NO WLS 4 AACAS—Students commit to end Wylie Lynch behavior. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
Last year, the Website Twitter gave birth to a new social networking feud: “#teamlightskinned” vs. “#teamdarkskinned.” The hashtags are meant to represent the superiority of one kind of African-American skin tone over another, but the feud is nothing new.
At the African American Centers for Advanced Studies Council 17th Annual Symposium April 26, members of the AACAS illustrated how the behavior on Twitter is a continuation of the Willie Lynch Syndrome. This syndrome is derived from a speech allegedly given in 1712 by British slave owner Willie Lynch about the best methods for controlling slaves.
“In my bag here, I have a fool proof method for controlling Black Slaves. I guarantee everyone of you that if installed correctly, it will control the slaves for at least 300 years. My method is simple and members of your family and any Overseer can use it,” says a document of the speech, although some question its authenticity. “I have outlined a number of difference(s) among the slaves; and I take these differences and make them bigger. I use fear, distrust, and envy for control purposes.”
Under the theme “United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” AACAS students proposed examples of how WLS pervades present day society by creating a divide in the African-American community. The students also said WLS is responsible for Black-on-Black violence because it creates rivalries between different neighborhoods.
“This is a direct result of the WLS when it states, ‘whether the slaves live in a valley, on a hill, east, west, north, or south.’ Where is the logic in this? First, we were being killed off by other races, now we’ve taken it into our own hands with gun violence,” said student Sovren Gray, who led the AACAS’s presentation on WLS. “What does this say about us as people? Are we so far gone?”
Gray also talked about the “good hair” vs. “bad hair” debate, depicted in comedian Chris Rock’s movie “Good Hair.” In the WLS this is defined as coarse hair vs. fine hair.
“So we need to ask ourselves, are we still Willie Lynching? What is good hair? Who’s to say our hair is bad,” Gray said. “Are we going along with the WLS every time we refer to our hair as nappy or not good?”
Other examples of present day WLS included rivalries between men and women and different age groups. In conclusion, Gray asked his peers to write down their own WLS behavior and to tear up the piece of paper as a symbol that they will not continue to perpetuate this behavior.
“In the words of Bob Marley, ‘It is time we emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds,’” Gray said. “Now let’s stand together with your papers and say three times, no WLS for AACAS.” Gray continued, “And then tear up our past endorsements of the WLS. Again, united we stand, divided we fall.”
The AACAS Council was established to support and encourage African-American CAS students. The council works to provide inspiration, learning, exposure, support and advocacy.