of some
"internal" (for lack of a better term) political or class-constructing
activity. That is, they are artificially produced by various political
and social factions who wish to manifest social and political
distinctions from which they are then able to pursue more refined sets
of goals relative to their interests. This is not an inherently bad or
good thing, but is merely an indication that the two-master syndrome
exists within the very fiber of black—sorry,

Furthermore, those groupings of elites

(scholars, politicians, and so-called
activists) who dabble in these
definitions are working intensively to
distance themselves from their
past—or at least what they believe to
be their past. These definitions or
redefinitions are evidence that we
(they) have progressed—progressed so
much that a history of slavery may be
These definitions or
rhetorically reworked as a history of
redefinitions are evidence "immigration." For too long we have
that we (they) have progressed- placed our hopes in these types of
progressed so much that the social constructions and definitions,
rhetoric that speaks of a believing that if they were made public
history of slavery may be in law as reinforced by scripture, the
playing field would somehow become
considered as a history of
level. Similar ideals, ideals of
"immigration." progress, were vested in the idea of
integration—and to be sure, some of us
have progressed because of it. But we
must also admit that despite such
attempts at inclusion, either into the
good graces of the United States of
America's history or into those places
where we believed society disallowed
our full participation, the majority of
us have been left behind.

An example of this paradox is held

within the use of the term
"African-American." Those who call
themselves African-American will
assume that they have gained greater
specificity by using this term, when in
fact it is full of assumptions and
contradictions. First, the term, as
denoted by its use of "African," is
frustrated in its aspirations to
identify the geographical location, a
point of origin, that denotes a
specific and particular heritage.
"African" and "American" are both
geographical terms that deny realities
induced by boundaries preventing the
passage of bodies and ideas from one
"political" space to another. The term
"African" homogenizes Africa: it
neutralizes and makes
indistinguishable cultural and
political determinants that make
Libyans different from Egyptians
different from Nigerians different
from South Africans. The assumption
that the term "African" defines and
pinpoints "heritage" for black people
in the United States is fundamentally
misleading. It usurps distinct and
substantial cultural, political, and
ethnic differences among the many
countries composing the continent of
Africa, while undermining
socio-political and cultural
distinctions among black people that
were forged in this country.

Curiously, persons espousing the

benefits of "Afrocentrism" in the
United States tend to gravitate toward
claims of superiority, which in
practice seem quite contrary to their
purposes. Egypt for them is, or was, the
epitome of civilization, and the claim
that they "are" a part of it is an
attempt to legitimize their authority.
In fact, this may or may not be true,
but whether it is true or not is of no
consequence. What is more important is
that such an invented association
denies not only "present
circumstances" but "history" as well.
It is quite peculiar that those in the
process of resisting racial myths and
stereotypes at one moment in history
would use the racial myths and
stereotypes of another to legitimize
themselves. More simply, Egypt, along
with its artifacts of knowledge, power,
and art, was made possible because of
slave labor extracted from the Jews and
other "enemies" of the state. If Egypt
is a justifiable construct of heritage
as defined by those who reconstruct
those histories, then it is only fair
that the whole of that history should
be used, rather than just some small
part of it. If such a "completeness" of
history is not attempted, the only
thing that has been proven is that the
inventor of such a heritage has the
potential of being just as ruthless as
anyone else in the pursuit of altering
history for the sake of legitimizing
heritage or tyranny. If the point is
that theirs was once a powerful nation,
it must also be acknowledged that such
power was beaten out of the bodies of
others. If one wishes to claim the
pyramids of Egypt as artifacts of
heritage, then it is impossible to do
so without also claiming all of the
contingencies that made them possible.
If a more passive power is deemed more
appropriate, it may then mean that no
claims should be made of Egypt.

The same is true but different of the

term "American." If one states simply
that "I am an American," or is called
"American" by some foreigner, there
is an explicit reference to that person
being a citizen of the United States of
America. Political distinctions evoked
by this term, as formulated in the
unconscious mind of the speaker, are
quite clear regardless of the fact that
North America (of which the United
States is only a part), Central
America, and South America are part of
the geographic formation known as the
Americas. The utterance of the term
"American," unlike the use of the term
"African," explicitly acknowledges
political and cultural boundaries that
deny the fact that other
socio-political configurations within
the same geographic location exist at
all. The construction of the term
"African-American," relative to its
assumptions of meaning, is nothing more
than a rhetorical colonizing strategy
that in actuality denies and suppresses
socio-political realities and culture
rather than providing, say, a more
precise race term that clarifies
present political identities and
circumstances. This term may be true
for blacks in this country, but if held
to a more rigorous standard of
definition, the same term could be used
to describe a "heritage" whose origins
are somewhere between Zimbabwe and
Peru. Furthermore, to assume that these
two "African-Americans" could even
carry on a meaningful conversation,
relative to their similarities in
culture, would be incorrect.

As a written strategy,
"African-American" attempts
fictitiously to align itself with other
terms relating to the broad history of
immigration into this country.
Italian-Americans immigrated from
Italy, German-Americans from Germany,
Japanese-Americans from Japan, and so
on. On the other hand, the so-called
African-American, in his attempts at
realignment, actually denies a
substantial and painful part of our
history as well as our culture. It is
obvious that we are in this country, but
our rites of passage were quite
different: we were slaves; we did not
seek the prosperity of the New
World—it sought us.

