Plantation Mentality?
March 20, 2007 1:02 PM   Subscribe

What does 'Plantation Mentality' mean?

My co-worker used it to defend me against another co-worker. I know it's used in politics a lot. Can someone give me a definition with good examples?
posted by jadanzzy to Writing & Language (11 answers total)
I've always understood it to mean that while one is treated like crap - they are happy to get what they can, or promised something better, if they acquiesce, and then treated just the same as before - and not given the promised "something better". The crux is someone who is given broken promises but expects that somehow in the future it will be different this time.
posted by qwip at 1:32 PM on March 20, 2007

IANB (I am not black). Educated, upper-middle class black professionals I know use this term to describe ways in which they feel some black people hold themselves back socially and economically, as though they still believe that they are "down on the plantation." For example, anti-intellectualism among poor black people, who view higher education and "white-collar" (ha) professions as being too "white" and choose to confine themselves to being uneducated and participating in blue-collar or black market jobs. (Opposing point of view: they don't choose to be poor, a system of institutionalized racism locks them out of good education, high-paying careers, and so forth....)

I'm sure this is a wildly controversial idea; as a white person, I feel like David Duke even mentioning it. I've no idea how invoking it would come to your defense because it sounds more like a backhanded insult, as if you did something because you don't know any better. Perhaps there are meanings of which I am unaware. YMMV.
posted by junkbox at 1:32 PM on March 20, 2007

I think it basically means a business or agency or other entity works in such a way that the vast majority of the workers have to do what a small cadre of leaders tell them to do, without any opportunity to add their input. Top down management.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:32 PM on March 20, 2007

It's the (hotly contested) theory that African Americans have been legally/socially subjugated for so long that they have come to innately regard themselves as an inferior class, and that this, in turn, is a primary reason for continued racial inequality.

It's sometimes used to refer to a group who has similarly been effectively browbeaten into submission (c.f. the press in the run-up to Iraq).
posted by mkultra at 1:33 PM on March 20, 2007

ack, you should probably disregard my theory. Sounds like I was way off base!
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:33 PM on March 20, 2007

I don't think you're that off the mark, M.C. Lo-C!
Seems to fall under the heading "Subjugation from the Top", whether it is individual or collective.
posted by Dizzy at 1:46 PM on March 20, 2007

It depends upon who is using the term, and what point they wish to make...this is used to describe a number of related concepts.

A corporation or system that systematically subjugates African-Americans or prevents them from advancing professionally.

Mistrust of those outside of one's own circle, which prevents the possibility of unity, which helps keep black folks powerless.

Right-leaning commentary uses the term to denote a sort of groupthink that serves to keep fellow African-Americans from saying anything unpopular via peer pressure (and keeps them voting for the Democratic Party.)
posted by desuetude at 2:30 PM on March 20, 2007

I'd add that the bulk of employees working under such an organiziational structure often ostracize peers who agitate for change, thereby reinforcing and entrenching the organization's practices, despite their dislike for same.

It's las though they fear what and angered management might do more than the day to day indignities of what the indifferent management is doing.
posted by Crosius at 2:53 PM on March 20, 2007

Speaking as official Black person, MC Low Carb has it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:26 PM on March 20, 2007

Oops. Remove "fellow" from my last paragraph, as it is usually not the case.
posted by desuetude at 3:51 PM on March 20, 2007

I first heard this expression about 20 years ago from a native on the island of Free Port, Bahamas. This was during a casual conversation at a bar. When I told her I was from America, she said she moved back to the island because of the Plantation Mentality of the black people she had met while living in Miami, Florida.

According to her, Plantation Mentality meant that even though the black people where no longer living in slavery under the “White Man”, they expected to be taken care of as if they were. There is no longer a “White Man”, but the “Government” should provide food, medical and housing to the poor black people. She implied that the blacks never felt that they should provide these basic needs themselves.

This in no way reflects my personal beliefs. I am only answering the question the op asked.
posted by JujuB at 6:49 PM on March 20, 2007

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