Molefi Kete Asante, THE AFROCENTRIC IDEA (Temple University Press, 1987)
Subject: Review of Molefe Asante (Long)
Subject: Re: Review of Molefe Asante (Drumm)
Subject: Review: "The Afrocentric Idea."
Subject: Review:Asante, The Afrocentric Idea (Niziolek)
Subject: Re: Resonse:Asante, The Afrocentric Idea (Almli) (fwd)
Subject: REVIEW: THE AFROCENTRIC IDEA (Phelan)
Subject: Re: REVIEW: THE AFROCENTRIC IDEA (Phelan)
Subject: REVIEW: Molefi Kete Asante (Knepper)
From: "Laura Long" Subject: Review of Molefe Asante (Long)
Review of Molefe Asante, THE AFROCENTRIC IDEA Reviewed by Laura Long, firstname.lastname@example.org Illinois State University 3/25/94 The watchword of the 1990s seems to be diversity. Multiculturalism is touted as being the best way to ensure that diversity by accepting all cultures as equally valid. In the United States, multiculturalism is a reaction to centuries of white dominance in which the cultures and histories of the non-European world were either belittled or ignored. In THE AFROCENTRIC IDEA, Molefi Kete Asante rightly criticizes our society, which has valued people by their whiteness and has assumed that it has sole possession of truth and righteousness. Americans tend to think their culture is the best in every situation and cannot understand when other cultures resist American attempts to make them more like the United States. This ignorance or misunderstanding of other cultures also gets the United States into trouble in international conflicts, as in Somalia, where the U.S. went in without a clear understanding of the cultural forces at work. But Asante does not stop at just explaining African culture and putting it on a level with European culture; he leaves the fold of multiculturalism to glorify African culture and to roundly criticize European culture. Asante contrasts a euro-linear view which seeks to predict and control other cultures with an afro- circular view which seeks to interpret and understand. He puts forward and seems to sympathize with Leonard Jeffries' hypothesis that geography determines culture and that while non-white "sun people" are relaxed and community-oriented, the caveman mentality of white "ice people" induces them to draw boundaries, establish patriarchy, and introduce individual and clan mentality. (p. 62) While not overtly supporting this theory, Asante views it as an authentic expression of African thought and would say that any attempt to force a choice between his and Jeffries' opinions is part of a harmful Eurocentric rational duality. This refusal to condemn Jeffries' ideas exemplifies Asante's biggest problem, one shared by all multiculturalists, that tolerance for and equality of the ideas they promote are not always tenets of the very cultures and epistemologies they are promoting. How can one accept the non-Western cultures which are themselves intolerant? Further, some practices and beliefs are difficult to tolerate, for instance that of female circumcision or Jeffries' ethnocentrism. Nonjudgmental acceptance of all cultures sounds good but can get sticky when it means abandoning concepts like racial equality or basic human rights. But Asante does not feel bound by the constraints of a tolerant multiculturalism when it comes to European culture. He has no qualms about criticizing European culture's emphasis on rationalism and logic. However, Asante only sits in judgment on European culture, ignoring the shortcomings of other cultures, epistemologies, and ideas. In his zeal to promote the legitimacy and supremacy of African epistemology, Asante has blinded himself to holes in Jeffries' theory. For instance, the "clan warfare" of ice people is not limited to Europeans. Asante conveniently forgets the clan warfare ravaging much of Africa even now, warfare which although exacerbated by European-drawn national borders, existed long before whites colonized Africa. Geography has had declining influence in cultural determinism through history. As people gain more control over their environment and are influenced by a globalized mass media, the immediate environment is becoming less and less important to culture. And neither the culture within Africa nor within Europe approaches uniformity, so to group, say, West Africans with Egyptians culturally is misleading. In his quest to prove African epistemology's superiority, Asante is just replacing one set of dangerous and ignorant generalities with another. At times, Asante himself cannot seem to escape from the Eurocentrism he decries. "The 'glory that was Greece' and 'the grandeur that was Rome' . . . so handicapped the northern and western European thinkers that they could not see that Greece and Rome had more in common with Africa than, say, Scandinavia." (p. 