‘Will He Lynch?’ and the making of the white man

OPINION: We celebrate white Juneteenth with a long-overdue response to the (fake) Willie Lynch Letter—perhaps the first viral digital hoaxexplaining the invention of whiteness.

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio

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In the early 1990s, a letter purporting to be a speech by a slave-breaker went viral. Supposedly it was a plan to teach white people how to control Black people for 300 years, “Willie Lynch and the Making of a Slave.” While we now know that the document was a hoax, there are many who still believe the Willie Lynch Letter is historically accurate. 

For those people, theGrio Daily presents the (fake) speech that took place in the back of the plantation at the same time

Gentlemen, I greet you here at the Lynch Plantation in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and twelve.

First, I know many of you have heard about the speech by Mr. Lynch that is taking place in the big house. But do not fear. Since about 1619, there have been people who claim to know what to do to prevent uprisings, insolence and animosity. Gentlemen, you know what your problems are; I do not need to elaborate. I am not here to enumerate your problems, I am here to introduce you to a method of understanding why, for some reason, they never suggest the most obvious answer:


I’m sure you can tell that these white men are building something here. They call themselves settlers but then again when those Portuguese boys Nuno Tristão and Antão Gonçalves showed up in our homeland in 1441 to begin the trans-Atlantic slave trade, they didn’t call themselves human traffickers. If we’d known that, we would have given them a few spears to take home with them (as long as they could extract them from their muscle tissues. You know how we do.)

Now, human enslavement has been around since the beginning of time. Throughout history, there’s been all kinds of slaves—forced marriages, prisoners of war, indentured servitude, unpaid agricultural labor, land peonage and even compulsory Royal conscription to name a few. But this thing here is something we couldn’t have conceived of. We call it slavery because the language they put in our mouths is inadequate to explain that they have constructed a society using legally enshrined, intergenerational, perpetual servitude that reduces human beings to chattel based on nothing but skin color. 

So we call it “slavery.”

Make no mistake, this thing here is different. 

I’m not telling you this to scare you. I’m just letting you know what kind of people we are dealing with. You might be thinking that the people who kidnapped us and brought us here aren’t Portuguese. And you’re right. But there’s no way to understand this unless you know how they think. See, when we were building kingdoms and studying science, medicine and art, they were going through this thing called the Dark Ages where less than twenty percent of them could even read and write their own language. They believed crazy stuff like the sun revolved around the earth and that the earth was flat.  Don’t laugh. It’s not their fault. Luckily, Some of them were smart enough to come over to our homeland and take our knowledge back to their illiterate kinsmen. These people became Greek Philosophers, roman scientists and even kings and queens. And they realized that they could go to other places, take over, and make themselves smart or rich. That’s why they came to the New World.

But there was a problem. See, the aristocrats who first came to Jamestown weren’t good at being free. Remember, they had just now started to learn things. They didn’t know how to grow food or build houses. A lot of them who came over here died because they didn’t know that you weren’t supposed to drink water out of the same place you pooped. This white thing wasn’t going well.

Thankfully, these dookie-breath land thieves found a solution to white mediocrity. In 1618, the colony of Virginia passed the Orders and Constitutions, which included a provision that offered free land to anyone who brought over skilled workers.  It was called “headrights” and it is one of the biggest untold scams in all of American history. This is how it worked 

Anyone who paid for a ticket to bring a poor person to the new world would get 50 acres of land. The person they brought over would sign a contract to work for seven years and then would be free.

One year later, in 1619, they got their first taste of free labor. But in 1638, a dude named George Menefie put two and two together. If he got 50 free acres for every worker he brought over, and he could traffic Black people at a discount rate, then why would he bring over Irish and German workers when he could bring over Black people and never give them freedom. Menefie received a headrights patent for 3,000 acres, one thousand one hundred fifty of which Menefie claimed for the quote “ Negroes I brought out of England with me.”  A year later, when Menefie earned another 3,000 acres for importing sixty more enslaved people, everyone jumped on the buy-one-slave-get-fifty-acres-free deal.

In the future, they will try to convince you that they built this country with hard work, education and ingenuity. But you must never trust the victor’s version of history. They will outlaw the truth and, If you even suggest otherwise, they will probably make history against the law. They will say you are the real racist for teaching facts because The only way they can maintain their privilege is to make sure you don’t know that they literally got rich off of government-sponsored welfare and affirmative action. But remember, they do not know things.

They do not even know God.

 Seriously, they believe in a whole different god than you. They might have the same name but they will justify taking away your rights and controlling your bodies by insisting that it’s what their God wants. That’s why the Massachusetts law first legalizing slavery specified it was only for non-white, non-Christians who were “sold to us.”

The General Laws of the Massachussets Colony

Their God told them that. The Massachusetts law comes from the 25th Chapter of Leviticus, where God explains that Israelites cannot enslave their own people, but it is perfectly fine to ruthlessly enslave foreigners and outsiders.

In the future, they will even tell you that their God allows them to murder Black people who don’t do what white people say. You’ll come to know it as police brutality and justify it by saying that the Black person resisted but it will be based on an old 1669 Virginia Law about “the casual killing of slaves.”

