Sunday, March 16, 2008

Afrocentricity for Dummies (and other Conservatives)

Afrocentricity for Dummies (and other Conservatives)

An Unapologetic Apologetic

Min. Paul Scott

Afrocentricity has long been a dirty word in America. Its very utterance conjures up images in the minds of many white folks of a mob of wild eyed, spear wielding, black militants storming the village and pillaging and ravaging everything in sight. This fear has been exacerbated by the controversy over Senator Barack Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and his "Afrocentric Liberation Theology." Not to mention the pictures that "mysteriously" started poppin' up in email boxes, a few weeks back, featuring the senator decked out in his Kenyan garb.

Could it be that the worst fears of white Conservatives are being realized and the Obama presidency run is really just a front for a well thought out revenge plot to "get whitey" that has been clandestinely planned in the back rows of cotton fields and the back rooms of barbershops for the last 400 years?

Or could it just be that white America is once again showing its paranoia over anyone that doesn't have an "America, love it or leave it" bumper sticker on the back of their pickup truck, get their news from the Drudge Report and pay homage to Elvis Presley as the king of Rock and Roll.

I'll roll with the latter...

What is especially sad is that most of the ,supposedly, intelligent folks who are wetting their pants over Afrocentricity have no idea what it is or is not, preferring just to dismiss the concept under the banner "if it ain't white, it ain't right."

The term "Afrocentric" means exactly what the name implies, "African centered" as opposed to the Eurocentric foundation on which western civilization was built.

One can trace Afrocentric thought back to the early 20th century with the Pan Africanist movement of Marcus Garvey and the writings of black scholars such as J.A. Rogers, William Leo Hansberry and later, George GM James, who dared to tell the world that no matter how you try to spin it, it is impossible to uproot an entire country (Egypt) and transport it to Europe.

Later, thanks to the activism of groups such as the Black Panther Party and educator, Maulana Karenga, black student Unions began popping up on college campuses across the country and challenging the concept of the long held American principle that a lost sailor man named Christopher Columbus "discovered" America.

After the Black Power movement, thanks to disco music and '80's materialism, the Afrocentric movement began to fade, replaced by an integrationist dream courtesy of a Jesse Jackson presidential run and a Bill Cosby sitcom.

However, thanks, in a large part, to political Hip Hop music via rap groups like Public Enemy and X-Clan and Spike Lee movies, a new generation of black youth went searching for their roots.

Thanks to a renewed appreciation for Afrocentricism, scholars such as Dr. John Henrik Clarke and Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannnn were rediscovered by a new generation of black radical college kids who were filling up auditoriums of universities for their lectures. Not to forget, Molefi Asante who created the first African American studies Ph.D program.

This rise in Afrocentrity was followed by attacks on the philosophy by writers such as Mary Lefkowitz, not to mention the Republican/Angry White Man Revolution that helped to make writers like Denis D'Souza and Richard Hernstein folk heroes.

However, it wasn't the Conservatives that put a death nail in the coffin of this new wave of Afrocentricity. The final blow was delivered by rich white entertainment moguls who used the once enlightening Hip Hop music to dumb down an entire generation.

So, the spirit of Afrocentrism lay dormant for a decade until some Right Wing talkin' heads got wind of a nasty rumor that a black presidential candidate liked to get dudded up in "Muslim" clothes and hang out with radical, pro-black pastors.

Let's keep it real. Every culture is ethnocentric and, for the most part, it is celebrated by Americans who pride themselves in being part of a great melting pot. However, this ethnic tolerance does not apply to black folks.

Although, many white Americans celebrate St. Paddy's Day, I shudder to think what would happen if African Americans chose to celebrate "Shaka Zulu Day," instead. The cries of "black racism", even though it is virtually impossible for black people to be "racist," would be deafening.

So, what is America's beef with Afrocentrism?

Could it be that many white folks are terrified that African Americans will see social integration as a failed science experiment or that they may began to pose questions that make even the most liberal white folks a little hot under the collar?

Heaven forbid that the topic of reparations, may raise its ugly head above the waters of the mainstream and the media may have to actually give a platform to angry black folks questioning how the US can give foreign aid to other countries but not break off a lil somethin' for the descendants of enslaved Africans who built this country via centuries of free labor.

If nothing else, the best thing to come out of the Obama presidential run is the fact that Afrocentrism is back in the arena of public discourse.

I'm just waiting for the Obama campaign to change its theme song to...

"Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud!"

Min. Paul Scott's blog is He can be reached at (919) 451-8283