The world through my eyes

My Problem with Afrocentrism


I am sure whoever coined this term “Afrocentrism”  must have been narcissistic in nature or had some narcissistic qualities ingrained in their psyche (but then again, a lot of us do have some narcissistic tendencies). Please do not mistake Pan Africanism for Afrocentrism though the latter was influenced by the former. It is believed that W. E. B. Du Bois came up with that term though this has been a hotly contended subject, so I am not even going to go there. However, I know the whole idea behind this ego-centered term was for a way for African-Americans (those who embraced the ideology) to help validate their identity in a society that had made them feel less than significant and told them that they didn’t matter. But I am of the school of thought that any concept that denies or lessens the contribution of different cultures and ideologies so as to promote and elevate their own concepts already calls for some concern and is trouble in the making. I mean isn’t that how Hitler got started? The problem lies when the society is already in a vulnerable position which makes them susceptible and open to all types of spheres of influence.

I think the mistake we make as the human race is when we allow our diversity to become a crutch in which society can then use against us. Then we continue this vicious cycle by retaliating and doing the exact same thing, ensuring that this malicious progression doesn’t get broken. It is very easy to hate those that hate us and to take an eye for an eye and want to lash back to those who have wounded us and broken us and mistreated us, but how does that make us any different from the offenders? I beg (Nigerian style)! Please do not think I take lightly what happened to Black people and in a lot of places what is still happening. Being a black woman from Africa and having lived in various continents has allowed me to be exposed to different cultures and societies and belief systems. I have lived in radical societies where any form of dissent was met with the threat of death to open societies where people were free to express themselves and all that has taught me this: We are fundamentally all the same.

Living in these different societies and always being the minority helped me understand how important it is to know yourself and understand where you came from because that in turn will help you define who you are as a person. That is why history is so important, but what happens when history is clouded or altered? Such thing like Afrocentrism contributes to this issue by twisting history and the focus so as promote an ideology. I know how important it is to embrace our culture and our heritage, but we should be aware of how we are not isolated in our existence and we impact and influence other cultures and systems through our interactions whether positively or negatively or both! I don’t like the fact that I experienced racism purely because of my color skin, but I don’t hide behind that and make it my ultimate truth. I will probably continue experiencing racism throughout my life, that’s the unfortunate fact, but there is more to my story and I won’t allow that to be my basis of classification for all non-black people. We cannot treat racism with reverse racism and unfortunately that is what Afrocentrism promotes!

We need to come to a place where we acknowledge that globalization is inevitable and we do not have all the answers as a continent and it is OK to allow exchange to take place. We should also look at how we can use this as a leverage to advance collectively and see a brighter future for the African people and the African continent and essentially the world at large.


3 responses

  1. Dido

    Good stuff once again Gloria. It’s been a while since I’ve read your blog…life seems to be getting in my way nowadays.

    Anyway, I think you make cogent points, but somewhat generalizing the concept of Afrocentrism. I’m sure there are Afrocentric ‘pundits’ out there who have written volumes on the subject, but have a hidden agenda behind all of it. This is the exception rather than the rule in my opinion. when I chose to take my son to school that offered African-centered education I didn’t do it with the intention of ‘denying and/or lessening the contribution of different cultures and ideologies…’ On the contrary, we, as black people in the western hemisphrere live double lives in a region with a dominant culture that isn’t our own. DuBois wrote about this as well. So we have been steeped in the dominant culture’s norms. our cultural contribution in the western hemisphere I’d venture to say is probably about 10%. Nobody cares about black culture, and if the blacks themselves start denying their own for the sake of assimilatoin (yes I said assimilation) and the so-called globalization. What is good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for the gander.

    When I was in primary school in Kenya we had to use excercise books (Kasuku…remember them?) which used to have pictures of invetors, scientists, and explorers on the back covers with a little exerpt on their accomplishments. None of them looked like me…..and this was in the boondocks out in Kajiado during the pre-internet era. I loved to read about the Abraham Graham Bell, Livingstone (the great explorer who ‘discovered’ many African natural phenomena), and sir Isaac Newton, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking, “Hadn’t indigenous Africans ALREADY ‘discovered’ the place?” (for example in Livingston’s case).

    When we studied our own (or what was supposed to be) African history in African schools, our history began from the great migration (i hope you remember this), then quickly went into colonialism, and the modern era. Again I kept asking myself, “what is the african history before the white man set foot on the continent?” or at least what was OUR history BEFORE the great migration out of the Sahara?. I was no more than 12 years old when these questions popped in my head. I wonder if other African children experienced the same. Even the “African history” that we were taught I took in with an open mind. Critical thinking is paramount in the race towards human understanding. If we don’t ask the questions about our own heritage then who will?

    To me Afrocentrism is more of an anthropological term. ..It’s a loaded word that can be spun, and thus has to be carefuly used (it’s purely academic IMO). I don’t think it’s reverse racism at all. Racism is the presumed superiority of one organism over another based on phenotypical and/or genotypical attributes. Forgive me, but I haven’t seen any afrocentric literature classifying another race(s) as savage, brute, backward or otherwise putting them down based on genetics or physical traits, but I can show you myriad articles that are very degrading, and desparaging towards people of African descent. When I read the few afrocentric books that I have read, for example I see comparisons of living conditions when the Moores first landed in Europe to find that the european houses had no windows, earthen floors, their sanitation was deplorable, and their education system was pretty much non-exitant, medicine was old-world, and brutal (no anethesia)…..basically they were still living in the middle ages. The Moores didn’t try to transform them to a more ‘civilized’ culture. It just happened automatically because it was obvious that the Moores had a lot to offer. running water, schools and libraries, Math (Algebra)!, and science. It feels me with great pride and joy to think that at one point maybe some European kid during these times was asking himself some of the same questions that I asked myself in primary school.

    History is most often always written by the victor. If that victor is the same (more or less) for thousands of years then you can guess how that history will look in the future. I support Afrocentrism because without it I feel I woul dbe lost and absorbed by a dominant culture that isn’t even 10% comprised of my own. That trade I cannot make.

    July 29, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    • Very well said and I guess it depends on where you are coming from and your intentions. You always have your extremists for any cause or movements that can take what was mean to be a positive and conscious thing into something that becomes perverted. We just need to find a balance!

      August 4, 2014 at 12:56 am

  2. I see your concern with how the term Afrocentrism is sometimes used to negate and/or put down the contributions of other cultures. However, I think it’s a generalization to say Afrocentrism is wrong without showing all sides of the story and explaining what is the alternative or proposing one. To me Afrocentrism, has always been a state of awareness of how people of African descent have also contributed to the world’s development so it was uncomfortable to see it thrown under the bus without a discussion of its benefits but an emphasis of what happens when it is taken the wrong way which could happen with any kind of ideology.

    November 30, 2014 at 8:24 am

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