BLACK CULTURAL IDENTITY.
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Problems of black identification with African v. Amer. heritage. Stereotypes, cultural-historical background & development, life in white society, customs, music.... More...
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Problems of black identification with African v. Amer. heritage. Stereotypes, cultural-historical background & development, life in white society, customs, music.
AN IDENTITY CRISIS The question of whether blacks should be called BlackAmericans or African-Americans has brought to the fore the issue of identity for Black-Americans. Should blacks identity with Africa, or should blacks retain their American identity? Obviously, both identities have their pros and cons, and the solution is the combination of the advantageous aspects of each. In determining the best solution for blacks, it is necessary to outline the reasons for a change in thought. The major reason for this change is black people's want of a sense of heritage. Most blacks know very little, if anything, about their ancestry before the slave ships, due to the tactics of the slave traders who would separate families to prevent any story-telling or other activity that might promote racial pride and cohesion. In
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We shall constitute one-third and more of theignorance and crime of the South, or one-third its intelligence andprogress (Gottesman et al. Hence, Black-American music exemplifies theexistence of a society neither wholly African nor Euroamerican, but acombination of the two. Washington expresses, nearly sixteen millions ofhands will aid you in pulling the load upward, or they will pull againstyou the load downward. As African-Americans, the more affluent blacks in thiscountry would be more likely to help their African brothers. Yet, if blacks were to rely wholly on the American identity theywould fail to gain this African heritage. This does not mean abandoning Africa, butestablishing priorities. 27, 1987: 63.Luther, Martin. Thisprovides pride for all of those nationalities represented, but what of theblack students? in eastern Africa (Van Sertima1 ). The question of customs is solved by bothidentities, for the American identity acknowledges the presence of a blackculture, while the African identity contributes useful customs. 2119). Just as blacks must combine African and European knowledge, they mustcombine African customs and Black-American culture. This unique culture has influenced many aspects ofAmerican society, including politics, music, and film. Africans thought: The soul of man, if liberated from its bodily abode, could enable him to be in reality God-like,and that, Man would be among the Gods in his lifetime on Earth and attain the Beatific Vision in holy communion with the immortals (Ben-Jochannan 375). If thisculture is not taught in school, then it must be taught in the home,church, etc. Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern. Blacks whoidentify with Africa will develop a new perspective and take into accountthe many problems in Africa, such as widespread famine to the extent that"at least six million of its [Ethiopia's] forty-six million people facestarvation" and "the United Nations' World Food Program puts reliefrequirements for fifteen needy [African] countries at 2.7 million metrictons" (Serrill 34). Hill, and John P. If theirancestors made no contributions, then perhaps they should not be expectedto, either. Christian Liberty. Before raising the poverty level in Africa,blacks should be sure that there are as few starving Black-Americans aspossible. New York: Alkebu-lan Books, 1971.Buckler, John, Bennet D. All blacks should be exposed to African history and culture. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1957.Serrill, M. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.Gottesman, Ronald et al., eds. The African identity providesmotives for acknowledging African heritage and customs, and the Americanidentity yields an emphasis on Black-American problems and the value ofblack culture. Through the use of "drum-scripts soingenious they came close to a rhythmic mimicking of the human voice,"ancient Africans were able to instantly send messages several miles (VanSertima 7). The third and final problem raised by the question of identity isthat of the quality of life for blacks around the world. New York: W. Andfinally, in dealing with the problems of blacks around the world, theAmerican identity yields the best solution, for blacks in America cannotbetter the world until they take care of themselves. However, by adoptingthese customs, blacks must not lose their black culture, which could bethreatened by the separatist attitudes of some pro-African movements. In America, one of the most prosperous nations in the world, "in 1985, 43 percent of allblack male high school dropouts in their early 2 s reported earning nomoney whatsoever. S. A sense of heritage is necessary for blacks to continue torise in this nation. In determining the best solution for blacks, it is necessary tooutline the reasons for a change in thought. Blacks must not become separate from white society, as advocated bythe 7 s movement, but must adapt to and make the best of life in America.Blacks have contributed to this country and have the power to "make it orbreak it." As Booker T. Van Sertimapresents various examples of the discoveries made by ancient Africans.These include long-distance communication centuries before the existence oftelegraphic morse code or the radio. It is this attitude which could threaten black culture which is worthsaving and nourishing. For starters, in the realm of philosophy,what is considered innovative Greek thinking actually originated in Africa,specifically in the Egyptian Mysteries System which can be considered a pre-modern university. Works CitedBen-Jochannan, Yosef. Norton Anthology of American Literature. Specifically, thecreation of styles such as scat, blues, soul and rap, all of whichexemplify the lives of blacks in white-ruled society and havecharacteristics of both African and European music, can be attributedmostly to black culture. New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1983.----------------------- 1 In addition, a greater knowledge of African heritage may giverise to an increase in the practice of African customs. However, thiscould lead to another problem, namely, a loss of black culture. . In the words of Ivan Van Sertima, author of Blacks in Science:Ancient and Modern, In the new vision of the ancestor, African-Americans need to turntheir eyes away from the periphery of the primitive to the more dynamicsources of genius in the heartland of the African world (Van Sertimadedication). McKay. But there are problems at home as well. In conclusion, the blacks of America should not have to choose to beBlack-American or African-American, but they should be allowed to mix theseidentities. In comparing blacks and whites, one may notice that heritage, or lackof it, contributes to the white sense of superiority over blacks.Europeans are given credit for much of the world's success. 