I once heard a scholar, an

African-American scholar who was
discussing this same matter publicly,
use the term "immigration" in reference
to the presence of African-Americans in
this country. This seemed to me a
ruthless denial of history, something
unbecoming of a scholar—or anyone
else, for that matter. I had had the
opportunity, along with some of my
colleagues, to meet this scholar some
months before I heard this statement.
At our first meeting, he greeted us with
"What do you niggers want?" It wasn't
a malicious statement in any way, and
it reminded me of the "familiarity" of
certain terms that could be used by
members of some peculiar club. I was
shocked, but not in a way that harmed
me because, in the end, I am nobody's
nigger. I was more shocked by the fact
that a person of his obvious stature,
at least in the world of academia, could
concede that he was indeed familiar
with us, with me. I actually found
comfort in his statement because, even
in the most liberal of academic
circumstances, it is rare that such
associations are conveyed. However,
the two utterances, alluding to
immigration and to associations
formulated within slavery, are
completely contradictory but were both
held in the mind of, supposedly, a
single identity. But then again, he is
a scholar and his texts may have
revealed to him some evidence that he
is an immigrant, and his greeting could
have been his way of letting us know
that he was on one side of the desk and
we were, absolutely, on the other.

At this point a distinction must be made

between heritage and culture. Heritage
embodies the nuance of tradition or
traditions that have been passed on to
other generations. It implies a
continuity, a longevity, whose main
by-product could be called a formal
identity. Culture, on the other hand,
is infinitely more complex and may
embody many heritages or histories that
could be termed functional identities.
In such circumstances, conscious or
subconscious activities are invoked
either to preserve or modify one's own,
or another's, belief system. Rather
than a reliance on continuity or
history, culture is more sporadic and
unpredictable because it defines
itself around particular circumstances
or events.

To put it more simply, it is the myth of heritage (formal

identity) that allows an African-American man to speak
of his present circumstances, and all of those life
circumstances up to that point, as being the result
of "immigration," while it is culture (functional
identity) that allows that same man to assume in a
particular social situation that everyone in the room,
except maybe himself, is a "nigger" and that his use
of the term will be embraced rather than rejected.
If the term African-American is anything, it is an
artifact of the struggle between the formal and
functional identities that "we" have constructed for
ourselves. In another America all people are created
equal, and in that world the term African-American may
be appropriate. But the use of the term in this
particular America—an America that has not yet lived
up to its own ideals—implies a thorough transformation
that has not yet been accomplished. No matter how much
the hope of this change exists, its practical
realization in society may not. In any case, what would
it matter if every black person in this country could
situate his or her past explicitly? What do we do then?
What do we do now? What do we do tomorrow?

It is possible that any construction of heritage denies

poignant realities of history and culture. It would
seem impossible to speak of a black culture, even if
one chooses to call it African-American, without
speaking of an American (United States) experience, the
very same experience that makes it necessary for a new
race term to present itself. Furthermore, it would seem
impossible to discuss the conception and refinement of
any American institution without addressing or
suppressing this inherent black experience. Therefore,
any term used to define blackness must not be judged
by the way it looks when pinned to an appropriate chest,
but how it stands up to present socio-political
criteria. The naming or renaming of a condition does
not necessarily indicate, in a socially meaningful
sense, a distinct change in status. Thus the terms
slave, African, colored, Negro, black, and
African-American are labels that may anticipate change
but in no way are empirical (functional) evidence of
a change in a socio-economic sense. In essence,
depending on individual circumstances, functional
realities may reveal absolutely no difference in
meaning between these terms. From this perspective, the
process of moving from absolute suppression to
non-suppression presents an amalgam of shifts and
phases that embody a myriad of consistencies and
inconsistencies available for viewing "identities." To
ignore these life circumstances is to be willfully
ignorant of "other" possibilities or even one's own
confrontations with history.
It has been argued here that race terminologies are
quite arbitrary and therefore insignificant. However,
it would be a mistake to dismiss these terms altogether.
To do so would be to deny the significance of the
circumstances from which these terms have arisen.
Although the distinction between such terms may be
questioned, it is not possible to challenge their
sociological origins. If one speaks of black culture
in this country, one of its major determinants is its
ongoing struggle against stereotypical, formal, and
historical definitions that attempt to limit or conceal
it. This struggle is continuous and pervasive, and it
is the process that binds us, in one way or another,
to our identities and vice versa. This process of
binding and unbinding, and not the race terminologies
themselves, are indeed the most significant, for it is
in this functional process that culture gains its
social rather than formal definition. By way of its
formal definition, the concept of "race" is certainly
believable. However, functional realities and the
identities arising from them resonate incessantly with
disbelief and challenge, on a moment-to-moment basis,
the (a)moral mechanism that would otherwise continue
to function without seeing any necessity for