An Act about the Casual Killing of Slaves: Virginia Archives

Can you see them making a white man?

If you notice, these laws were about so-called “negroes” and “slaves.” When this blight on the long arc of humanity is over and done with–and it will be over, even if it takes civil war, they will erect a system that criminalizes Blackness. They will make it illegal to read and protest and even walk around. They will demonize us for asking for the same thing that gave them their wealth and power.

Just watch. 

This is how you make a white man. 

And you might be wondering why they look at you as if you are all the same. Sure, you’re from the same land mass but from different cultures and kingdoms. Some of you are Akan warriors. Some of you are Senegalese Rice growers. Some of you are Kongolese engineers. That’s because they are not just making a white man. They are transforming you into one amorphous lump of something they can hate called a Black man.

But don’t call them racist.

See,  for most of human history, the term “race” didn’t exist. It emerged in the late 16th century to describe a type of thing, including a “race of wine,” or a “race of saints.” Before then, every culture on the planet had its own stratification. Greeks were different from Romans. The Irish were different from the English. Even when Enlightenment-era philosophers began categorizing species, they subdivided humans by geographic regions…Until white people needed slaves.

In the 1684 French journal article, Francois Bernier used a curious term to describe his theory on human taxonomy. The article was titled, “Nouvelle Division de la Terre par les Différentes Espèces ou Races L’habitant,” (I don’t speak white people very well, but that translates to: “A New division of Earth by the different species or races which inhabit it.”) In 1776, Friedrich Blumenbach’s On the Natural Varieties of Mankind created five different divisions of humanity. And to prove they were superior, Blumenbach connected the Portuguese people-thieves to the Ancient Greeks who stole their knowledge from Africa. He theoretically united the incompetent English colonizers and the Roman conquerors under one genetically superior group of people called the Caucasian race. 

He had invented white people.

Whiteness, then, emerged as what we now call a “pan-ethnic” category, as a way of merging a variety of European ethnic populations into a single “race,” especially so as to distinguish them from people with whom they had very particular legal and political relations — Africans, Asians, American Indians — that were not equal to their relations with one another as whites.

Dr. Gregory Jay, “Who Invented White People?”

To be clear, the idea of the supremacy of whiteness had already been entrenched in America and around the world. In fact, the same year that Blumenbach wrote that book, Thomas Jefferson wrote a breakup letter to King George based on the concept that all men are created equal. But privately, Jefferson, who is regarded as an anti-slavery advocate even though he never freed a slave in his life, wrote:

“I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks…, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind…. This unfortunate difference of colour, and perhaps of faculty, is a powerful obstacle to the emancipation of these people.”

But the British people who believed this already lived in a country with a constitution and laws. The same for Germany, France and other places. But America was a brand new world that had just been hijacked by whiteness. And so, when the people who built this new idea of freedom sat down to form their constitution, they enshrined human trafficking in the fabric of their country. In their foundational document, they reduced the same men they claimed are created equal to 60 percent of a white man. They didn’t count the indigenous people at all. And when all of their work was done, their first legislative body took up the question of to whom this country belonged. The Naturalization Act of 1790 was passed by the first very first Congress of the brand new United States of America, establishing citizenship to quote “ any free white person of good character.”

But this is not my opinion.

Seventy-five years after America declared its independence, Roger Taney, the head of the highest institution of justice in this toddler nation, was tasked with writing the decision for Dred Scott v Sanford. As chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Taney’s only job was to interpret the wishes of the founders and establish the legal precedent that would last as long as this nation exists. In doing so, he described the case in these terms:

The question is simply this: Can a negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guarantied by that instrument to the citizen?

Roger Taney, Scott v. Sanford

In his decision, Taney wrote this for all the world to hear. You’ve probably heard the quote from the Dredd Scott decision that says Black people were “…so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect,” or the one that says: “The men who framed this declaration knew that it would not in any part of the civilized world be supposed to embrace the negro race.” 

But this speech is not about Black people; it’s about how you make a white man. 

There is a quote in this decision that no one ever mentions. In it, Taney recounts how the second congress required every free able-bodied white male citizen to enroll in the militia. Before explaining what each word in that sentence means, he reveals our purpose for coming to you today:

“The word white,” Taney writes, “is evidently used to exclude the negro race.”

To exclude the negro race.

To exclude the negro race.

And that, my dear oppressed people, is how you make a white man.

Three years from now, I hope you are free. If you are, I hope you listen to theGrio Daily podcast, download the app, subscribe and tell a friend. I know you have no idea what podcast means, but then again, white people don’t know what freedom means.

But if, in 400 years, you are free, always remember the words of Method Man, RZA, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, GZA, Cappadonna, Inspecta Deck, Masta Killah, U God and the great Negro poetry troupe collectively known as the Wu-Tang Clan. They may alter it, but they will say something akin to: “Caucasity Rules Everything Around Me.”

Dolla Dolla bill yall…

Michael Harriot theGrio.com

Michael Harriot is a writer, championship-level Spades player and host of theGrio Daily podcast. His book, Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America, will be released in 2022.

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