33-34) Despite his complaints of the West's classical tradition, Asante emphasizes Africa's links with Greece and Rome. Even in judging and comparing European and African epistemologies, Asante is using the Western rational dualism he so despises. Some of the differences Asante points out between African and Western epistemology are not all that convincing. He asserts that in African thought "whatever a speaker does with a word is a fact unto itself, apart from any reality the word has separate from the particular speaker." (p. 49) This statement sounds similar to a very Western thinker, Lewis Carroll (who himself was a renowned logician and mathematician), who had one of his characters say, "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less." Asante also mentions African Americans' extended family philosophy and assistance to the needy in churches as part of the African tradition. But extended families were much the norm in European societies up until the Industrial Revolution, and the concept of charity is also shared by the West. While significant differences do exist between African and European cultures, Asante's examples fall far short of the most convincing that could have been cited. For Asante, Afrocentrism means putting Africa at the center of one's being, "the total use of method to affect psychological, political, social, cultural, and economic change." (125) He would like African culture to be taught to African Americans in school both to build their self-esteem and to help them succeed in school by teaching in the way their culture teaches them to think. But self-esteem comes not from knowledge of one's race's history but from personal achievement, and Asante's complete rejection of Western reason and science is not likely to contribute to individual success. Further, the link between African Americans and African culture is tenuous. While Asante claims that "Africa is at the heart of all African American behavior," (48) he all but ignores the effect of over two hundred years of African American existence in the largely Western society of the United States. Although Americans of African descent were not as completely assimilated into the dominant culture as other ethnicities because African Americans were excluded from many aspects of the larger society, they have integrated many Western tenets into their culture. In fact, African Americans have often comprised the most conservative sector of American society on social issues in part because they have had to do so to survive. As members of a vulnerable group, they had to be that much more patriotic and religious to avoid incurring the majority's wrath. Asante also downplays the influence of Christianity, a Western tradition, on African Americans, despite admitting that Moses is a powerful character in African American culture and that "messianism has no tradition in Africa; it became for the African in America, enslaved and abused, the one tenet of an apocalyptic Judaic-Platonic heritage that immediately made sense." (127) Asante cites Marcus Garvey's Back-To-Africa as evidence of the continuing link between African Americans and Africa. "Those who preached the rhetoric of return were fundamentally celebrating the survival of an African sensibility in the African American." (145) But many of the African Americans who supported the movement may have been running FROM the oppression they faced in the United States rather than running TO a continent and culture of which they possibly knew very little. Further, the very failure of the movement cannot be explained solely by lack of funds or white resistance. In the end African Americans have almost always refused to surrender their claim to Americanness, preferring to fight for recognition rather than to deny their ties to the United States. Even today, African Americans travel to Africa and are made conscious of their Americanness, just as many white Americans travel to Europe to discover the same thing. Asante is correct in his assertion that more than one perspective is necessary in education and society. No one culture has cornered the market on truth. But African, Asian, European, and other cultures should be taught to all children, regardless of race or upbringing, to allow them to recognize the similarities which bind all humans and that differences can be exciting rather than threatening. In such a manner, we can have more empathy for those different from us and can integrate the best of other cultures into our own. Asante's overzealousness in promoting African culture is understandable after centuries of white American disdain and denial, but it is not acceptable because it promotes African culture to the denigration of other cultures.