The eyes and thoughts of others pass through me instantly and in

their eyes I am a man and black, and architect and black, a
professor and black, and so on and black.
Unfortunately this point remains a struggle
against the boundaries defining us, black
people, rather than against a more defined
opponent. This internal struggle "hopes" and
"trusts" far too much in the so-called
American dream and defines itself more than
anything else as a class struggle. This
struggle believes, hopes, and prays that if
it minds its manners and watches its conduct,
all circumstances indicating its continued
subjugation will be alleviated. This trust
in the American system is evidence that the
struggle itself is "coping" with these
circumstances rather than "changing" them.
Therefore there is no substantial rise in the
level of anxiety over the problems at hand,
because some of us appear to have "made it."
Unfortunately, we have forgotten the old
adage that "when one of us suffers, we all
suffer." But of course, even the term "we"
cannot be used here effectively because the
"we" has been consumed by "class" rather than
"caste" consciousness. In class
consciousness, there is the hope of moving
up and making one's life better and less the
grinding monotony that accompanies poverty
and disenfranchisement. Although this
excursion may never occur, there is always
the possibility that it will. The idea of
hope then becomes a grand coping mechanism
that condones the structural means of
subjugation that makes "hope" necessary in
the first place.
Conversely, a caste consciousness defined by
race contains an inevitability with respect
to one's social circumstances, and one can
only hope that one's ancestors were born on
the "right side" of the tracks. More
important, one is made aware of a line in
society that cannot be traversed. My mother
used to speak of this line, and at times I
marvel that I am able to drink from a public
water fountain or relieve myself in a public
restroom not designated by my color. Some
thirty or forty years have passed between her
realities and my own, but a residue still
exists. She always told me that "you can be
whatever you want to be and you are black."
And of course she was, as are all mothers at
one time or another, uncompromisingly
correct. I have become a great many things,
but those things are always, either in spoken
or unspoken terms, appended by the "and
black" part of my mother's pronouncement.
This is a matter I cannot shirk because it
is not up to me to shirk it—it never was.
I am immediately conspicuous and defined not
only by what I think of myself, but by what
others perceive me to be. I may have some
control over the former definition, but the
latter is quite beyond me. The eyes and
thoughts of others pass through me
instantly, and in their eyes I am a man and
black, an architect and black, a professor
and black, and so on and black.

If there is any African-American who doubts

there is a caste system in the United States
enforced and reinforced by race, let him step
out from behind those items that convey his
"class"—his car, his money, his clothes,
and his education—and adorn the "street
clothes" fashioned by his black skin and
simply walk. Eventually, he will have
collected two items of evidence that should
make the distinction absolutely clear. Those
items of evidence are (1) being at the wrong
place at (2) the wrong time.

For me there is more "hope" in the caste,

rather than class, conception of race
because at the very least the factions are
distinguishable. Although the line drawn
between the colors may be "caste" in stone,
the possibility of subverting the
legitimizing strategies that privileges one
race above another is not. The problem in
caste consciousness is to attain and
maintain power rather than to remove the
line. If blacks learned anything from the
Reagan-Bush era (no, I'm not a black
Democrat), it should have been that there is
greater likelihood of achieving results when
one negotiates from a position of strength.

If anything is clear at this point, it is

this: the terms African-American and black
are not interchangeable. The use of
African-American alludes to certain
manifestations of the hope of class as it
penetrates race, while black signifies,
quite bluntly, the lines (social, political,
and cultural) drawn by race. Although the
terms are not interchangeable, they do arise
from the same struggle, which cannot be
defined simply as a "class struggle," for
race complicates the matter tremendously. To
this day, in some of our most private
conversations we still use the term "house
nigger," making more vivid present
circumstances by defining them with old
terminologies. This particular term alludes
to days of slavery when proximity to or
inclusion in the master's house produced an
"upper-class slave," as opposed to those
living in or near the fields. I do not mean
to imply here that the term African-American
is coincidental to "house nigger" or that
"black" refers to field hands. What I am
suggesting is that the situations in which
we find ourselves produce(even now) the
necessity for the formulation of these
names, and that the evidence that will be
most reliable in acknowledging that we have
"overcome" will not be the production and
deployment of a new race term but the
acceptance and embracing of an old one. But
make no mistake, we will have to call
ourselves something.

If anything is clear at The discussion pertaining to race terms and

this point, it is this: the their formal and functional identities also
applies to the ambiguous terms of history,
terms African-American and
theory, and practice. My purpose is not an
black are not attempt to state, absolutely, a definition
interchangeable. for each of these terms—it should be obvious
by this point that "definitions" are what I
am arguing against. Definitions are not, in
themselves, dangerous; what is dangerous is
the ways they are used. Ask one hundred
people to define history, theory, and
practice, and I am certain you will receive
one hundred different responses. However,
ask them a question that insists on their
reconsidering their system of belief or why
they do what they do, and they will
immediately place their past, present, and
future actions at those very same doors of
history, theory, or practice.

These "doors" of history, theory, and

practice define what we believe to be
reality. This reality is characterized by
the definitions we have of our respective
"selves"—for example, the history of being
black, the theory of being male, and the
practice of being heterosexual. This trilogy
of doors, mere representations of the truth,
is known singularly as the "regime" and
constructs meaning for what we call "life"
requiring that one exist within the
districts of these confined spaces. What has
been forgotten is that the doors are adaptive
distortions, and their single purpose is to
condone and manage the "reality" nurtured by
the regime. The resulting experience is like
pondering, for an eternity, the deep and
false space found on the surface of a mirror.

