Euro-centrism versus Afro-centrism

Euro-centrism versus Afro-centrism
Dr. Kwame Nantambu
Posted: April 15, 2002
It is totally racist to suggest that Afrocentrism "sometimes distorts facts and turns
history into 'ethnic cheerleading'" (Daley, 1990). The salient fact is that there is
absolutely no need for Afrocentrism to falsify, distort, or misrepresent world history.
Afrocentrism resents and deals with an authentic and specific culture and history - a
cultural history that did not begin in Father Europe but a human/world history that
began in Mother Africa.
Indeed, the stark reality is that Eurocentrism had to - and still continues to - falsify,
mis-represent, and distort human/world history as His-Story, His-Eurocentric-Story
in order to maintain European global dominance/hegemony.
Eurocentrism indeed represents a racist, divisive, ahistorical, and dysfunctional view
of world history. The purpose of this article is to engage in an Afrocentric geopolitical
linkage analysis of the struggle between Eurocentrism and Afrocentrism.
Eurocentrism: Historical Origins and Contemporary Manifestations Since the 15th
century, ethnocentrism, etnocentrism, and xenophobia have characterized,
fashioned, and conditioned the European attitude or mind-set toward African
peoples. As such, in the spirit of Eurocentrism, the African could not and cannot be
integrated as a social equal. Eurocentric exclusiveness and its striving for global
dominance left no place for the African except servitude and second-class citizenship.
Eurocentric ideology has refused to accept Africans on the basis of their humanity
because of the color of their skin. As a result, Eurocentric history (His-Story)
deliberately promulgated the myth that African was a "Dark Continent" replete with
cannibals, savages, and inferior, uncivilized, backward, primitive peoples, devoid of
knowledge and culture and possessing evil traits and desires.
The erudite Afrocentric historian, John Henrik Clarke (1970), however, completely
destroys this Eurocentric myth by correctly asserting that: Civilization did not start in
European countries and the rest of the world did not wait in darkness for the
Europeans to bring the light...most of the history books in the last five hundred years
have been written to glorify Europeans at the expense of other peoples....
Most Western historians have not been willing to admit that there is an African
history to be written about and that this history predates the emergence of Europe
by thousands of years. It is not possible for the world to have waited in darkness for
the Europeans to bring the light because, for most of the early history of man, the
Europeans themselves were in darkness When the light of culture came for the first
time to the people who would later call themselves Europeans, it came from Africa
and Middle Eastern Asia....
It is too often forgotten that, when the Europeans emerged and began to extend
themselves into the broader world of Africa and Asia during the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries, they would colonize world scholarship, mainly to show or imply
that Europeans were the only creators of what could be called civilization. In order to
accomplish this, the Europeans had to forget, or pretend to forget, all they previously
knew about Africa.(pp.3-4)This particularistic geopolitical mind-set has permeated European policy toward
African peoples and the African continent. This particularistic mind-set also
precipitated the European proselytizing mission to "save" those "infidel" African
peoples. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Africa was never a Dark
Continent.
The glorious history and progressive advancement/contribution of African peoples to
humanity have already been well documented to dispel the Eurocentric myth that the
continent was dark and its people uncivilized, inferior, or backward. What needs to be
emphasized here is that mere survival forced Europeans to adopt this offensive
geopolitical strategy; in other words, Europeans had to devise a reverse
psychological warfare strategy to show that indeed they were superior and Africans
inferior.
It must be understood that a paramount modus operandi of imperialism was to link
Eurocentrism "with innate qualities of excellence in intelligence, beauty and the right
to rule other races. Its reverse effect on the African was to degrade his color and the
physical subordination that had been imposed by force came to be associated with
the (African's) innate qualities" (Magubane, 1989, p.33).
This goal was achieved through miseducation of the African and the falsification of
his history. As Kwame Ture (1975) once warned: "If you don't know who you are,
you would not know what your interests are." A people without a sense of history are
ill-equipped to visualize and plan a future because of an unclear and
distorted/miseducated picture of their past.
