Why do some black folks look down on other black folks?


Ozodi Osuji

       Many years ago, I did a little research on the psychology of oppressed people, meaning Black people. I read most of the then available literature on the subject, such as Gunnar Myrdal (1975). The American Dilemma; Abram Kardiner and Lionel Oversay (2021). The Mark of Oppression; Franklin Frazier (1997). The Negro Middle Class; Octave Mannoni (1964). Prospero and Taliban, The Psychology of Colonization; Albert Memmi (1991). The Colonizer and the Colonized; Bertram Karon (2013). The Negro Personality; Franz Fanon (2008). Black Skin and White Masks; Kenneth Clark (1967). Dark Ghetto; Thomas Pettigrew (1964). A Profile of the Negro American; Malcom X (1992). The Autobiography of Malcom X; Eldridge Cleaver (1968). Soul on Ice; Huey Newton (2009). Revolutionary suicide; Stokely Carmichael (1967). Black Power;   Stanley Elkins (1976). Slavery… and many others.

      These books say that slavery and colonialism taught Black folks that to be black is bad and that Africa is primitive and, as such, that they ought to hate everything African and strive to become European like to become civilized; those Africans who internalized this belief become self-hating and hate their fellow Africans.

      In one of the books, I have forgotten the title, was written that certain middle-class Black people, having internalized western ideas of civilization, tend to idealize those, and use them to judge other Black people and find Black people not good enough and consequently look down on them. Such Black people are always talking about how poorly Black people were doing and behaving; they are quick to remonstrate their fellow Black people for what they considered uncivilized behaviors.

      The book talked about watching such negroes, usually light skin colored, in Washington DC, the then home of the black petty bourgeois (1950s when the book was written) pointing out how badly negroes talked, such as them talking loudly, yelling, jiving and dancing, laughing like they won billion dollars lotto when, in fact, they do not know where their next meals would come from.  The book concluded that such phony civilized Black people want to change those Black folks they consider obnoxious and socialize them to embrace western mannerisms.

     That book made the point that there is a breed of oppressed people who so desire to be like their oppressors that they find nothing good in their fellow oppressed Black people and consequently look down on them.

     The psychology of enslaved people and the psychology of colonized people was well studied before the 1970s, especially by psychoanalysts; that literature is still out there for anyone who wants to peruse it.

     What I want to add to the discourse is that one does not have to belong to the Franz Fanon generation to exhibit the personal psychology delineated by those studies.

      In my own experience, there are certain neurotics who grew up not liking who they are (the usual cause of neurosis is problematic bodies and parental criticisms…see Alfred Adler, 2007, the Neurotic Constitution; Karen Horney,1950, Neurosis and Human Growth).

    Such neurotic black folks desire ideal states of being; first, for themselves and secondly for all black folks and thirdly for all human beings; they mentally construct ideas on how people ought to be and use their ideal standards to judge themselves and naturally find themselves not good enough, to judge their fellow Africans and black persons and find them not good enough and judge all human beings and find them not good enough. They are always judging people relative to imaginary perfect standards that they themselves fashioned; they are the ones who posited the ideal standards, no one else told them to pursue such impossible standards.

      People with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and other neurotics tend to use their minds to invent idealistic selves and want to attain them and use their imaginary perfect states of being to judge real people and, of course, find that reality  is not a fiction; people are not works of art that can seem perfect,  they are not ideal; real people and situations are always imperfect relative to imaginary ideals.  It is the individual, building on his biological and social experience, that construct his personality, normal or problematic. See George Kelly (1955). The Psychology of Personal Constructs, a theory of Personality.

     Both Alfred Adler (2007) and Karen Horney (1950) provided us with useful books on the etiology of self-hatred and pursuit of compensatory alternative ideal, perfect states of being hence neurosis.

     Neurotic Africans (also called personality disordered Africans) look down on their fellow Africans and seem to admire white folks. However, when they come close to white folks, they also look down on them; this is because they are comparing real people to imaginary perfect people that do not exist in the imperfect world we live in.

     These people first looked down on themselves; they see themselves as not good enough; as they did to themselves, they did to other people; they see other people as not good enough.

      If you look down on yourself you must necessarily look down on other people; if you tend to put some human beings up because you think that they are civilized, well, when you get close to them you will realize that they are exactly like your supposedly uncivilized people and you would look down on them, too.

     Therefore, one must desist from the temptation to say something negative about oneself, and about people who look like one and people in general; one must desist from putting human beings, black, white, men, women, and children down.

    If you have a need to put folks down, you must let go of that obsessive-compulsive neurosis (the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 2013 edition, provided excellent descriptions of personality disorders, as well as mental disorders in general).

    You need to realize that all human beings live in bodies; no person who lives in body can ever be perfect; those who live in bodies, in their minds, know that body is imperfect  and must struggle to like their fleshy bodies; it is easy to give in to the unrealistic behavior of putting people down just because they live in imperfect bodies and necessarily exhibit imperfect behaviors.