The "room" housing the doors is society, and

innumerable regimes whose practices are
veiled by constantly shifting definitions
and relationships, perplexing those persons
trapped inside. There is no "outside" the
room because the interior is life, and what
is beyond is not known and cannot be
experienced. A myth of exterior, produced by
the regimes, is defined as the hope that one
will be able to travel beyond the reaches of
the controlling mechanism of the regime,
establish a regime of one's own, or subvert
power constructs of existing regimes.
However, such excursions are always bound
to the interior and control of the room. This
"hope," again a construction of the regime,
is a tool used to mystify and thereby subdue
any thoughts of disrupting its daily
operations. If the child asks "why?" the
answers provided by the parents are those of
the regime, and by the time we achieve
"consciousness" it is too late; we are
already inside.

When the regime is at the height of its power,

the presence of its doors is more distinct.
Although I have spoken of a trilogy here,
there are a "pair" of doors similar in
character that embody nuances I have alluded
to above; however, rather than being
metaphors, these doors are real. You can feel
their weight, open them, close them, and hear
the creaking of their hinges. This pair of
doors is quite similar in construction, and
if it were not for the "obvious
distinctions," any reasonable person would
state that they were twins. The
distinctions, however, are sinister but
clear, separate but equal, "black only" and
"white only." Their obviousness relegated
generations of black bodies, and
history—the mere fact that we were
slaves—made it clear that such distinctions
were necessary.

Theory (medical, scientific, ideological,

etc.), supposedly the most "objective"
construct in our society, did its share to
"prove" the necessity of these two doors. It
was obvious that blacks were childlike,
promiscuous, ignorant, criminal, athletic,
and very entertaining—statistical facts
made this clear. It was also obvious that our
behavior was due to our amoral character, the
possibility that we had no souls, and the
fact that our brains were smaller and less
capable than those of whites of discerning
right from wrong. To this day universities
are full of literature and "research"
(archives) that attempted to prove blacks to
be a species less than human and little more
than animal: the hypotheses of "science"
were, in reality, predetermined
conclusions. And I, the subject of such
discourse, will read every bit of this
history and theory in order that the lineage
of categories bound to me at this present
date are not forgotten.

Categorization not legitimized by history

and theory is "covered" by practice. The fact
that the doors and labels existed at all was
practical evidence that reinforced the
"ethics" of society. Racial difference was
tolerated and blacks were allowed to be equal
as long as they were separate. This prolonged
practice became entrenched and, therefore,
became the catalyst for other historical
renditions of the same ordeal. Again, it is
only the child, whose curiosity has not yet
been suppressed by the regime, who wonders
if there is any difference beyond the two
doors, and it is this curiosity that gives
the child the courage to peek inside; the
sameness found, however, is much less
interesting than the labels. The doors that
a child could recognize have gone and been
replaced by more refined techniques. How
many glass ceilings have you seen lately?

The doors and their limiting thresholds of

the regime are quite adept at compressing and
thereby distorting reality; however, they
are not capable of totally wringing out the
less desired agents existing in that same
reality—some "aberration" is bound to show
itself sooner or later. So these
"contaminants" are allowed to coexist within
the confines of the regime, but they are not
allowed to thrive. Rather, they are
identified, controlled, and distributed to
establish a fine-tuned equilibrium within
the regime that defies the formation of a
congregation of these agents. This practice
is quite popular these days and is being
preached by innumerable "progressive"
establishments. Yes, diversity is a
wonderful thing.

The best spies from within are so-called minorities, because in

their own minds they have achieved status by being allowed to work
in the basement of a structure whose totality will never be
revealed to them.
The myth of diversity and the myth of the exterior are
quite a tandem, and they are choreographed to produce
a subtle yet ominous device of control. First, the
regime manufactures a fictitious "outside" which,
again, is believed to be real. Those who believe
themselves to be outside produce any number of
ideological and political formations that attempt to
pierce what is sometimes naively labeled as the
hermetic practices of the regime. Within their
meetings, conferences, and publications they
construct a monolithic voice that shouts "inclusion."
If the regime is bothered enough to act, it presses
its caricature of "progress" into service; when it
comes to opening doors, diversity is the "eye of the
needle." Upon notification of this minimal
inclusion the crowd, along with its angst, dissipates
and finds comfort in the fact that the regime has
bothered enough to respond at all. An ensuing apathy
occurs and one wonders why such successes do not fuel
other conquests. When our dreams are transformed into
manacles of our minds rather than means of escape,
pathetically we come to realize that we were more
together and more victorious before the victory.
The resulting categories of individuals who have
"made it" are distributed within the regime, and their
subsequent positioning creates vast dilemmas for
them. After being accepted into the regime previously
described by them as "the enemy," they must now accept
and condone its practices. They have made promises to
divulge information to those "outside" in order that
the regime will be weakened; but these promises are
soon forgotten and their rhetoric shifts from wanting
results from the regime to admonishing those still
outside for not displaying more patience—diversity
takes time. Their promises are transformed into
delusions and their identities are complicated by an
interior/exterior duality that is not a duality at
all. They are best described as spies from within.

Under this delusion of progress, they believe that

they will be able to achieve change—change that is
transfigured by the spies' proximity to the regime
from one representing the "many" to one representing
"the self." The regime bestows upon them a certain
limited privilege and insight, just enough so that
they are able to see themselves relative to other
minorities. They are cousins to the "house nigger" and
bow at the feet of "Uncle Tom," capable of seeing their
"brothers" and "sisters" toiling in the fields while
finding comfort in the house that feeds on such
tragedies. They are the perfect cover for the regime
because they make the regime appear progressive and,
more important, trustworthy. Their presence
establishes the fact that the legitimizing basis of
the regime is good and is working.