A people without a sense of history are ill-equipped to visualize and plan a future
because of an unclear and distorted/miseducated picture of their past. A people
without the knowledge of "having done" will have grave difficulty acknowledging the
motivation of "can do". Or as the slain Pan-African nationalist Malcolm X(1963) put it
in a speech delivered Novmber 10, 1963, in Detroit, The Black man has no selfconfidence;
he has no confidence in his own race because the white man(European)
destroyed you and my past; he destroyed you and my past; he destroyed our
knowledge of our culture and by having destroyed it, now we don't know of any
achievement, any accomplishment and as long as you can be convinced that you
never did anything, you can never do anything.
Hence, the vital necessity is for African people to use the weapons of education and
history to extricate themselves from this psychological dependency
complex/syndrome as a necessary precondition for liberation. Let us be reminded
that Mark Twain once said that when a country enslaves a people, the first necessity
is to make the world feel that the people enslaved are subhuman.
The next effort is to make his fellow countrymen believe that the enslaved man is
inferior; and then, worst of all, to make that man believe himself inferior (Magubane,
1989). European hegemony attempted this in various forms, principally through
religion and Eurocentric global miseducation and then by economic, military, political,
and psychocultural imperialistic means.
By denigrating and devaluating African culture and civilizations, Europeans attempted
to rape/strip African peoples of their oneness, their Africanity, their humanity.
However, Europeans have not been totally successful in doing so because of the
potency, continuity, and adaptability of the African personality.
Indeed, historiography shows that African peoples are the only people to resist all 15
European powers at the same time-during the scramble/partitioning of African,
November 1884-February 1885-and to emerge with their culture wounded but not
dead, their political systems developed and their economics ravaged and engulfed in
powerlessness and dependent underdevelopment. In the 1920's, the dominant
European power, the United States, brandished the geopolitical Eurocentric sword
designed "to make the world safe for democracy" a la Pax Americana.
Contemporary Eurocentric geopolitics told us that only Soviet communism was bent
on global domination and expansionism, but American imperialism is not. It is
benevolent. Eurocentrism further pontificates that Africans must always judge
themselves using the European as their standard, model, or norm. It is here that
Afrocentrism and the Africa-centered curriculum must be potent, ubiquitous,
countervailing force not only so that African peoples must see themselves through
the lens of the dawn of human/world history, but also more importantly, so that they
extricate themselves from this vicious, divisive, and deleterious Eurocentric
psychological dependency complex. This is precisely why some prominent Eurocentric
historians and educators are rebelling against Afrocentrism, the Africa-centered
curriculum, and the curriculum of inclusion.
Afrocentrism is the plaintiff in an intellectual class action suit filed against
Eurocentrism, the Euro-American power structure, the Eurocentric world view and
the curriculum of exclusion, just at the "new world order" represents a declaration of
war against African peoples. The defendants, Eurocentric historians and educators
stand accused of 500 years of distortion, falsification, and misrepresentation of the
historical truth, with the sole purpose to ossify, defend, and perpetuate the Big Lie of
European supremacy, invincibility, and originality coterminous with the Big Lie of
African inferiority and nothingness.
It must also be borne in mind that cultural diversity, multiculturalism, Eurocentrism,
and cultural pluralism are all four sides of the same European hegemonic coin. On
the one hand, cultural diversity represents the geopolitical racist reality of the new
world order, whereas multiculturalism and cultural pluralism are not only a
hierarchical system with Europe at the top but also a contemporary manifestation of
that 15th-century Eurocentric, ethnocentric, etnocentric, and xenophobic
subconscious mind-set.
The insidious aspect of multiculturalism is that it represents diffusion and exclusion,
not inclusion. As a riposte, Afrocentrism demands that the African culture must be
treated as original, unique, and distinct. It does not need a European connection,
legitimization, and imprimatur to make it legitimate. It must also be clear that
Afrocentrism is not a stepping stone to multicultrualism. In fact, the reverse is true.
Multiculturalism is indeed a stepping stone to Afrocentrism, because of the historical
truism that the African culture is the original culture from which all other cultures are
derived. Furthermore, within the context of Afrocentrism, we do not speak of cultural
diversity but cultural specificity.
