A Brand New Day
Afrocentricity is a paradigm based on the idea that African people should re-assert a sense of agency in order to achieve sanity. During the 1960s a group of African American intellectuals in the newly formed Black Studies departments at universities began to formulate novel ways of analyzing information. In some cases, these new ways were called looking at information from “a black perspective” as opposed to the prevailing “white perspective”. Afrocentricity became a response to racism and nationalism, and a reflection of the African American identity crisis. There was a period of history when the African Americans became more powerful and proactive in defining the way in which their image and identity were portrayed by the broader society. Leaders during that period galvanized the community using music and slogans. Phrases such as, “I’m black and I’m proud”, and “I am somebody,” instilled a sense of pride and purpose in the African American community. The community has paid a steep price since the onset of the civil rights and black power eras, the establishment has used legislation and fear to maintain the hegemonic relationship that has hindered the progress of African Americans.
In the 21st century, racial, ethnic, and religious conflicts remain extremely high on the list of global problems. The United States is one of the most multicultural countries, and also a country in which issues of racial relations have been acute. For a long time, governmental officials and representatives of different communities, including African American leaders, have looked for the “politically correct” strategy of intercultural communications.
The coronavirus pandemic has not only created havoc in America as a whole, but also for the black community specifically. Despite well-intended efforts by liberal and progressive movements, the black community remains at a crossroads. Still reeling from the devastating effects of this century’s Great Recession, African Americans remain in a precarious financial condition. The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. often highlighted the plight of African Americans in his crusade for civil rights. In 1967, during a speech in Harlem, he said, “If a man does not have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists.” When one considers post-secondary educational attainment, business and enterprise development, rates of divorce, single parent-headed households, and health disparities, one quickly comes to the realization that African Americans are being left behind.
Decades of segregation, discriminatory housing policies, and poor environmental protections have left many African Americans living in substandard and high-density housing developments as well as areas of higher air pollution. This facts of life have lead to higher rates of asthma and other diseases. Racial and ethnic minorities of all education levels report they are typically less well equipped than whites to handle financial setbacks. Black and Hispanic-owned small businesses have less access to traditional financial lenders, making it more difficult or impossible to access coronavirus relief programs like the now drained $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program. Similar results are expected during the second round of the program.
This is an election year, and, according to those running for office, help is on the way. There is little doubt that elected officials and neighborhood organizations will work tirelessly to alleviate the acute conditions that the pandemic has personified. It has been this writer’s experience that the cavalry will retreat once people are fed and the death tolls lessen. As a race, we can no longer wait on others to come to our rescue.
The Afrocentric paradigm is a revolutionary shift in thinking proposed as a con structural adjustment to black disorientation, de-centeredness, and lack of agency. For instance, an Afrocentric practitioner would begin with the question, “what would African people do if there were no white people?” In other words, what natural responses would occur in the relationships, attitudes toward the environment, kinship patterns, preferences for colors, type of religion, and historical reference points for Black people if there had not been any intervention of colonialism or enslavement?
That question is answered by removing Europe from the center of African American reality. Afrocentricity becomes revolutionary idea because the theory studies concepts, events, and personalities as well as the political and economic processes from a black point of view. This is not a separatist or an isolationist movement. If we as a nation, state, city, and community are ever to address the disparate conditions that history has created for us, then we must articulate the problems and suggest plausible solutions ourselves. When black people view themselves as central figures in their own history, they see themselves as agents, actors, and participants rather than as marginal pawns on the periphery of political or economic experiences.