How do we name the violence of a paradigm of antiblackness that is still going? Hortense Spillers essay “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book” outlines a revolutionary theory of the violence that created and continues to create Blackness through the rape, murder, incarceration, and misnaming of Black people by a central figure in the psychic formation of western society: the Name of the (white) Father. Spillers reading helps us understand Fanon’s notion that African “metaphysics [were]…abolished [by] a new civilization that imposed its own” and calls for a radical renaming of Black people by ourselves.
Black “fathers” or “father figures” have no structural power. The position has been taken by the structural position of the Master. But it would be a mistake to call the Master the “Father.” Even Thomas Jefferson cannot be called one of the “founding fathers” by Black America. The best one can say of such a structural position (and the people who filled it) is the rapist, the one who “fathers” children by raping “mothers” to reproduce his property and facilitate enjoyment. Spillers calls this the “mocking presence.” and really, all it is is one who fucked the mother. hence, the position should be called the “Motherfucker.” Since it is a structural position, white women too can occupy it, and Spillers gives an example of this from Harriet Jacobs.
Omar Ricks is an educator, writer, artist, activist, and baker in Berkeley, California. He holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies with a Designated Emphasis in New Media from UC Berkeley, where he used film, television, literature, and new media to study the ways that the performance of Black leadership is conditioned within, and resistant to, structural antiblackness. Dr. Ricks teaches Africana Studies at the Peralta Colleges in Oakland. He is a member of the editorial collective of The Feminist Wire and has published in TDR, ASTR Online, ERIC Digest, and Slingshot. He helped found the afropessimist blog Cosmic Hoboes.