From: "Kevin Drumm"
Subject: Re: Review of Molefe Asante (Drumm)
There is no doubt that the society which bleached my Italian heritage to an extent that my 1st-generation Italian mother would not even THINK of marrying an Italian man 45 years ago is clearly a society which which needed conscious pressure to transform. However, thanks to the movements started in the 50s and 60s, I believe that attitudinal transformation has taken place by and large and authors like Asante are, for the most part, preaching to the choir. I deeply regret that my mother's family was inclined to remove themselves from the "Little Italy" in their town and move into the more integrated neighborhood with the Irish, the Jews, and yes, even the Protestants :-). My father is Protestant, and my mother, being the youngest of 6 in her family, was the only one of the five 1st-generation daughters of Tony Rossi who did not marry an Irish Catholic. She and my father were something of a mixed marriage in those days and we 2nd generation children grew up in a tug-o'-war of cultures where Catholics were in the extreme minority (my father converted and his father did not attend the wedding, in protest). As a white male with European descendants, I regret and resent having half of my heritage stripped from me by a dominant culture. For this reason and others I admire African Americans and Native Americans who have worked hard, intentionally or unintentionally, to preserve as much of their cultural heritage as possible. I support the overall social and political effort and I know few who do not (my entire family and their friends are blue collar as are my wife's. My wife and I are the only white collar types in our families, so we walk extensively in both worlds). Asante's notion that family and community mean more to African Americans is lost on me. Family is one of the values which is very strong in our family (and may be one factor leading to why Asante chooses to associate Africans with Romans). Family is a strong value for most Italians and "community" is still a strong value for those fortunate enough to have held on to more of their Italian Heritage by remaining in Italian communities scattered throughout the country. What has happened is that societal systems and institutions have not adapted to the uniqueness of supporting African-Americans and others. It is those systems which need to be adjusted in my belief and targeting individuals here and there with PC rules or righteous feedback will only peck away at the symptoms of our system's disease. Approaches such as cultural sensitivity training and affirmative action are but aspirins in the fight against cancer. We can dull the pain slightly, but we will not cure or slow the disease. (I do not advocate dropping such programs. Aspirin is still a miracle drug. But I do advocate casting our net wider.) Single mothers and their children need good health care. Uneducated parents need free education. Disadvantaged children need access to the best schools we have. Colleges need support programs for disadvantaged students. Displaced workers need retraining and reeducating. These are the areas where we need to focus our attention. Simply because a minority of members of the dominant culture are racist, I do not believe that warrants an indictment of the entire Euro-American culture. Now, this may not be happening, but it sure seems like it to me. I am ashamed to be a white European male. Many African-American, Hispanic-American and Anything-American males feel the same way. I don't think that is what reformists had in mind when they began the movement in the 60s, but it's what we've got. We have a society which denigrates itself and therefore will not be able to elevate any subgroup until we try to lift the entire group by celebrating all our strengths rather than focusing on individual weaknesses and shortcomings. I believe the social reform movement started in the 60s has substantially succeeded to transform the dominant values of the dominant culture but we haven't opened our eyes to see it. Our systems lag behind for sure, but as a new generation of late baby boomers moves into leadership roles we will begin to see MAJOR change in our systems as well. Who would have believed we would have an African-American and two women (and even an Italian :-) on the Supreme Court today...? Who would have believed that Carol Mosely Braun would challenge some of the most powerful members of Congress and prevail during the first weeks of her term...? Who would have believed that Israel and the Palestinians would finally talk face-to-face...? Who would have believed that a white man would by now be a minority in Miami and that the city would be as orderly as it is today...? I believe we have got to change our language of blame to a language of encouragement for what is working and widespread emulation of what is working. Integrated and nonintegrated schools are working in isolation. Integrated cities are working in isolation in the Southeast and Southwest. The arguments of blame are old and easy! The arguments of encouragement are new and challenging! But it is this latter challenge we must take up so that African Americans can remain justifiably proud of their accomplishments, Hispanics of theirs and this little Italian boy and his sisters of theirs. Right now, I don't think anybody does... We just blame! Blame! Blame! When we should be celebrating our successes and sharing them. I apologize for the rambling, but I'm on this kick to positivise language--not to overlook that which continues to need attention, as some might claim. The current penchant to call 20-somethings "Generation X" is a prime example of our negativism. How about the "generation with more potential than any in history"...? The "Proud Generation!" "The Fix-it Generation!" "The successful Generation!" Any bets that changing our language will begin to change the hopes and dreams of the 20-somethings...? My niece came home with her African-American boyfriend over Christmas. Hardly anyone noticed and no one commented. That's a far cry from what my mother and father had to endure in the very same community 45 years ago. (Your course has been a wonderful experience. I will be sad to see it come to an end.) Cheers, KD -------------------------------------------------------------- Kevin Drumm, Dir/Title III 3301 College Ave. NOVA Southeastern University Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33314 drummk@Polaris.NOVA.edu 305-424-5758 -------------------------------------------------------------- "Don't ever let school get in the way of your education." Samuel Langhorne Clemens
From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Review: "The Afrocentric Idea."