2 vols. Just as their ancestors madecontributions, so must they. Thus, as statedbefore, a compromise, a combination, is necessary to give blacks the bestimage of themselves. Should blacks identity with Africa, or should blacks retaintheir American identity? In addition, the idea of the "Beatific Vision" is thebasis for the Christian idea of the saint. In schoolAmerican students are exposed to the great European contributions such asthe philosophies of ancient Greece and Rome, the religious devotion ofCatholic monks, and the art of the Renaissance (Buckler, 1987). It strongly suggests that anaccurate and complex calendar system based on astronomical reckoning wasdeveloped by the first millennium B.C. Forexample, celebrations such as Kwanza could become commonplace in blackhouseholds. Blacks arepoverty-stricken and oppressed in both America and in Africa. White people hold the power" (Gottesman et al. AN IDENTITY CRISIS The question of whether blacks should be called BlackAmericans orAfrican-Americans has brought to the fore the issue of identity for Black-Americans. One popular movement of the 197 s, the Black Muslims, supported bysuch leaders as Elijah Muhammad, Marcus Garvey, and Malcolm X, preachedseparatism as the only means for the black population to survive. "Famine." Time Dec. As recently as 1973, that figure was just 12%11 (Shapiro18-22). Van Sertima's work makes it clear that Africans did make discoveriesand contributions, and blacks should be exposed to this knowledge. The solution is not found in only one of these identities, but in thesummation of the advantageous aspects of each. A thirdreason is the quality of life among blacks around the world. 67 ). 24, 1987: 18-22.Van Sertima, Ivan, ed. This seven-day celebration, like Chinese New Year, recognizesprinciples such as prosperity, ancestry, and health. The major reason for thischange is black people's want of a sense of heritage. 21, 1987: 34-38.Shapiro, Walter. 152 . . Black culture has flourished as a combination of African andEuroamerican cultures, and to replace it with African or any other customswould be detrimental. Thequestion will not arise as long as African customs are not used to replacethose of Black America, but are combined to better the culture. Martin Luther, one of the founders of the Protestantreligion, describes man as having "a twofold nature, a spiritual and abodily one" (Luther 7), thus displaying African influence on even modern,European religion. In addition, producers such asQuincy Jones and Barry Gordy have become successful in producing Black-American music in a White-American industry, proving that some blacks haveadapted to white society. These areexamples of only some of the problems that blacks face in America, andobviously, they should concentrate their efforts in improving theirsituation here first. W. Obviously, both identities have their pros andcons, and the solution is the combination of the advantageous aspects ofeach. Therefore, the solution is to combine theidentities, to practice useful African customs while maintaining a strongblack culture. Norton, 1979."Guilty of Race Bias." Newsweek Apr. Furthermore, "a jury of five whites and one black held thatbetween 1979 and 1982, the [New York] Daily News (circulation: 1.37million) discriminated against four of its black employees by denying thempromotions and retaliating after they complained" ("Guilty" 63). Blacks must realize that they can do just as well aswhites, in whatever job is required. There are severalcustoms which an African identity could bring into black culture. Becauseof "the essential evil of all whites" (Gottesman 2129), these leaderswanted the black culture to be totally free of white influence.Considering that the black culture is a mix of both the African andEuropean cultures, the only way to achieve this was by returning to oldAfrican customs, and the most radical of this movement even supported thereturn of all blacks to the motherland. Thus, by combing the two identities blacks can achieve apositive self-image with the advantages of a proud heritage and aflourishing culture. Each identity has its pros and cons, and the obvious solutionis the combination of their advantages. Vol. As Van Sertima asserts, African-Americans must disregard the oldimages of Africans (i.e., cannibals and savages) and recognize that theirancestors were intelligent and powerful. Oftentimes, blacks are only represented as savages orslaves. As James Baldwin said, "this world iswhite . As stated before, this adds to alower self-image among blacks, for if one's ancestors did nothing, one canbe expected to do very little. Black-American culture is a mixture of African andEuroamerican cultures. "The Ghetto." Time Aug. Thestudy of African culture should not replace that of European culture, butshould be added to it, and blacks must make the best of both. In another example, Van Sertima asserts that a team of Americanscientists testify that, This evidence attests to the complexity of prehistoric culturaldevelopments in sub-Saharan Africa. The idea of the soul being separate from the body is echoedthroughout history, and is the basis of most major religions andphilosophies. . However, in order to gain this heritage,blacks must not forget that they live in America, where it is imperative tohave a sense of European culture. Therefore, it is clear through both of these works that Africans havecontributed to the success of world civilization, and blacks do have anadmirable heritage. Some sufferfrom famine and oppression while others suffer from poverty and racism. Thus, when compared to whites, how can blacks stand up? This idea is the basis foridentifying with Africa and realizing their African heritage. The problem of heritage issolved by the recognition of Africanidentity which requires the study and acknowledgement of Africanscontributions to society. 1 of A History of Western Society. The concept of moving from manto saint is the basis of much of Medieval and Renaissance European thought,namely, the Great Chain of Being, which justifies that man can ascend tosainthood through virtue or fall to savagery by yielding to natural desires(Buckler, 1987). Africa: Mother of "Western Civilization". Teaching this knowledge to black students wouldprovide higher self-esteem, for by realizing that their ancestors madecontributions, blacks would be more confident in doing the same. From Antiquity to the Reformation. Most blacks knowvery little, if anything, about their ancestry before the slave ships, dueto the tactics of the slave traders who would separate families to preventany story-telling or other activity that might promote racial pride andcohesion. By living in a white society,they would not be exposed to African culture, and today few blacks inAmerica have a sense of African ancestry. Such artists as Lena Horne, Scatman Crothers, andBilly Holliday, to name a few, have created a place for blacks in theworlds of both black and non-black music. In another work, Africa: Mother of "Western Civilization" by YosefBen-Jochannan, Africans are not only shown to make contributions, but someAfrican knowledge and beliefs are actually shown to be the basis of what isconsidered European innovation.
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