Although these spies are capable of seeing themselves

in privileged positions within the mechanism, they
are also aware, at their very core, that they can never
be an indistinguishable and therefore essential part
of it. In their aggravation they attempt assaults on
the regime, assaults that are doomed to failure from
the very beginning. Of course the regime allows such
manifestations to occur because, ultimately, it knows
that these "disturbances" will be to its benefit.
The spies have forgotten and the regime knows that
they have been taught and taught well by the tools of
history, theory, and practice. The spies have come to
believe religiously in what they have been taught and
inevitably attempt to use these beliefs in
formulating strategies against the regime. They
appear to have forgotten that the regime is capable
of anticipating their every move, because these same
moves are the moves of the regime. The first
utterances out of the mouths of these spies is
usually, "We need a new history, a new theory, a new
practice." The problem is that there is absolutely
nothing new, at least to the regime, about what they
are saying.

At the moment of such a proclamation, the spies from

within transform themselves into
pseudo-revolutionaries: the posture of their "new"
formulations appear to be at odds with the regime, but
their actions conform to and ultimately condone the
very regime they oppose. More important, these
minority pseudo-intellectuals begin relentless
campaigns against those things they describe as being
degrading to "minorities." In attempts to keep
promises to those on the outside they discover, to
their delight, that the regime not only tolerates such
iterations, but fosters attempts to "save" other
minorities as well. In essence, by speaking out
against the regime of which they are a part, the spies
from within gain even more status. This status
transforms them into figures of authority—a
fictitious authority that allows them to speak for
"us," usually pronouncing that "we" must do this or

Such "speeches" have been made in my presence; one in

particular stands out as a clear example of the kind
of persona I am attempting to describe. The person
making the proclamation considered himself to be, in
his own words, an African-American, and he was a major
player in the institutional construct (architecture)
he was about to rail against. He began by stating, "I
believe we should banish the myth of Howard Roark in
architecture and the 'star system' of judging and
creating the architectural work that goes along with
it." He continued: "We should also refrain from
conveying these types of images to students,
especially African-American students, because they
are images that are not obtainable." The others
present during this conversation resoundingly
agreed. My only response to this gentleman's
statement was that he did not speak for me. From where
I stood, the myth of Roark, the protagonist of Ayn
Rand's novel, The Fountainhead, should indeed be
embraced by the group. I attempted to reason with them
by describing Roark's work relative to the amount of
despair that it caused him. The achievement attained
by Roark was wrought from this very same despair and
that fact, it seemed to me, was an extremely
appropriate and significant analogy relative to
work—any work—produced by black hands. My comments
were met with complete and total silence.

I have been in several similar situations both before

and since the one described above, and the outcome is
quite predictable. These persons assail the same
myths that could make them powerful because they view
them, in a naive way, as "white myths," which then give
them license to produce "African-American myths."
Recognizing power and not seizing it is, quite simply,
dumb. The myth of white versus black is produced by
the regime; therefore, rather than setting one's self
in opposition to the other, one should seek the
conduits of power that must reside in either of these
constructions. I've heard of "turning the other
cheek," but tactics of the spies are more attuned to
turning their backs to what they call "the enemy." As
such, they unconsciously maintain the stereotypes
constructed for them without any resistance, and when
they do resist, they do so in ways that also have been
constructed for them.
As such, they
unconsciously I have no faith in history. It has never been an ally
maintian the of any man, woman, or child who could be trusted
stereotypes absolutely. I have no faith in theory because it is
constructed for merely history in action. Theory is not theory at all
them without any but inept attempts to categorize, mystify—even
through demystification—the pervasive practices of
resistance and
regimes. And practice through my eyes is not practice
when they do at all, but merely a relentless marking and remarking
resist, they do so of territories made "safe" by legitimizing histories
in ways that also or theories. The only thing I believe in and that I
have been can have no finite conception of is the one thing that
constructed for made history, theory, and practice possible.

I do not speak here of "turning the other cheek," but of the
reformation of a formal and functional identity that resists
being struck in the first place.
If the regime described here and the persons who support
it are so prescribed by deep and pervasive definitions, how
is one to resist it? The first step is to achieve a
"consciousness" that sees the necessity for resistance;
the second is to find ways in which the "seeing" produced
by such consciousness is sustained, thus preserving the
original act of resisting (seeing). But even more important
is to relinquish the sometimes nostalgic notion of
overtaking the regime against which one is attempting to
resist. Such attempts are full of tragic flaws that
initiate a preponderance of circumstances that subvert
original intentions while leaving pervasive structural
formations in place. I do not speak here of "turning the
other cheek," but of the reformation of a formal and
functional identity that resists being struck in the first
place. Such an identity does not have to be constructed:
it must be found, because in many ways it exists
already—always, right here and right now.

I spoke earlier of the construction of race terminologies

that are themselves evidence that a struggle is present.
To speak of domination in terms of a normative regime
without speaking explicitly of the struggle and
contradictions that evolve to this day from domination is
to deny that such domination or problems exist. The first
strategy of the regime is to deny that there is a problem
or, more appropriately, to prevent a problem from being
given its proper definition. Without a definition
formulated from the regime's interior, there can be no
acknowledgment that other problems or realities exist.