     Those who live in bodies tend to feel weak and seek imaginary power; realistic persons know that they do not have such powers, but neurotics struggle on believing that human beings can be as powerful as gods allegedly are.

     All human beings who live in bodies tend to seek attention from other human beings, wanting them to tell them that they are okay (I am Ok, and you are Ok, is what Thomas Harris, 1993, said that we are all doing). Human beings are attention seeking creatures; they want other people to affirm and validate their desired sense of worth, importance and significance. If so, give them what they desire, make them feel important by treating them like they are significant beings, even though they are the playthings of nature.

     Under no circumstances should you put other people down, degrade, belittle, and insult people (those you insult tend to hate you and if they could, they would put obstacles on your path, and may even physically attack and kill you).

      If you are an African, do yourself a favor, will you, do not ever look down on other Black people on account of your imaginary perfect standards that they did not measure up to.

     Who posited those ideal standards? White folks? Are white folks ideal, if so, did they not enslave Black folks and currently discriminate against them, are such the behavior of perfect gods?

      Were you the one who posited those ideal standards, if so, are you God, or are you playing psychotic god who knows how people ought to be and behave! Give up that psychotic power to invent reality for other people because you do not have it.

      Give yourself a break and accept all people as they are; I know that it is impossible to practice Carl Rogers (1950) psychology of accepting people in an unconditionally positive manner because some people have odious behaviors, still, one must limit rejection of people to rejection of their behaviors but still accept their human essence.

       Human interactions, as Eric Berne (1967) pointed out in his book, Games People Play, are mostly games people play, not real, then play it in such a manner that those who encountered you feel that their lives were validated by you, not destroyed by you.

    Finally, look at yourself, naked, in front of a mirror and accept what you see; what you see is who you are, any other person that you want to be is your fantasy, not real; accept who you are in one hundred percent manner.

     Do not ever reject who you are and try to become another person; for one thing, you can never become another person no matter how much you try; the universe created only one you; the universe does not create junk so accept you as you are and in doing so live in peace with who you are.

    If you have negative behaviors, of course, you should struggle to change them but under no circumstances should you ever reject your essence; if you reject you, you become a living dead person.


In addition to the usual effects of colonialism is the variety that no one really has studied, the effects of colonialism on Nigerians. Nigeria is composed of many ethnic groups, including Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas and Fulani’s. Instead of these groups working together to solve their problems they engage in the politics of tearing each other down. They say the most awful things about each other. If white folks were to say what Igbo or Yoruba say about each other there will be war. These people exist to insult each other and thus damage whatever little self-esteem and self-confidence they have. I can honestly say that I have not seen a Nigerian with what psychologists call positive self-esteem and thus empowered; what I see are people who think that it is cute to degrade each other (if you desire good view of yourself, you had better avoid their company lest they destroy your self-view). When they are not belittling each other, they are engaged in their national pastime, stealing from the national treasury and from each other. The level of corruption in that hell on earth called Nigeria is beyond human understanding. Someone ought to do a comprehensive study on why these people exist to insult each other and to steal from each other.


Adler, Alfred (2007). The Neurotic Constitution. New York: Kessinger Publishing, LLC.

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Washington DC.:  American Psychiatric Press.

Berne, Eric (1967). Games people play. New York: Grove Press.

Carmichael, Stokely (1967). Black Power. New York: Random House.

Clark, Kenneth (1967). Dark Ghetto. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

Cleaver, Eldridge (1968). Soul on Ice. New York: Dell Publishing.

Elkins, Stanley (1976). Slavery: A problem in American Institutional and Intellectual life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 

Fanon, Franz (2008). Black Skin and White Masks. New York: Grove Press.

Frazier, Franklin (1997). The Black Bourgeoise. New York: Free Press.

Harris, Thomas (1993). I’M Ok, You’re Ok. New York: Harper Collins.

Horney, Karon (1950). Neurosis and Human Growth. New York: Norton.

Kardiner, Abrams and Oversey, Lionel (2021). The Mark of Oppression. New York: Lushena Books.

Karon, Bertram (2013). The Negro Personality. New York: Literary Licensing, LLC.

Kelly, George (1955/2018). The Psychology of Personal Constructs. New York: Franklin Classics.

Malcolm X (1992). The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Ballantine Books.

Mannoni, Octave (1964). Prospero and Caliban, The Psychology of Colonization. New York: Frederick Prager.

Memmi, Albert (1991). The Colonizer and the Colonized. New York: Beacon Press.

Myrdal, Gunnar (1975). The American Dilemma. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Newton, Huey (2009). Revolutionary Suicide. New York: Penguin Classic Deluxe.

Pettigrew, Thomas (1964). A Profile of the Negro American. New York: D. Van Nostrand.

Rogers, Carl (965). Client Centered Therapy. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Ozodi Osuji

July 26, 2022


(907) 310-8176

Dr Osuji welcomes questions on African Psychology. There is general human psychology; however, since each person lives in a subculture of humanity, he tends to develop a personal psychology that is attuned to where he lives in space and time; therefore, it is appropriate to talk about African psychology (under the rubric of human psychology).

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