The bottom line is that Europeans still want to control the minds and actions of
African peoples so that they can perpetuate, maintain and ossify their global
dominance and power position. This is the crux of the issue, because if African
peoples (the global majority) were to become Afrocnetric (Afrocentricized), if they
were to control their actions and mind-sets and begin to act independently as a
global, united, and powerful majority with an Africa-centered subconscious mind-set,
then that would spell the ineluctable end of European global power and dominance.
This indeed is the fear of Europeans. Europeans, a global minority, do not want to
lose their global power position; hence their insecure status makes them scared
whenever they hear the footsteps of Afrocentrism or people demanding an Africacentered
curriculum.
Europeans do not want African peoples to see, evaluate, and judge themselves from
their own authentic, original, Africa-centered perspective and context. However,
through the process of Afrocentrism, African peoples must go back to the dawn of
human history in order to de-Europeanize/detoxify/demystify/de-brainwash their
subconscious mind-set of this invisible drug called Eurocentric mis-education
(Eurocentrism), so that as they approach the 21st century, they can look Europeans
straight in the eye as equals because they are now armed with the correct
knowledge, information, and interpretation of the rich, glorious, and dynastical
history, scientific inventions, humane-communal modus vivendi, and
unprecedented/unmatched intellectual acumen of their African ancestors.
The African dynastical/ancestral history is the bedrock or spinal cord upon which
African peoples must build their contemporary and future Pan-African nationalist
challenge to European nationalism. As an African class of people, we must face the
stark reality, and the only way to do so is to go through the program/process of
Afrocentrification. Afrocentrism is an inside job.
African peoples have to detoxify their subconscious mind of the Eurocentrism
garbage (mis-education) that has been dumped/injected in it over the past 500
years. They must stop thinking of themselves, and stop acting, as a global minority
peoples.
It is precisely because Eurocentric mis-education (Eurocentrism) has imbued African
peoples with this global minority, subconscious mind-set that they are disunited,
powerless, mindless, self-destructive, homeless, myopic, and ancestorless. After
their minds have been detoxified through the process/program of Afrocentrism, then
their newly acquired internal subconscious sobriety/spiritualism will fill that void so
that they will now begin to love each other, respect each other, save each other, and
in the process, save themselves. As a result of Eurocentric global mis-education, we
have been brainwashed, misdirected, and dislocated; ergo, the primary function of
Afrocentrism is to relocate our subconscious mind-set to its original locus/reference
point, Mother Africa.
However, as a vital first step, we must clearly understand what Afro-centrism is.
What Afrocentrism Is Not First of all, let me state quite unequivocally what
Afrocentrism is not. Africa is not "reversed Eurocentricity"; it is not "anti-White"; it is
not the opposite to Eurocentrism, it is not a "new" form of racism; it is not
comparable with Eurocentrism; it is not a concept or movement to make African
peoples feel good; it is not "an offspring of the separationist Black nationalist and
Black Power movements of the 1960s and the 1970s"
(Nicholson, 1990, p. B1); it is not "systematic propagation of fantasy history and
bizarre theories," nor is it based "around a coherent and powerful central myth of
stolen black glory and the unjust ascendance implacably hostile whites"
(Leo, 1990, p. 25); it is not "a dangerous step toward the tribalization of our society
and the making of our schools into educational Bantustans"
(Nicholson, 1990, p. B4); it is not based on "educated guesswork ans sensible
conjectures"
(Lefkowitz, 1992a, p. 30); and it is not "particular multiculturalism . . . an
ethnocentric curriculum to raise the self-esteem an dacademic achievement of
children from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds"
(Ravitch, 1990, p. 340), nor does it pose "a threat to the rationalist tradition"
(Lefkowitz, 1992b, p. A52); nor is it supported and defended by "Black Damagogues
and Pseudo-Scholars" who want "to turn the wellspring of memory into a renewable
resource of enmity everlasting"
(Gates, 1992, p. A11). Afrocentrism: Definition, Purpose, and Function Now, what is
Afrocentrism? According to Molefi Kete Asante (1991), Afrocentrism/Afrocentricity "is
a frame of reference wherein phenomena are viewed from the perspective of the
African person" (p. 172).