Two strategies can be employed to gain the acknowledgment

of definition from the core mind of the regime. The first
is to appeal to whatever structures the regime. A problem
can be recognized by the regime if it is formulated as a
living contradiction to the formal structures that define
the regime. Such formulated contradictions rattle the
regime because, in effect, the regime truly believes the
messages it constructs and deploys. The most substantive
example of such a contradiction was that of the conception
of slavery embedded within the moral construct of
democracy—a democracy in which every human being is free.
The concept that freed the slaves was not necessarily that
of "freedom," but could arguably have been the social
arguments that disproved that Negroes were less than men.
Once this definition was won, the regime's core mind could
do nothing but comply with its own system of beliefs and
procedures, bringing reality back into alignment. Of
course such procedures and the reformation of definitions
that make them necessary are not constructed and deployed
overnight, and it may take many centuries and lives before
the "concept" of freedom can be spoken without calling up
its ironic subtext. However, rather than being an arbitrary
result, the "calling up" could be used as a defined tactic
useful in purging the regime of such paradoxes.

The second strategy for gaining the acknowledgment of

definitions from the regime is by the use of force. Again
the, core mind of the regime is a great strategist and
is quite cunning in its conceptualizations of reality; it
uses violence against others to substantiate and
legitimize these realities. Conversely, violence not
authorized by the core mind is seen as illegitimate and
"wrong." In any case, this violence may not threaten the
regime in any physical sense but, more important, it
slashes the veil of reality maintained by the regime's
moral and legitimizing structures. Violence, or mere
allusions to it, are evidence of a contradiction that the
core mind is not able to tolerate. It must construct
resolving procedures that at least appear to bring
"reality" back into equilibrium. These procedures may be
characterized as being violent and legitimized by claims
of securing "reality"—a reality that is in fact merely the
ideology of the regime. Once this exchange is understood
(misunderstood) by the agents of the regime, it is possible
to carry out any number of violent acts that are defined
as virtuous. Violence carried out against factions defined
within the regime may be legitimized by calls for "law and
order," while violent acts waged on enemies outside the
regime may be legitimized, for example, by "making the
world safe for democracy." Regardless of the circumstance,
the regime supplies and interprets the definitions.

In terms of either of these strategies, the fact remains

that definitions must be sought and achieved by way of the
present power structure. If this power structure is
democratic and the factions within it are all subjected to
the same moral configurations, it is quite improbable that
a prolonged—let alone successful—"revolution" will
result. Revolution within moral legitimizing structures
defined as democracy is also improbable because (1) the
opposing factions cannot be defined absolutely, and (2) an
ultimate source of power cannot be located.

In either case—appealing to existing moral/ethical

structures or using force—the production of
acknowledgment alters in some way the opposing faction. In
the first case, the molding of unidentified entities into
recognizable types will produce persons who believe in the
predominant moral/ethical structure that bound their
predecessors in the first place, and they will find
themselves, ultimately, participating willingly in such
practices. In the second case, there is a risk of
annihilation in going up against a complex and organized
regime. Therefore, the question remains as to how one is
to engage and subdue a regime whose only method of dealing
with the unidentifiable is, ultimately, subjugation. The
answer is that one must present deep and vast
contradictions to the core mind by using existing
definitions already recognized by the regime rather than
producing new social constructs—which are indeed not
really new. The major difference with this particular
approach is that it is a functional, rather than formal,
strategy that accepts the difficult complexities resulting
from the so-called construction of identities. This
strategy accepts first and foremost that acknowledgment by
the regime is equal to concealment by the regime.
Therefore, the course of action that must be pursued is
based on identifying existing and concealed identities
rather than constructing identities that will, in due time,
be concealed. Such a strategy, while accepting certain
formal tools present within the regime, must also reuse
these tools in a manner that condones as well as contradicts
the regime. To accept this strategy is to accept that
nothing exists outside the "room" housing the regime and
the agent that wishes to resist. Therefore, the
unidentifiable identity is so because it is concealed
rather than foreign—in fact it exists at the very center
of the core mind.

One way of killing something is to maintain a distance from the

subject and deny it some essential form of sustenance; another
way to accomplish the same result is to enfold and suffocate it.
Others who have attempted to construct definitions
"outside" of the regime have failed because they have
used formal rather than functional strategies of
intervention. For example, the term "marginal" has
been used to give significance to those categories of
persons who are seen or see themselves as being
"outside" or on the periphery of a certain body of
knowledge. There are at least two problems with the
use of such a term. First, the use of the term
"marginal" is erroneous and arbitrary because, in
reality, everyone in a modern democracy is marginal
to any number of circumstances. Rather than providing
specificity, the term is a gross generalization.
Again, the definition presupposes that its meaningful
construction can be attempted outside of the regime
that is housed in the same space of the so-called
marginal subject, while not acknowledging that a
socially meaningful use of the term is, in effect, the
opposite of what is intended. It is in the family of
terms, such as African-American, that present
themselves as radical although their meaningful
operation does nothing more than produce
contradictions in the logic of the producers. As
stated previously, contradictions must be produced
and deployed in a manner that disrupts the "thinking"
of the regime rather than becoming an impoverished and
impotent series of word games, of which the regime is
already a master. The only way to do this is cease
labeling and be specific about actual, rather than
constructed, experiences.

