Afropessimism might be one of the more complicated Ks on this list. It argues that our world as we know it is based on the destruction and hatred of Blackness. Why? A strong central argument in this scholarship is that Blackness is ontological.
Here is a nice and simple (as it gets) explanation from Wikipedia:
Ontology is the branch of philosophy that studies concepts such as existence, being, becoming, and reality. It includes the questions of how entities are grouped into basic categories and which of these entities exist on the most fundamental level. Ontology is sometimes referred to as the science of being and belongs to the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics 5 .
When these scholars say that Blackness is ontological, they are saying that Blackness is the basic category that the world uses to contextualize all other identities in our life. Why? Frank Wilderson, a major figure in Afropessimism, argues that this happened because of the Transatlantic Slave Trade—when Europeans took Africans from the continent, erased their individual identities, and produced slaves in the new world. The benefits for white members of society that came from slavery were so astounding and make global superpowers what they are today. The world as it is right now could not exist without that history. As a result, anything that threatens that position of Black being equal to slave is often rejected by society. Afropessimists would use examples of how slavery was replaced by Jim Crow and how Jim Crow was replaced by mass incarceration of Black people in the United States. Ks that focus on Afropessimism will often focus on government use or a belief that society can be reformed and is redeemable. They argue that the only way to change this negative relationship is if society as we know it comes to an end. Very pessimistic, right? This is partially where the name comes from.
Here’s an example of what the focal points of a debate involving the Afropess K on the negative could look like:
(Reminder: Link, impact, and alternative will be labeled in the examples with the following colors: link, impact, alternative.)
- Resolved: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the United States in one or more of the following: forensic science, policing, sentencing.
- K’s Main Argument: Focuses on reform make it so that absolute abolishing of systems of anti-Blackness become impossible. Reform is what allowed us to move from slavery to Jim Crow and to the prison industrial complex. We should focus on radically destroying prison systems if we ever want to disrupt anti-Blackness.
- Potential Affirmative Response: Progress is possible and important. The prison industrial complex is horrible and that is why we want to reform it. Changes in sentencing will greatly affect the lives of African Americans and create positive impacts for their communities.
5 Wikipedia contributors. “Afro-Pessimism.” Wikipedia, 27 Feb. 2022, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afro-pessimism.