"Buck Breaking" by Tariq Nasheed

CriticalDuty - [original thread]


Buck Breaking is a documentary by Afrocentrist commentator, activist and organizer Tariq Nasheed, who is a mainstay of the r/drama sub. It is currently #1 on Amazon's documentary section. The central premise is a claim that black male slaves were systematically raped and sodomized by white male slaveowners as a matter of routine racial policy during antebellum times, a practice supposedly called buck breaking, and that this was performed with the aim of breaking the slave's spirit, demoralizing his family and cohorts, and destroying the essence of black masculinity. The film then links this supposed practice to the modern-day LGBT movement, and argues that homosexuality and transgenderism are being forced upon the black population by white homosexuals and their allies as part of an organized effort to emasculate and feminize black boys and men, in the process robbing the black community of revolutionary elements against white supremacy, preventing the formation of black families, and paving the way for a depopulationist agenda against black people.

At the outset, it should be mentioned that the idea of "buck breaking" as a historical practice is pretty much wholesale fabrication. Tariq and his retinue of experts build their case through a combination of dubious historical sources, contortions of truth, and outright making shit up. The rape of black female slaves is extensively documented and a matter of historical fact, but there is no evidence to suggest black men were being routinely sodomized on plantations. To the extent that the film quotes known historical sources, it does so very lightly, moving on before any further questions can be asked. A key example of this comes from when Tariq quotes the diaries of Thomas Thistlewood, an infamous Jamaican slaveowner who raped his female slaves thousands of times until he was eventually killed by venereal diseases. In his diaries, Thistlewood mentions two instances of pederast slaveowners molesting young boys - this is in contrast to nearly 4,000 mentioned instances of women and girls suffering sexual abuse. At another juncture, Tariq brings up the example of Lord Cornbury, the colonial governor of New York, pointing out that he facilitated the purchase and transfer of slaves to North America. It is true that Cornbury did this, under the instructions of Queen Anne, as did many other colonial officials of the time. But Tariq's specific interest in Cornbury comes from the fact that he was an infamous cross-dresser, and Tariq points to this as proof of a gay agenda to procure captive black men for sexual exploitation.

Tariq's experts are drawn from a familiar pool of Afrocentrist voices, many of them frequent collaborators on his earlier productions, some of them black academics at HBCUs and small state colleges, and some of them notable figures from the rap and hip-hop world. Several of these experts are affiliated with the Nation of Islam, and this affiliation shows up in some of the most eyebrow-raising historical claims - that the Catholic Church spread homosexuality in Africa as a colonial endeavor, for instance. These experts open the film by providing background on the sexual pathologies of the white race, a narrative rooted in common Afrocentric theories about "ice people" and "sun people". As the theories state, Africans are "sun people", connected to nature and the Earth and in harmony with life, while Europeans are "ice people", reared in the harsh terrain of the Nordic winter and disconnected from civilization, which conditioned them towards aberrant, animalistic and antisocial practices, including homosexuality. "When you’re in the ice, you’re not really thinking about healthy relationships. And quite frankly, when the urge hits you, any hole will do," one expert says. Another adds: "Heterosexual sex for the white man, the only purpose of that is procreation. In fact, hetero sex with a woman was a necessary evil to white folks. For pleasure, homosexual sex is preferred."

The film talks about how buck breaking is more than simply a form of sexual gratification - it is an expression of power over the captive slave. This is similar to a common and somewhat contentious feminist theory that rape is about power, not sex, but arguably nothing bolsters this theory more than the psychological dynamics behind male-on-male rape. There is an instinctive understanding, referenced in this film, that the man who is forcibly sodomized by another man is relegated to a lesser, his masculinity questioned, as he is being cast into a submissive, feminine role by his fellow man. He is being made a woman, in a sense. The film points to this as the purpose behind buck breaking - the subjugation of black masculinity and the threat it poses to white masculinity. On the other hand, this premise seems to rest somewhat uneasily with another claim put forward by the film, which is that the black man is the epitome of masculinity; the film asks and answers itself: "What man, from what ethnic group, can stand up against the black man toe to toe in manhood? Nobody." It is difficult to reconcile the claim that black men are hypermasculine superhumans with the claim that white men have been overpowering and sodomizing black men for centuries to the point that heterosexual black men are struggling to wrest their political voice free from women and homosexuals in the black community. It would be one thing if buck breaking were a real historical phenomenon that you could identify and solemnly lament, but since it is not, it is extremely weird to make up an entire mythology about how your virile, manly forefathers were anally raped into hapless submission.