Michael Monardo POS 334 Review: "Afrocentric Idea" by Molefi Kete Asante Today, many people can identify with the term "Afrocentrism." However, few people know what this term entails or what makes up the Afrocentric viewpoint. According to Asante, Afrocentrism has been incorrectly connotated and studied from a Eurocentric perspective. To be Eurocentric is to possess a desire for the material things in life and the struggle that goes along with obtaining such things. In addition, to be Eurocentric is to be focused around individual upward mobility and success. Asante argues that the concept of Afrocentrism cannot be fully understood from such a perspective. His first major focus is on the way in which society is viewed from both the Eurocentric and Afrocentric perspectives. Eurocentrists, he argues, tend to take a linear view toward society with regard to its changes and advances. The Euro-linear view is based upon the ability to predict change and then to control it through the constructs of a given ideology or set of guidelines. On the other hand, the Afrocentric view is circular in nature--relying on the ability to interpret societal change and then to understand it. To illustrate this more clearly, Asante makes note of the distinctions between the Western Eurocentric orators and Afrocentric orators. He states that when it comes to the discourse of Afrocentric language, whether written or spoken, many in the Western world commonly misconstrue its true meaning. In turn, many people find themselves unfamiliar with the culture and style of Afrocentric ideology. While the Eurocentric orator's discourse is based upon a stimulus-response relationship he or she has with a given audience, the Afrocentric orator's discourse is primarily concerned with rhetoric and structure meaning that the words, spoken or written are not necessarily meant to stimulate, but to educate and promote harmony among the masses. This is perhaps why most white leaders emerge from professional backgrounds and most black leaders ascend from behind the pulpit or podeum. Asante moves on to recognize this sense of harmony along with tradition as keys to Afrocentric ideology in that they stress the plight of the community rather than the individual. For example, the use of nicknames which are in direct relation to a person's distinctive characteristics or personality traits (i.e. "Slo-Mo", "Toothless Terence") has been a cultural universal in many African sub-cultures although most of the African-American nicknames have no religious or super-natural spiritualistic connotations. with regard to harmony, Asante notes that without the presence of some form of unity within and among African cultures, there would be no Afrocentrism. In summation, the first section of the book places emphasis on communication as being the singlemost important factor in defining the Afrocentric idea. Verbal, written, and symbolic messages are what comprises this communication; its universalities are what gives meaning to Afrocentrism. The second portion of the book attempts to analyze the African-American community according to this theory of Afrocentrism. Asante finds that the direction of African-American communication, although harmonious in nature, is different from the communication of other African cultures in that the myths generated by African-Americans through this system of communication are often used to serve as appeasement for the hardships they have experienced while in this country. This can best be reflected in the discourse of prominent African American orators such as Malcom X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Jesse Jackson, and Louis Farrakhan who, while the content of their messages may have been different, pushed for some sense of justification for this oppression and discrimination. Because of slavery and the civil rights movement and the communication that was related to both, African-Americans began to develop a rhetoric geared more toward resistance than harmony. The language of African-Americans was filled with rebellion not only towards whites, but toward any race that seen as a threat to their existence. As a result of this resistance, African-American culture began to develop its own system of communication. Symbols took on different meanings and the written and spoken words of leaders began to appeal to the conflicts at hand. Both unity and harmony also took on different meanings in that they moved away from the notion of living and interacting with "nature" and became catch-phrases of black salvation. It became a mission for the African-American community to achieve this salvation through expression. The third and final section of the book focuses on the search for an Afrocentric methodology and how it can be utilized to study African culture and discourse. To Asante, Afrocentrism serves as the means by which harmony can be achieved. It is not a methodology which is ethno-centric, but one that entails an unbiased world view of African culture. This world view, Asante argues, is what should serve as the driving force for Black Studies programs at colleges and universities which he sees as increasingly becoming Euro-centric in their methods of teaching. In his conclusion, Asante pushes for the transcendence of Afrocentric ideology into today's society. It is one thing to recognize and identify with Afrocentrism, and another to practice it in life. There must be an emphasis on aesthetic expression not only through oration but through music and art as well if the message of Afrocentrism is to be sent and understood. To summarize, Asante argues that to view the concept of Afrocentrism from Euro-centric eyes is a misleading interpretation. There is much more to the culture and tradition of Afrocentric ideology than can be properly noted from a Western perspective. Secondly, he argues that there are distinctions which set apart the Afrocentrism from Euro-centric ideology. These distinctions can be found in oration, music, and art--three of the most important factors contributing to the Afrocentric discourse and rhetoric. Finally, he argues that this discourse is centered around and controlled by the community and not by the individual. I believe that Asante is correct in his arguements. Coming from the Western world, it is common for us to be ethnocentric when comparing other cultures and societies. To say that are society is overly Euro-centric is also true. Our ideologies and goals are focused on individual aspirations and achievements. We have niether the time or the sympathy to concern ourselves with the faults of society. One must understand that in a world of such diversity, there is no room for microcosmic thought. Because of this, we tend to be stereotypical of other cultures. Michael Monardo MJMONAR@ACADCOMP.CMP.ILSTU.EDU