For example, I have mentioned the abundant literature

that has attempted to characterize blackness, found
in any library in the United States. It seems to me
that if the Black subject were truly "marginal," such
literature would not be as accessible as it
obviously is. The very fact that there are such vast
quantities of such literature signifies that
blackness is central. Oh yes, there is debate as to
whether blackness is actually the black man's or the
white man's "problem," but the fact remains that the
debate is "central" and inherent in the regime. Again,
the regime fosters ideas that are contradictory and
certainly to our advantage: on the one hand, the
"findings" of knowledge are protected by what is
called the "public domain," and it is this knowledge
that must be kept public in order that the regime
fulfills its self-image; on the other hand, this very
same knowledge, if proven to be arbitrary, has the
capacity of revealing anew the full glory of a
controlling mechanism that conceals, with force, the
defined identity. One way of killing something is to
maintain a distance from the subject and deny it some
essential form of sustenance; another way to
accomplish the same result is to enfold and suffocate
it. If the "identity" doesn't recognize the technique
being used, it is impossible to resist.

This identity that I speak of is blackness, and a

prominent regime that continues such processes of
concealment is architecture. If anyone doubts that
blackness is concealed by architecture, this doubt
can be erased with the simplest of arguments. This
argument can be initiated by the little-known fact,
which does not have to be proved by statistics or
anything else, that architecture in terms of its
history, theory, and practice is one of the last
bastions of so-called white male supremacy. It does
not have to be proved because those of us who
participate in this regime are aware of the
constructed silence that is placed on the lips of
those of us who are not white and not male. We know
it, and the regime knows it, and it is the "knowing"
that binds us.

In the venues of history, art, music, and literature

there are presences acknowledged as "Black." These
presences are not relegated to any type of subcategory
because they have driven themselves into the
consciousness of our minds—a consciousness so vivid
that it even resists the term African-American. These
are venues where blackness has made the sacrifices and
paid its dues and, as a result, has been uncovered by
the relative regimes that have attempted to conceal
it. Therefore there is no sustainable argument
against the social facts of Black history, Black art,
Black music ("dance", rap, or jazz), and Black
literature; furthermore, this legitimacy is
condoned, supported, and exploited by their
respective regimes. Regardless of whether or not one
accepts the race terminology that distinguishes these
presences from other histories, arts, musics, or
literatures, one must accept that they are
"distinguished," and the fact that we know them
explicitly or even vaguely attests to this fact. They
are the results of a found and inherent black
experience, which have manifested themselves from
within these respective paradigms. The combination of
such an experience bound to these disciplines results
in a unique and unquestionable "other" that can
neither be accepted nor denied by the core mind of the

Architectural history is White. Architectural theory

is White. And architectural practice, no matter what
color the "owners" and "workers," is White. Although
I have insisted that I have no faith in history,
theory, or practice, I can now be more specific. I have
no faith in these notions because of their pronounced
and pervasive "Whiteness," which denies outright any
substantive black voice. This is not a voice of a spy,
but any one black voice that speaks from its own
experience and acknowledges that architecture seen
through these eyes is quite different from the
prevailing White ideology.

To resolve this Experience, the only thing that is one's own and
contradiction, cannot be denied by the regime, has been abandoned for
the more alienating constructions of meaningless
Whiteness adorned
words and far more meaningless histories, theories,
the black face, and practices. The term experience is one thing, but
thereby conveying the use of experience itself is quite another. The
to white audiences term has been invalidated because it appears to be far
caricatures of too subjective to be recognizable or of any
reality. consequence. Again, this action is the regime using
the label of the "undefined" to conceal the most
obvious of its own characteristics. The regime knows
that its continued existence would not be possible if
it were not for the innumerable amount of experiences
that somehow coalesce to condone its practices. It
also knows that no matter how many theories or
histories it may construct, it cannot anticipate
experience, nor can it be aware at all moments of the
nuances of daily struggles that go on inside the
boundaries defining it as a "regime." Therefore, one
of the inherent contradictions that cannot be
resolved by the core mind is the fact that experience,
and the struggles it continues to deny, are in fact
part of its persona. Although attempts may be made to
pluck out this "flaw" by labeling it "undefined," it
cannot be denied that the flaw was produced from
within, and any attempts to remove it could destroy
the regime. In terms of experience, it is unique. In
terms of being a "flaw," it is only deemed so because
it is a perfect struggle—tireless and relentless. It
denies, at all moments, the conflation of life into
monolithic interpretations. Although the identity
has been stripped of its histories, theories, and
practices concealed in some other manner by this
regime, it certainly exists somewhere and somehow.

To engage a more appropriate and more meaningful

definition of architecture, this same definition must
be formulated within a functional rather than formal
identity. By its formal identity architecture is,
quite simply, the means (science, art, technology)
by which structures or buildings are conceived and
produced for the explicit purpose of making interior
and, at times, exterior places or spaces. On the other
hand, architecture's functional definition is that of
a regime or institution that maintains social codes
by the production and deployment of knowledge,
ideology, history, theory, and art. Although these
paradigms are distinguished by their technological
difference, they must be understood as tools used to
nurture first and foremost the architectural regime
that controls them. The institution of architecture
is one that limits: it limits spaces, and within
these spaces it limits people. This intent to limit
is driven by the dominant ideology of limitation based
on the significance of race, which in reality is not
significant at all.