There's a notable aesthetic shift as the film progresses from the ancient world to the colonial plantation. At the former stage, Tariq extensively employs visuals of classical European art to point to the sexual degeneracy of the white race - a sculpture of Priapus, with his enormous penis, exemplifies the obsession of the European mind with sexual extremity, while a painting of the rape of the Sabine women demonstrates the European glorification of sexual violence. But once we move to colonial America, Tariq cannot present passages from books or colonial artwork showing white men raping black male slaves; as the practice is fictitious, no artistic representations of it exist. Instead, he has commissioned cartoonish pictures of jubilant white men in various stages of undress, as they crow over naked and distressed black men who are either about to get sodomized or have already been sodomized. These pictures are of such amateurish quality that they are honestly quite funny, if for no other reason but that you have to imagine Tariq contacting artists, being asked "what do you want me to draw?", and telling them that he wants pictures of black men who are about to be anally penetrated by white slaveowners. I have compiled the pictures here for your perusal - you should definitely consider them NSFW because it would be very difficult to explain why you are looking at what appears to be niche gay erotica during work hours.

After tediously making the same arguments over and over again, the film eventually makes it way to the modern era, where it is not possible to argue that white men are secretly getting away with raping black men on an industrial scale. But that doesn't matter, since the industry of buck breaking - and it is now an industry - has evolved into the LGBT movement, which is presented as having a mission to feminize black men by teaching black boys that their masculinity is toxic, and that cross-dressing and genderswapping are desirable practices. The film brings up Charlize Theron dressing her adopted African son in girl's clothes as an example of how white liberalism is trying to destroy black men at ever younger ages. Family courts, no-fault divorces, birth control and child support payments are all presented as wedges placed by white supremacy to separate the black man from the black woman - emasculating the black man, subsuming the black woman into anti-black causes, and salting the ground from which healthy black families can arise. One of the speakers, an activist named Jade Arrindell, takes issue with what she sees as the LGBT movement's co-opting of black activism and LGBT claims that they share the same struggle - notably, she points to corporate America's vast apparatus of support for LGBT causes to argue that it is not possible to claim you are oppressed when billionaires queue up to throw money at you. At this juncture I was irresistibly reminded of corporate America's support for Black Lives Matter, but I figuratively bit my tongue, knowing that the argument was pointless to make - being no stranger to Tariq's r/drama-worthy postings, I am aware that he regards Black Lives Matter as a movement subverted by homosexuals looking to profit from black causes.

Why did I watch this film? Why did I write this review? I knew these people were whackadoodles going in; I didn't expect that they would change my mind, and they didn't manage to do so. It's undeniable that one of the reasons I watched this was simply to sneer. I don't have any particular fondness for homosexuals, nor any inclination to defend them from Tariq Nasheed's sociology. But I am interested in the social processes that necessitate the creation and maintenance of these views, how they stay alive despite being both facially and structurally ridiculous, and the enduring influence they have in certain circles.

A lot of modern Afrocentrist thought is rooted in a particular historical approach advocated by the Senegalese historian Cheikh Anta Diop, who constructed the ideological justifications employed by the likes of Molefi Kete Asante and Leonard Jeffries. Diop's approach cast European scholarship on Africa as inherently suspect and steeped in colonial biases (which, to be sure, a lot of it was), and advocated for an African history as promulgated by Africans. Ultimately this just meant he promoted a lot of pseudohistory and revisionism with little basis in fact, and dismissed non-African critics as limited by the European perspective:

It is the difference in intellectual attitude between African and European researchers that is often the cause of these misunderstandings about the interpretation of facts and their relative importance. The scientific curiosity of the European researcher toward African data is essentially analytical. Viewing things from the exterior, often not desiring to develop a synthesis, the European researcher essentially attaches himself to explosive microanalysis that is more or less tendentious as regards the facts and indefinitely puts off the stage of synthesis. The African researcher mistrusts this ‘scientific’ activity whose goal seems to be to dissolve African collective, historical consciousness in the pettiness of details.

(emphasis mine)

Diop was hardly the first post-colonial scholar to push revisionism as a cure for colonial history, but in the Africanist context, the influence of his approach has been considerable. What's notable is that Diop was making his arguments in the texts and journals of French academia, and he was met by what he himself called "a qualified silence" - a lot of French academics knew his arguments were nonsense but simply refrained from comment, because organizations populated by Marxists from top-to-bottom are not inclined to call out shoddy African scholarship. In other words, the academy had no memetic antibodies to counter this kind of work.

As time goes by, I am less confident that American institutions have the memetic antibodies necessary to counter similar thinking, or that they will continue to have such antibodies in the future. If you had told me ten years ago that a woman who believes melanin makes black people physically and intellectually superior would be the head of one of the most powerful divisions of the Department of Justice, I would have doubted that very much. Would I have believed that prominent Democratic Senators would court the endorsement of a man who thinks "the white world was built on plagiarized Black knowledge"? Swan, incidentally, is one of the experts on the white homosexual agenda featured in Tariq's film.

I feel like there is an ecosystem of similar thought in the black community, practically a world of its own and completely alien to me, and while it is easy to laugh at Tariq and to call him an idiot, it is also sobering to consider that his views enjoy a certain vogue with people who wield power over my life. On the other hand, perhaps this is how gay people feel about Tony Perkins. How the turntables turn.