From: Sarah Elizabeth Niziolek
Subject: Review:Asante, The Afrocentric Idea (Niziolek)
Asante, Molefi Kete. THE AFROCENTRIC IDEA. Temple University Press, 1987 Reviewed by, Sarah Niziolek Afrocentricity is the placing of "African ideals at the center of any analysis that involves African culture." It is a way for African Americans, according to Asante, to get in touch with Africa. In order for African Americans to feel a sense of racial pride and to have a good self-esteem about themselves. When the slaves were shipped to the United States they were full of language and culture. But once they arrived the slave owners tried to strip them of these things. For many, many centuries the world has been dominated by the Eurocentric way of looking at the world. Asante sees the Western outlook as Euro-linear in that it seeks to predict and control, the Afrocentric thinker takes the Afro-circular viewpoint, seeking to interpret and understand. The basis for these two different human objectives comes simply from different historical and cultural experiences. The Eurocentric way of thinking doesn't allow for other viewpoints. According to Asante, "In the West and elsewhere, the European has propounded an exclusive view of reality that creates a fundamental human crisis." This is a materialistic view of reality which has its roots in ancient Greek philosophy beginning with Aristotle and the belief in a mind-body separation. While Eurocentric thought tends to be rational, Afrocentric thought is more romantic. An example of this can even be seen in the difference in legal systems. Western law is mainly a hostile legal system where law, juridical logic and grammar come together and molest the original idea of a just and fair society. Asante is implying that an African American does not receive fair treatment in this system. Suggesting that the only solution is a revolution. The Afrocentric idea of law is to restore harmony to the community. There is a contradiction here when Asante discusses art. When discussing the law Asante show the Eurocentric as rational and the Afrocentric as romantic. But in the discussion of art there is a dramatic switch. Asante points out that Westerners make art for the sake of art. They simply want to enjoy the creation. African art on the other hand, always serves a function. When art is created it needs to be understood for its purpose. This also seem to contradict that Eurocentrics are materialists while Afrocentrics seek to understand through a more personable approach. At the heart of all the problems between Afrocentrics and Eurocentrics is language. Even though white Americans and African Americans speak the same formal language they speak in separate discourse traditions, this makes real communication and understanding impossible. When African American's approach language it is principally lyrical, this is their basic poetic and narrative response to reality. It is obvious to see this lyrical rhythm in a black preacher but it is also seen in others. African Americans approach discourse as an art form where the art is the enticement of the audience. The use of rhythm and style are two very important concepts in this reguard. According to Asante, rhythm in spoken discourse is a basic measure of the successful speech. Knowing what words to accent and when to pause are very important in discourse. The general flow of words is a basic part of African American communication. Styling is "the conscious or unconscious manipulation of language or mannerisms to influence favorably the hearers of a message." Specifically styling refers to visual or audio symbols, such as when Martin Luther King Jr. would touch the small upper pocket on his coat. When Eurocentrics talk of discourse they concern themselves with it content, caring only for the message being sent. Asante argues that Afrocentric ideals of discourse have been judged in this way. It is these differing styles of discourse that make communication and understanding impossible. There are many problems that can be seen with Asante's arguments. The first of which is his assumption in only one common African culture. Asante talks of the slaves arrival to America and their loss of language and culture but he makes no mention that the slaves where coming from different areas of Africa. Africa is a continent made up of many different countries all with their own cultures. Some (most likely most) having many different cultures. How can Afrocentric ideas be based on a single African culture then? At one point Asante tries to show simularties between Egyptian and Nsibidi language but that still does not count for the numerous others. Another problem Asante has is the idea of Afrocentrics as a way to build self-esteem. While learning about ones ancestrial culture and history can bring a sense of pride we live in a Eurocentric world as Asante points out. These African American children are growing up in America, in order for them to survive here they need to learn how everyone else does things. Perhaps by taking a few Afrocentric based classes there can be a compromise but to send African American children to a separate school is just another form of segregation. Finally, Asante's entire argument against a narrow minded outlook is narrow minded itself. While he does look at both views he only gives negative examples of Eurocentrics. He is not looking for a blending of these two views, rather he wants Eurocentric ideas to be taken over by Afrocentric ideas. He argues that because Afrocentric thought is circular it is superior to Eurocentric thought. Is this anyway to win an argument? (I'm better than you are so there?!?) All in all I found this book very difficult to understand, perhaps its because I'm a Eurocentric thinker. Asante depends heavily on discourse as being the reason African Americans can't make it in America. If culture really is at the heart of our discourse problems perhaps we could all learn to use the same formal discourse traditions. In the mean time Asante should write his books with less rhythm and was only a language everyone can understand.
