Afrocentricity, Race, and Reason: A Response to the Literature Chizi Igwe Introduction to Africana Studies 101, Section 2 Dr. Kalubi May 8, 2010 Afrocentricity, Race, and Reason: A Response to the Literature Background Information The philosophy of Afrocentricity is not a recent development. Its history can be traced to many precursor theories and ideologies. There were many intellectuals who have researched and theorized about Afrocentricity during its development. These intellectuals include names such as Alexander Crummell, Marcus Garvey, Ida B.
Wells-Barnett, and Willie Abraham (Asante). Among more contemporary intellectuals, there is Chinwelzu, Wade Nobles, Kariamu Welsh Asante, and Cheikh Anta Diop (Asante). This by no means is not an exhaustive list, but simply a sample of activists/intellectuals who have helped to define the Afrocentric way of thinking. Afrocentricity is an ideology meant to be used as a corrective factor for Africans in Diaspora. It represents the possibility of intellectual maturity, a different way of viewing reality (Asante). This school of thought opens new and original avenues to understanding humans.
Through the research on Afrocentricity done by the intellectuals and writers listed above, they hoped it would serve as a vehicle to liberation for Africans. Among them, there was a general consensus that cultural, social, political, and economic liberation desperately needed in the African community would only be realized through the re-centering of the African mind. Though the Afrocentric idea had been an emerging philosophy for some time, Afrocentricity as a literary practice and critical theory was not apparent until the publishing of two central books.
These books were Textured Women, Cowrie Shells, Cowbells, and Beetlesticks by Kariamu Welsh in 1978 and Afrocentricity, by Molefi Kete Asante in 1980 (Asante). These works had different inspirations. Welsh’s work was inspired by her choreographic technique called umfundalai while Asante’s work was rooted in his experience with the Los Angeles Forum for Black Artists (Asante). Though these works had different bases, both works were the first intentional acts by authors to explain the theory as well as emphasize liberation.
Both works had the purpose of re-establishing African agency as the main core of sanity within the African community. Purpose and Importance One driving objective of the Afrocentric theory was to alter the subject-place of Africans in the social and literary context. In the opinion of Asante, this change was the only option for African people, who were ruled by the constraints of white racial supremacy (Asante). This objective focused around two central questions: 1. How do we see ourselves and how have others seen us? 2.
What can we do to regain our own accountability and to move beyond the intellectual plantation that constrains our economic, cultural, and intellectual development? The Afrocentric philosophy sought to answer these questions as well as change the position of the African. The Afrocentric idea was characterized by five main characteristics: 1) An intense interest in psychological location as determined by symbols, motifs, rituals, and signs. 2) A commitment to finding the subject-place of Africans in any social, political, economic, or religious phenomenon with implications for questions of sex, gender, and class. ) A defense of African cultural elements as historically valid in the context of art, music, and literature. 4) A celebration of “centeredness” and agency and a commitment to lexical refinement that eliminates pejoratives about Africans or other people. 5) A powerful imperative from historical sources to revise the collective text of African people. The argument for Afrocentricity certainly has certainly not developed without opposition and critique. These oppositions were not surprising because they came at a time when many concepts were challenging the Eurocentric perspective.
The European’s argument of objectivity issues and subject-object duality come from the alleged supremacy of the European construction in the political world. In The Afrocentric Idea, Asante wrote, “Objectivity is a sort of collective subjectivity of Europeans. ” The driving force behind the claim of objectivity is an attempt to conserve the “status quo” (Asante). The ancient African Egyptian term called seba means the “reasoning style of the people (Asante). ” The reasoning style of the Europeans was an attempt to keep things as status quo, to “lock” Africans in their way of thinking.
On the surface, this act may not seem detrimental, but the European reasoning just acted as a method to prolong the circumstances Africans found themselves in. It hindered all possibilities of African liberation. Formula for Change Afrocentricity aims to provoke a change; one way to make this change happen was by shifting to a subject-subject relationship as opposed to a subject-object one. If this shift didn’t occur, Africans would always remain in the object place without an opportunity for growth. However, this would not be an easy task in a society so driven by a racist construction of white supremacy over black inferiority.
This white-subject black-object paradigm was relevant in different subjects such as sociology, philosophy, and literature. In this way, Europe and Europeans presented a danger for Africans; both a psychological and cultural danger (Asante). This was the type of danger that kills a people’s soul and according to Asante, “a people’s soul is dead when it can no longer breathe its own air and when the air of another culture seems to smell sweeter (Asante). ” In order for this subject-subject shift to occur, African’s place and contributions to history have to be acknowledged.
European’s have had a dismissive attitude towards African’s accomplishments and activities. They 1) generally refused to allow the study of any knowledge that they do not control (Asante). 2) A number of white scholars tend to be limited in their interest to subjects that are valuable to the European project of self-glorification and triumphalism (Asante). Finally, to view Africa as a subject in history or as the starting place for an examination of anything is anathema to those who have always ignored the role of Africa (Asante).
The Afrocentric school of thought has fought to combat these boundaries by giving the permission to investigate all aspects of Africa’s presence and involvement in the world. To change the “status quo”, Afrocentricity must serve as both a corrective factor and a critique. Africans throughout the world including the America’s have experienced the sensation of dislocation. Through the act of re-centering the African person and making them an agent, we shed the belief of the unquestioned European domination. In that way, it serves as a corrective factor.
Afrocentricity also strives to critique the process and the extent of the dislocation of African peoples that was the result of the domination of the Europeans in all matters. In order to change the circumstances, Afrocentricity calls for the definition of Africans by their own terms, centered on an African ideology as opposed to the European definition and marginalization of Africans in history as well as currently. Response The concept of the European dominated ideology and their concept of objectivity is very apparent to me.
Though the article was addressing these concepts from a historical perspective, I believe they are still relevant today. It is evident for example in the teaching of history in schools. Many students are introduced to only a summarized view of black and African history in its relation to the United States and the world as a whole. There is a great emphasis put on the history and accomplishments of Europeans and Americans so therefore it would be easy based on the educational system to assume Africans made no significant contributions.
The question that was raised, “How do we see ourselves and how have other seen us? ” is a very important question. Though I believe there has been a change from the past to now, I still believe a major part of how we view ourselves is derived from how Europeans view us. In some ways, they still cultivate our impressions for us. An example would be the music industry. Many music videos and images portrayed about black people display negative images, and many black people in America fall into believing those stereotypes themselves.
In my opinion, the Afrocentric ideology, the centeredness on African perspectives, is vital. There will be no complete African “liberation” until African’s agree on this perspective. Without it, there are many people “floating”, not knowing where they belong. This phenomenon makes the perpetuation of European racial supremacy able to continue. The reference to the psychological and cultural danger of Europe resonated with me because it is evident in African culture all over the world.
Through the advent of institutions such as slavery, colonization, segregation, etc, Europe and Europeans have had an overly powerful impact in changing and shaping African cultures in a way that distances it from its roots. The five characteristics of Afrocentric idea listed in the article I believe should serve as guidelines of brining the focus back on the African agent. Works Cited Asante, Molefi. “Afrocentricity, Race, and Reason. ” In M. Marable (Ed. ), Dispatches from the Ebony Tower (pp-195-203). New York: Columbia U. P.
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