Finding Room for African/Black-ness in Eurocentric Educational-Systems

In looking at the whole human-experience, particularly the African-American-experience, I wanted to analyze how Esperanza Spalding’s song, “Black Gold” highlights the importance of self-awareness. In many of the classes I have taken throughout childhood and while in college, I can honestly say that African/African-American history has never really settled within the textbooks I have read. Many of the textbooks that I read from are Eurocentric and Western, thus lacking the experiences of the ‘other’. In having to grasp with this reality, I am very much concerned about the education of those that will come after me. Recently, I was quizzed by a friend over Africa and I was stunned that I couldn’t give much information about this continent. However, if I was quizzed over Europe I would’ve found myself spurting out knowledge left and right. So, why am I ignorant about Africa? Yes, mother Africa. Why am I ignorant about my beginnings? My family’s beginnings? It’s been deeply engrained within me from a young-age that Blacks were enslaved individuals coming from Africa that had to contend with the colonialization of Europeans. However, what about pre-colonial Africa? Why are the lectures we so commonly hear about dealing with post-colonial Africa and the enslavement of Africans in the 19th and 20th century? I am quite upset that I have relied so heavily on the education-system to teach me about me when it is very much Eurocentric in nature.

It is quite possible that I am simply over-exaggerating on these points, but I’m not quite sure if education-systems are getting better at implementing Africa into curriculums. America is still very much racialized. There is still this sense of ‘otherness’ from those that aren’t European or Anglo-Saxon. In this ‘otherness’, we find ourselves and educators romanticizing these ‘other’ countries that aren’t Western. One place in particular that I can think of when we discuss romanticism is India. India is a country that is continuously romanticized by many educators, writers, and intellectuals. However, this romanticism can prevent the neccessary dialogue that we need to break down this caste-system in which it has created. In many of own experiences, I have felt compelled to ask my professors aloud why we aren’t learning about non-Western countries. However, I felt that my question would impose a discord that would incite debate about the West vs. the East. In speaking with one of my professors within the English-department at my university about the implementation of African literary-works, she told me that African literary-works belong within the Foreign-Language department. I was quite stunned because African-history is very much American-history, if we were honest. We cannot isolate the cultural-context(s) of groups from a larger context. Africans came from various countries prior to their enslavement and in order for us to truly talk about Africans, we need to have prior knowledge of their way(s) of life. However, the discussions that we see nowadays is very much limited. We always find ourselves debating and arguing about the right-ness and the wrong-ness of slavery, but we never bring into the picture the lifestyle(s) of these enslaved Africans. Also, this is quite troubling for many African-American youths as well. As far as I can remember, I have always learnt about the enslavement of Africans and their progression in becoming apart of the American-framework. I learnt about the stereotypes and struggles of Africans becoming apart of the social/economical/cultural climate of America. However, where is the social/economical/cultural context of Africans prior to their enslavement? Why is this often left out of the conversation in most classes that aren’t centered in a Black/African-Studies’ deparment? As long as we only look at the second-half of an individual’s plight for success/inclusion/accomplishments then you’ll never quite understand their whole experience without looking at everything.

Recently, I stumbled upon a new type of criticism called “Africana Critical Theory” and it centers on looking at the experiences of Africans and Blacks from a critical standpoint in their social/economical/cultural context while applying new rules of engagement that will look at the circumstances of Blacks/Africans in their cultural context(s). In addition, the experiences of Blacks/Africans will no longer be told from a Eurocentric-standpoint that strips away Blacks/Africans from their actual contexts and realities. In being in a Literary-Criticism class, I have found myself becoming more analytical in my readings and not just taking what I read at face-value. However, if you’re just reading something as a leisurely activity….then fine. However, I am seeking to become critical of the different ideologies and agendas that are commonly placed within the books/articles/journals/magazines that we expose ourselves too. In being able to critically-examine the things you take in you will become aware of the subliminal messages you unconsciously taking in. This is really important when we think about the media and the things that younger children are exposed to throughout their daily lives. So, I am seeking to push the boundaries and find a new center in how we talk about the history of Blacks and Africans.

In looking at the different singers, musicians, authors, writers and intellectuals-past and present, I hope to immerse myself within the richness of Black/African-ness. For a good part of my life, I have found myself drowned in Eurocentrism and have found myself very distant from my own heritage(s) and this is disturbing to me. In addition, identity is extremely important and if a person doesn’t know themselves than how can they ever experience true peace. What do a young kid do when they look in the mirror and can’t recognize themselves because the only thing they find is shattered pieces of him/herself that isn’t really he/she? In many ways, we are socialized into our being from a young age, but it comes to a point in which we have to be okay with who we have become. So, in seeking to get to that point of accepting my identity I am striving to learn about me. I am wanting to know about me before colonialism and even after colonialism, if there is such thing. I haven’t decided if its possible to be post-colonial, but we will see. I have much research to do and many years of learning to catch up on due to my own inadequacies in learning about myself.

Nonetheless, I had ran across a song called “Gold Black” by Esperanza Spalding that is fantastic. I just love this song because of the message that it sends out identity and self-awareness. I personally find this song as being one of the most empowering currently in the music-industry. Yes, the song is geared towards African-American males, but it can be applied for males and females. I do not have a problem with applying or finding richness in what is being said.

Enjoy!

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