From: Douglas Stephen Phelan Subject: REVIEW: THE AFROCENTRIC IDEA (Phelan)
Asante, Molefi Kete. THE AFROCENTRIC IDEA. Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1987. Reviewed by: Doug Phelan E-mail: email@example.com Afrocentricity is placing African ideals at the center of analysis that involves African culture and behavior. Asante believes the Eurocentric mindset is Euro-linear, which seeks to predict and control it's culture. Afrocentricity is an afro-circular view which attempts to interpret and understand. These differences are based on historical and cultural experiences, which are drawn upon to establish a particular mindset. This argument sounds familiar, in that it is Rousseau's line of thinking versus John Lockes way of thinking. The arguments framework itself, that Asante uses, is an Eurocentric argument, basing it on a rationale argument versus a romanticists argument. He does list many differences between Eurocentric and Afrocentric ideology, the first being the Euro-linear versus the Afro-circular way of thinking. The Eurocentric mindset is linear because they wish to predict and control rather than understand. On the other hand, Afrocentrics are circular because they would rather interpret and understand, relying on the spiritual world as guidance. The Afro-circular view is often constrained in a Euro-linear society because the Eurocentric's are not as concerned about understanding the basis for thier philosophies. Philosophers such as Aristotle, whom believed man was a political being first and foremost, St. Augustine, whom believed all men were by their human nature evil, and Macheovelli, whom believed the most powerful will rule, have, in one way or another, created the current Eurocentric mindset. To Asante, this means that philosophical views are not rooted in African philosophy, which is why the Eurocentric cannot understand the African heritage. In the area of law, Eurocentrics are confronted with an hostile legal system. Law, and juridical logic, and grammar conspire to frustrate the original idea of a just and good society. This sentence implies that the African-American will not receive fair treatment in the judicial system, to which Asante believes the only answer is an revolution. Afrocentric law attempts to restore harmony in society. These differences follows the rationale versus romanticist arguments, the Afrocentricists stressing the romanticists vision. However in the next comparison, Asante switches sides, suggesting in Art, to Afrocentricists, is a functional product. It is functional because it must always say something, do something, or perform something. Eurocentricists art is that of an romanticist, art for arts sake. When an Eurocentric views a movie, he orally interprets a sense of fulfilling the potential of the movie, but an Afrocentric actually participates in the movie while creating the potential. The bottom line is that Asante believes Eurocentricist are material driven, while Afrocentrics seek to understand through a more personable approach. This idea of being spiritually driven is the basis by which some African-American writers are able to produce Afrocentric writings. The writer is guided by the spirits of their ancestors, enabling them to eliminate the Eurocentric way of thinking out of their writings. A Eurocentric cannot understand African orature, according to Asante, but again Asante contradicts himself by interpreting Einsteins explanation of modern quantum physics as being theory which decides what we observe. Asante states what Einstein meant was that the scientists freedom is restricted by the language he accepts. If an Eurocentric, because of historical and cultural experiences, cannot understand the African mindset, then the reverse must also be true. Asantes interpretation of Einstein should be limited to his historical and cultural experiences. You cannot turn on different historical and cultural experiences to draw from while interpreting a philosophical view, they must all come from the same basis by which you infer any interpretations. Asante asserts that Africans are much better at speaking than Eurocentrics, that Eurocentrics are unable to draw an audience into the speech as African is able to. An example given was Martin Luther King, and his ability in sounding good. Styling, rhythm and sound are three components that distinguish the African speaker form an Eurocentric speaker. The European mindset, he says, is linear in that they say exactly what they want heard, and hear only what is being spoken. The Afrocentric is able to understand the word or actions of the speaker, such as the symbolic mannerism of African speakers. Kings Ive been to the mountain top speech could not have been given to an white audience at Harvard University. The white audience would not be able to understand the message King intended the listeners to receive. King was able to talk in two different ways to two different groups; the African-American or the white population These constraints on ones ability to understand a message are ethnically or culturally determined. King must have developed these skills through the Eurocentric