The term "blackness," as previously formulated, is

more ideology than race— ideological distinctions
characterized by the use of the term black versus
African-American. The same is true of Whiteness—a
reference made to ideology, not necessarily people.
If I am to resist the Whiteness of architecture, I must
formulate strategies that involve the manifestation
of its functional, rather than formal, definition.
Blackness (capitalized to signify ideology) resides
in the functional realm and is acknowledged by the
vast and broad silence that usually precedes it. The
Whiteness of the architectural regime feigns that it
does not know Blackness, and when it attempts to know
it produces the lamest of black (seen only in terms
of color versus ideological position), unthreatening

Therefore the task is not to formulate on the basis

of examples, but on experience—experience that
reveals the malicious operation of the regime.

The architectural regime of the present day is akin

to the minstrel shows of old. In those days, Whiteness
was intrigued by the manifestations of culture
produced by Negroes and saw opportunities for
exploitation under the guise of "entertainment."
However, Negroes, the same identities that produced
this culture (and certainly because of it) were not
allowed in the same "public" places. To resolve this
contradiction, Whiteness adorned the black face,
thereby conveying to white audiences caricatures of
reality. This conveyance of the Negroes' identity
was, in actuality, its concealment. There was no way
to argue with the black faces placed before the
audience, and they themselves became the "evidence"
of how fun-loving and ignorant we were—a description
that could also be used for pets. Things progressed,
however, and I am told by those who remember that
blacks were eventually allowed on stage. They too had
to adorn the black face, literally applying burnt cork
to their faces in order that Whiteness could maintain
its distorted concepts of reality under the auspices
of progress. Obviously, this wasn't progress at all,
but everyone had to admit that being allowed on stage
was something of an advancement.

By placing the black face on the Negro's face,

Whiteness began to obliterate, at least to the white
audience, any traces of this perverse reconstruction
of reality. To this very day we are still arguing how
much our figures are being misrepresented in the
media—a continuous attempt to remove that
caricatured black face.

The members of the present architectural regime are

analogous to members of the audience of the minstrel
show, sitting back and watching without realizing
that they too, in their less public lives and more
private moments, are backstage pulling
strings—strings that control African-American
architects who are so happy to be on stage that they
have yet to realize the black caricatures that have
been placed in front of their very own faces. And when
assuming that more "performances" can be booked, they
adorn the black face—the prerequisite for being
presented before a White audience.

Black people and architecture don't mix. This is not

to say that blacks can't do architecture or serve in
every facet of the regime, but when they do, they are
practicing the Whiteness of architecture as condoned
by White history, White theory, and White practice.
At this moment this particular regime, unlike those
of history, literature, and art, has not been forced
to relinquish or remove that component of their
mechanisms that has concealed the Black experience
and the necessities borne from it. Furthermore, the
utterance of this experience must be articulated,
initially, by a Black voice. The voices of the
African-American and the so-called black
intellectual are both inadequate for the work that
must be done only because there is too much hope in
them. Let them speak elsewhere. This voice must be a
voice from the trenches, a voice that knows of the
struggles that it must continue to wage and has some
conception of the tremendous task that is at hand.
This voice will understand that the issue to be
engaged is not only one of aesthetics, but is also
understood as an absolute necessity because it
understands that every regime—at least every regime
conceptualized in the United States—must relinquish
the mechanisms, technologies, and moral codes that
conceal Blackness.

There are those who will state that such a premise is

impossible and unthinkable, and laugh at the prospect
that there could ever actually be something known as
black architecture; their ancestors probably would
have thought it ludicrous that a black man could ever
read, write, or, for heaven's sake, construct a
coherent thought. Although this premise has yet to be
articulated in any substantive formalway (remember,
even your beloved Rome wasn't built in a day), it is
not impossible because I believe it to be possible and
it is thinkable because I think it, and such thinking
is the precursor of any substantive reinvention.

If this thinking is not condoned by architectural

history, then I must abandon architectural history.
If this thinking is not condoned by architectural
theory, then I must abandon architectural theory. If
this thinking is not condoned by architectural
practice, then I must abandon architectural practice.
And even if this thinking is condoned by these
respective components of the present architectural
regime, I must abandon them anyway, for they are not
allies to be trusted. I have faced the regime, and its
overt Whiteness has revealed the Blackness within me.
If its Whiteness and my Blackness are not compatible,
this incompatibility provides no solution because it
is impossible to go our separate ways.

Whiteness must relinquish its grip on me and on that

part of me that still believes in architecture—not
Black architecture or White architecture, but
architecture. However, just to say "I believe" is no
argument for pervasive Whiteness; strategies,
however seemingly maniacal, must be "spoken" to place
the crease of contradiction into the mind of the
regime. If there is no Black architecture, it is
because it exists under so many other experiences,
experiences that have been stripped away and piled
indiscriminately into some far-away dark corner. If
there is no Black architecture, then we (you) must
prove it not to be concealed. But this cannot be proven
because I am Black and I speak from the pulpit provided
to me by the regime. For all I know, I am silenced and
lost already.

Darell W. Fields