By Janice K. Neal-Vincent
In his popular history/personal memoir, Deep Denial, McComb native David Billings portrays the American scene as one that has not fulfilled its democratic potential. America has not grown up even though generations, across centuries, come and go. It has not matured from a child to an adult, despite the Civil Rights Movement, its first African American President, and its significant strides and gains. The author conveys that what remains sturdy is the firm grasp of royal treatment in grand fashion of white citizens, orchestrated by white supremacy that intentionally creates chaos in the lives of people of color. This stance permeates throughout the country.
The storyteller maintains that he has spent 54 years fighting racism. While hope lurks for a better day, blacks and people of color continue to receive the false remnants of the American dream. Billing’s frank assessment of the historical pattern of racism moves beyond that pattern into white supremacists’ determination to keep it alive.
The objective of Deep Denial, loaded with well-documented and substantive research, is to gain an understanding of the psychological impact of racism on white America and to rebuke the notion of a post-racial society. The dominant culture has prevented nonwhites from exercising their individual rights to experience the privileges they have taken for granted and enjoyed. The meaning of America, thus is “I am race,” – the white race.
Billings blatantly argues that “race is a political construct and must be undone politically. He claims that being white in America has always constituted a way of life. Racial superiority has been internalized and “whites have a social contract that a race-constructed society made with them.” Hence, the worldwide Doctrine of Discovery allowed Christopher Columbus to, in the name of Christ and His Church, claim all lands and people he and his cohorts founded.
“The social contract existed [among] the United States government, its Constitution, and white people,” the author contended. So whites had access to Indians who were untaxed and slaves who were classified as only 3/5 of a person. This access was granted without these individuals’ permission. While the nation’s white citizenry has reaped great riches, the native Indians and enslaved Africans were deliberately denied privileges. They have not received their just due.
Billings has concluded from his assessment that “to deny this reality as a white person is naïve and even dangerous.”
The author reasons that it is this superiority complex that is imposed repeatedly upon the multi-generational people of color. Such a thrust has instilled in blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and American Indians that they are inferior. Hence, down through the centuries internalized racial inferiority has kept the race construct alive among generations.
Though this assessment has been made, Billings holds on to his desire to be white. He claims, “I have lived vicariously in the black community. I want to understand this race thing. If it is not studied, dissected, taken apart in terms of understanding why this happened, we’ll always be in this place. If you are black in society, you have to learn how to act. You will be labeled revolutionary or as one with no confidence.”
Having come to grips with his own desire to seek the truth, Billings calls for open, unpretentious dialogue to produce national healing. “All of the institutional systems,” he charged, “were created for whites.”
He continues, “There is not one professional degree that requires the rich to have an in depth structure of racism. That’s how it’s kept in place. Donald Trump probably ran the most oppressive, mean campaign in the nation. Yet, many white people chose him to represent the U.S.” White supremacy is depicted by Billings as not just a hate group, but “a live action.” “If you ask people where they stand on racism, they would say ‘It’s terrible,’ but they are content with its existence. There is this sense of permission to act like that. We can make things a requirement and that goes with other forms of repression. We still see that in Mississippi. Today there is an increasing hold on white supremacy.”
Billings advocates undoing the live action called white supremacy by avoiding self-defense and being trained. “I think all whites feel guilty. This is aggressive denial. I think it’s the same in every generation. Whites have to fix it. White supremacy was created to maintain power. We can purge ourselves from the terrible guilt complex. Teach the children before they come out of the womb. Children at very early stages understand fairness,” he added.
Deep Denial is a must read for anyone who desires to deal realistically and honestly while striving to understand the race problem. Intending to move beyond what W. E. B. DuBois referred to as “the false colored line” in his book, The Souls of Black Folks, that person can begin the healing process that speaks to her/his soul. Moving from within the soul and sharing that knowledge and/or revelation with others is what will make it real and meaningful. A new tongue will filter upon the American soil which is replete with energy not yet tapped into for its common good.
Despite race, culture, gender, ethnicity or creed, America and the world will begin the dialogue that prolific writer Langston Hughes spoke of in his poem, Let America Be America Again. Hughes referenced the need to stop selfishness, brutality and aggression by first making amends with the Indians, the blacks, and the poor who bore the burden of building this country, despite oppression, suppression, and rejection. Seeds can flourish by welcoming all to the table of what has been so often called “the melting pot.”
My advice? Get and read that book. David Billings has won the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Award for Deep Denial: The Persistence of White Supremacy in United States History and Life. Deep Denial is winner in the NGIBA’s Current Events/Social Change category. It also is a finalist in both the Historical Non-Fiction and Multicultural Non-Fiction categories.
Billings, an historian and organizer with The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, has worked for half a century in the struggle for racial justice. Billings will appear in Jackson May 18-20 as part of Jackson 2000’s event “Undoing Racism” workshop presented by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.