“Wight Spider” | Black Skins, White Masks
“For [the black colonized person] there is only one way out, and it leads to the white world.”
This week, I am faced with this quote by Frantz Fanon. He’s talking about a psychological struggle for equality, which is also a struggle of decolonizing the mind. So badly, I want Fanon to be wrong. But I have to concede that it is correct. To re-learn indigenous ways of thinking, one must first un-learn white colonial ways of thinking. Yet This truth still fills me with a rage, and with a frustration.
Recently, I have had a similar frustration, in the realm of theology. This question has been on my mind: “If I were constructing my own theology, where would I start? What topic or approach is so important to me, and so influential to every area of theology, that I would begin with it?” The answer that came to mind: trauma. As an individual that has experienced religious/spiritual abuse, such experiences deeply inform how I form my theology. As a Native American, I also recognize that I cannot engage Christianity without engaging with a history of genocide and colonization. There is no “Native American Christian(ity)” that exists outside of a history of simultaneous Christian supremacy, white supremacy, and colonization in the Americas. So be both a Native American and a Christian is to engage with this history. To reword Fanon: For the Native American, there is only one way out of a colonized Christianity, and it goes through whiteness, white supremacy, and white histories.
All this leaves me wondering: Is it worth it? Or Should I just drop Christianity? Should all Native Americans just drop Christianity? With religion there are alternatives: traditional spiritualities. But with psychology, there does not seem to be. Yet Fanon also seems to have some resistance like mine. While he says “ The withdrawal of ego as a successful self-defense mechanism is impossible for the black man [sic]. He needs white approval.” Fanon also says “When another desperately tries to prove to me that the black [person]is as intelligent as any white [person], my response is that neither did intelligence save anybody, for if equality among [people] is proclaimed in the name of intelligence and philosophy, it is also true that these concepts have been used to justify the extermination of [peoples].” So yeah, Fanon seems like he is in a bind too.
This is when I turn to Marilyn Manson. With colonization on the mind, I come across “Wight Spider” where Manson, the white man, offers “I’ll build you a shiny dollhouse, a church/ For you to shrink into a tiny wight spider/ And gorge on horrid memories with conceited wings/ Smother the past in a cocoon for me/ And I’ll help you move all the bodies” To extensively engage with a genocidal past is certainly nothing less than to “gorge on horrid memories”, an attempt to move beyond a past where the bodies have still not all been buried. But would such an effort truly work? Or would such extensive engagement with whiteness and white supremacy only end in aiding that which we engage in? The chorus does not give a hopeful answer: “I’ll possess you/…/And I won’t make you kneel/ To anyone but me”, Manson, the white man, says.
But then, in Verse 2, there is a hostile “them” seemingly coming for the addressed listener. Manson provides a plan of action: “If they came for answers/ Wrap my claws round your mouth tight/ We’ll consume each other until there’s nothing left to hide/ and they can all drown in our blood” The plan, to deconstruct both whiteness & Native identities, to drag out all the truths of both social constructs, bloody as the process (or the facts) may be. And from this process, the forces of death/colonization will be drowned. A plan that seems to work, as the coming forces are never mentioned again.
The imagery is not promising, or even hopeful, when it comes to surviving the plan. But I like the imagery anyway. Whatever hard work happens, whatever pain is endured, whatever loss occurs in this imagery of decolonization… it is experienced equally by those with privilege, those in power. Unlike in Verse 1, it’s not the spider doing the work, and dollhouse maker benefitting from the hiding of his history. In Verse 2, it is tit-for-tat, and neither’s survival is guaranteed.
So this imagery is what I leave with, realizing that I have a lot of white Christianity to consume: to chew on, to taste, to break down, to absorb nutrients out, and to spit out or excrete the rest. And I do this because I have seen, tasted, and experienced what will be left: the Divine. Through my own experience, the experiences of my Native ancestors, and my contemporary Native church communities… I know that it will be worth it. It will be hard work. It will be bloody. But I know that it will not be at more at the expense of Native/marginalized folks and more to the benefit of white/privileged folks.