All of a sudden cannibals are back and I’m worried what this means for Black people–folks that have historically been associated with ancient African cannibalism. A wave of cannibalism stories have surfaced in the last couple of weeks—two of them feature perpetrators of African descent. Although mainstream coverage has not spoken about these cases with reference to race, the media’s “post-racial” talk about these incidents does no better.
Recent articles by the Huffington Post alarm me in their failure to see the psychological problems that these individuals have had. Instead, one article evidently relates the recent cannibal activity to the infamous cases of Alfred Packer and Jeffrey Dahmer. In quoting a man thinking about the recent revival of these historical American cannibals, the author suggests that “[cannibalism] represents the worst of humankind.” My beef with this perspective is that the cases of Rudy Eugene and Alexander Kinyua do not reflect cases of a cannibal identity.
Unlike the historical cases, Miami local Eugene and Kenyan student Kinyua did not seem to take cannibalism seriously. We can’t say that they were cannibals as if they ate humyn flesh in a “normal” routine. These alleged cannibals in particular each demonstrated psychotic conditions: it’s claimed that Eugene had a history of anti-social behavior while Kinyua was having neuroses in his ROTC program. What I’m trying to say is that this recent talk of cannibalism ignores the function of culture in shaping the outcome of these events.
On the other hand, these acts of cannibalism may well be results of American oppression. Borrowing from the thought resources provided by Frantz Fanon, any type of psychological problem can be linked to a situation of social oppression. Without seeing these attacks as an expression of a social problem we fail to develop of a critical consciousness.
All of this talk of cannibalism as an identity keeps the light from clarifying the ways in which an individual is set up to lash out. Social problems—racism and genderism especially—manifest torturous environments of the mind. Therefore, public knowledge could benefit from placing the icons of this Black cannibal activity in a session with the therapist. Only then can the social origin of these mental problems become clear; and therein the media coverage can serve a purpose of liberation.