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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Making Up For Lost Time.....Afronerd Actually Disagrees With A Kindred Spirit....A Critique Of Dr. John McWhorter's "Rethinking African-American"

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was fortunate enough to conduct an interview with the esteemed Dr. John McWhorter (of the conservative Manhattan Institute think tank) right before then Senator Obama won the presidential election. Although McWhorter is a self-described liberal/centrist, he also unabashedly possesses a conservative bent in his writings and socio-political discourse. For the most part, there is very little that I have encountered in his books and op-ed pieces that I disagree with, except on this rare occasion stemming from a recent New Republic blog entry entitled, Did "African American" History Really Happen in Atlanta, Cleveland, Philly, and Detroit? Listening to the Census. And like most issues discussed in the blogosphere, McWhorter's article was subject to further analysis, courtesy of a New York Times blog entry entitled, Rethinking African-American. Check out this snippet from the McWhorter piece, which was also flagged by the aforementioned Times blogger:

A possible objection, I imagine, is that native-born blacks are African in a “different” way than actual African immigrants–but this would be a feint rather than an argument: clearly, the proper formulation, if we are to put it on the table, is that native-born blacks are African to a much lesser extent than African immigrants. In truth, a black man from Jacksonville has more in common with a white one from Tucson than he does with a man three years out of Senegal.

And I would argue that native-born blacks are so vastly less “African” than actual Africans that calling ourselves “African American” is not only illogical but almost disrespectful to African immigrants.

I would agree in part with Dr. McWhorter's assertion that there is a definite cultural ignorance or disconnect many Black Americans have with the Dark Continent but that alone should not deter Black folk from using the term "African-American" in matters of self-identity. Keeping my argument succinct, it all boils down to paying homage to our African forefathers who endured unimaginable pain and sacrifice during their 300 plus years of bondage in the Americas. As much as I have labored over the inability of many Blacks to overcome, if not compartmentalize, the victimization mindset that has made us spiritually and/or economically impotent post segregation, one should never forget our African origins.

There has always been a great deal of controversy aimed at those who identify as a "hyphenated" American. During the mid 19th through early 20th century, a fair share of public disdain was levied against White ethnics who chose to merge their native ancestry with a new American identity. But currently, in my estimation, those who maintain their European ancestry seem to receive very little vitriol when compared to their African and Hispanic counterparts. Why is there a governor imposed on Black self-description in this day and age? Is it really about overbearing political correctness? Let's hear from our readers on this....can one be African, African-American and Black? What say you?

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