I wish to suggest that Afrocentricity is a state of mind, a particular subconscious
mind-set that is rooted in the African ancestral heritage and communal value system.
It represents the Africanness of a people, positing the human being as the
centrality/totalness of all existence as opposed to Eurocentrism, which posits political
power and crass materialism as the centrality/totalness of all existence. The human
factor/element is not central. Afrocentrism postulates that African peoples are the
subject of world history/culture/civilization and not the object of His-Eurocentric-
Story. It is based on the historical reality that Africans are the original, global
majority peoples, whereas Europeans are the inherited, transmitting, global minority
people. It proves that Europeans did not create science, mathematics, philosophy,
agriculture, religion, and so on, but indeed imitated the African originals.
Afrocentrism pontificates that Eurocentrism has committed the sin of
educational/psychocultural incest on African peoples; ergo, African peoples are now
culturally comatose and brain-dead, brain-damaged. More specifically, Afrocentrism
seeks to cure African peoples of the deadly disease Afro-sclerosis, which
Eurocentrism has inflicted on them over the past 500 years. It teaches that the blood
that unites African peoples is thicker than the disparate water and culture that
separate and divide them. It also teaches that African nationality is an accident of
birth based on disparate European geographic dipsersion, but African originality is
based on the reality and authenticity of Mother Africa, and that is no accident.
Afrocentrism not only trains but also equips African peoples with the necssary tools
and research methodology to engage in critical thinking and analysis of themselves,
their history, and their future from their perspective and reference point. Through the
process of Afrocentrism or Afrocentrification, African peoples would be imbued with a
positive, subconcious sense of self-confidence and self-empowerment and thus be
fully equipped to eliminate and permanently eradicate the mental paralysis, induced
collective historical-cultural amnesia, collective lobotomy, and psychological genocide
Eurocentrism has imposed upon them.
Afrocentrism proves that we are the ancestors of European. In fact, true
historiography states quite clearly that for the first 110,000 years of human/world
history, only African peoples inhabited this planet. No European existed. Yet,
Eurocentrism has the racist arrogance to state that during those 100,000 years
"those" people (Africans) did nothing, created nothing, and contributed nothing to
world civilization. Nothing could be further from the truth. And that's why
Afrocentrism corrctly proves that the Europe of today is a progressive
replica/derivative/mutation of the Africa of yesterday-the dawn of human existence,
world history.
True historiography, which is the bedrock of Afrocentrism, also postulates that it took
Europeans about 20,000 years to be metamorphosed from the original, advanced
global majority African people to the contemporary global minority European people.
In sum, Afrocentrism represents the most potent challenge to the European power
structure (European nationalism) in the past 100 years. Europeans are scared to
death that cyclical historical reality dictates thawt their time is up-the demise of the
Eurocentric worldview and modus vivendi is at hand.
Hence, slogans such as cultural diversity, multiculturalism, Eurocentrism, and cultural
pluralism (which are mere cultural throwbacks of the 1960s integration slogan) are
just survival techniques by the global minority. And at times, these survival actions
have taken on military manifestations against the global majority. The Eurocentric
mindset is to resort to any and all necessary means for survival. European survival is
the name of the game. Nature of the Struggle.
In 1903, the historian W.E.B. DuBois made the salient but apocalyptic statement that
the "problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line." I am suggesting
that the problem of the 21st century is the problem of nationalism.
In other words, what we have is the reality of two contending, opposing, but
mutually exclusive forces. Ergo, the nature of the struggle is as follows:
At the national level Cultural diversity Africa-centered curriculum Eurocentrism
Vs.Curriculum of inclusion Multicuturalism Afrocentricity Cultural pluralism
Afrocentrism.
At the international level Eurocentric global miseducation Afrocentric global reeduction/
Afrocentrification Eurocentric Worldview Vs. Afrocentric worldview
European nationalism/ Pan-African nationalism New World Order/"Europe
1992"/"Fortress Europe 1992"
In this geopolitical scenario, the major problem is the inablitiy or arrogant resistance
on the part of the Europeans (descendants of the slave master) to treat, accept, and
respect the descendant of the former African slaves as equal, full-fledged human
beings.
As the historian John Henrik Clarke surmised in a 1988 interview on "For the People"
(SHMM-TV, Washington, D.C.), The major problem facing the European of the future
(21st century)...is that the European will ask himself, how will I walk this earth in
peace and security when I am no longer its master?
The European assumes that he cannot walk the earth in peace and security unless he
is the master of all of it; unless he is the master of its mineral wealth, master of its
land, and master of its people and their minds. This is the nature of the struggle
between Eurocentrism and Afrocentrism, African peoples, through their intellectual
class action suit (Afrocentrism), are determined to take their minds, to rescue their
minds form the suzerainty of Eurocentric, mideducated control.
Afrocentrism is the most potent weapon in the armory of African peoples in this
struggle. Furthermore, according to Joseph Lattimore (1992), "Being black in
America is like being forced to wear ill-fitting shoes. Some people adjust to it. It's
always uncomfortable on your foot, but you've got to wear it because it's the only
shoe you've got" (p. A13).
This is the invisible message/dictum behind Eurocentrism. On the other hand, the
visible message/dictum behind Afrocentrism is to tell African peoples that Eurocentric
miseducation/Eurocentrism is not "the only shoe you've got." The Africa-centered
curriculum Afrocentric global reeducation is the alternative shoe they've got now.
Footnotes
Asanti, M. K. (1991). The Afrocentric idea in education. Journal of Negro Education. 60, 170-179
Asanti, M.K. (1980). Afrocentricity: Tje theory of social change. Buffalo,NY:Amulefei.
Asante, M.K. (1987). The Afrocentric idea. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Clark, H.J (1970). Introduction. In J.G. Jackson, Introduction to African civilization. New Jersey: The Citadel
Press.
Clayton, C.W. (1992, April 8). Politics and liberal education. The chronicle of Higher Education, pp.B1-B2
D'Souza, D. (1991, March). Illiberal education. The Atlantic Monthly, pp.51-79.
Daley, S. (1990, October 10). Black history efforts criticized as "cheerleading." Akron Beacon Journal, p. A11.
Ellis, J.M. (1992, January 15). The origins of PC. The Chronicle of HigherEducation, pp. B1-B2.
Gates, L.H. (1992, July 20). Black demagogues and pseudo-scholars. New York Times, p.A11.
Hoskins, L.A. (1991).Afrocentrism vs. Eurocentrism: The nationaldebate-Proceedings of the A public Policy
Forum. Institute for African-American Affairs, Kent State University.
Hoskins, L.A. (1992). Decoding European geopolitics: Afrocentric perspectives. New York: Kayode.
Joseph G.G.,Reddy, V.,& Searle-Chatterjee,M. (1990). Eurocentrism in the social sciences. Race & Class, 31,1-26.
Lattimore, J. (1992,July 12). We are already crazy. The News Tribune, pp.A1-A13.
Lefkowitz, M. (1992b, May 6). Point of View. The Chronicle of Higher Education, P. A52.
Leo, J. (1990, November 12). On society: A fringe history of the world. U.S. News & World Report, pp.25-26.
Magubane, B.M. (1989). The ties that bind: African American consciousness of Africa. New Jersey: Africa World
Press.
Nicholson, D. (1990, September 23). Afrocentrism and the tribalization of America. The Washinton Post, pp. B1-
B4.
Ravitch, D. (1990 Summer). Multiculturalism: E pluribus plures. The American Scholar, pp. 337-354.
Rodriguez, R. (1992, March 26). Ethnic studies: Precursor to the multicultural debate. Black Issues in Higher
Education, pp. 9, 14-16.
Ture, K. (1975, February 13). Education is a weapon. Lecture given at Howard University.
Walters, R.W. (1990). The Afrocentricity concept at Howard University: A viewpoint. New Directions, 17, 6-9.
Weiner, A.B. (1992, July 22). Anthropology's lessons for cultural diversity. The Chronicle of Higher Education, pp.
B1-B2. Shem Hotep
Dr. Nantambu is an Associate Professor, Dept. of Pan-African Studies, Kent State
University, U.S.A. a Public Policy versus Human Needs

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