ideology based in America. Asante would say King drew on his ancestral spirits, and that nommo continues to permeate the African-Americans existence. Asante defines nommo as the generative and productive power of the spoken word. The possession of nommo separates the African from the European in their ability to speak to an audience. The solution to the African-Americans being dominated by Eurocentric thinking, he argues, is culturally centered. The European thinker cannot separate human actions from emotions, attitudes, and cultural definitions. The Afrocentric understands the interrelationship between the knowledge and society, religion, and tradition. The problem with the African-American is that the Eurocentric ideology is assumed to constitute the whole of human thought, a message which is repeated several times throughout the book. These differences cannot be overcome until cultural analysis learns that verbal possession belongs to every person, reaching the curvilinear reality of human discourse. To realize that verbal possession belongs to every person means that the Eurocentric ideology that has judged the Africans history and heritage must be replaced by Afrocentric analysis. Eurocentricity cannot be universal. If man originated in Africa, then is not all thought evaluated from an Afrocentric perspective? Did the Eurocentric ideology originate in Africa? If so, we must all posses the ability of nommo, rhythm, and styling. I certainly agree that there are differences in the way in which some ethnic cultures communicate, but these differences must have a common origin of Afrocentricity. Afrocentrics seem concerned with establishing differences between cultures. Some to the point of suggesting one culture is superior over another. William A. Henry suggests these Afrocentrics are trying to build up their cultures self-esteem. People used to become Americans, and now America is ever changing its identity to accommodate the different cultures. Blacks must accept such beliefs as school admission based on performance, not culture. Nathan Glazier believes that the Afrocentric beliefs are built on fantasy, and that people no longer want to be Americanized. Arthur Schlesinger believes that the Eurocentric ideology is superior to other cultures, and that Afrocentricity diverts attention from the real needs of the black man. He believes Afrocentricity has gone to far in attempting to uplift and glorify their cultural heritage. The fact remains that the African-American will never be able to speak as a true Afrocentric, because they have not lived their life in Africa. If you buy into Asantes claim that nommo is passed on through ancestral spirits, it is still flawed because the thoughts of these ancestors are spoken through the mouth of an African-American. Where exactly does the Eurocentric thinking originate? One argument, although Asante does not use it in this book, is that the Egyptian race was actually black, and that the Greeks stole the Egyptians philosophy, which of course is the basis for the Eurocentric ideology. If this is true, as some Afrocentrics argue, then they are arguing against themselves, for the Eurocentric ideology originated as a black line of thinking. Any product of Eurocentric consciousness, such as Marxism, excludes the historical and cultural perspectives of Africa. If the Greeks philosophers stole their theories from the black Egyptians, then the theories attached to the Eurocentric ideology cannot be used to exploit the superiority of Afrocentricists over the Eurocentricists. Asante claims the origin of Afrocenticity comes from the Egyptian culture, while the Eurocentric views originate with the Greeks and Romans. Asante does not discuss where the Greeks and Romans views originated from, but one could certainly suggest they came from Egypt. Much of this book deals with the communication differences between the Afrocentric and Eurocentric cultures. He uses this difference to support his belief that African heritage cannot be explained through Eurocentric ideology. The Eurocentric cannot understand the African heritage because he cannot understand the meaning of words spoken by Africans. The book is filled with several contradictions, which takes away from Asantes main message. He leaves the reader with many unanswered questions, for example, how can you link Martin Luther Kings ability and possession of nommo to the African language? The biggest contradiction is how can you criticize the Eurocentric ideology when it is very possibly linked to Africa? Can Afrocentrics understand Eurocentrics, but not the opposite? These questions are important if you desire to understand the differences of Afrocentricity and Eurocentricity, and left unanswered, they only cloud Asantes claim.
From: Timothy Alan Clark Subject: Re: REVIEW: THE AFROCENTRIC IDEA (Phelan)
Doug: This is a very good review concerning afrocentric ideals, and the people who believe in this philosophy. I think you did a good job detailing Asante's arguments showing that some of his arguments were perfectly logically, while at the same time, some were without merit. Not unlike yourself, I feel Asante makes a big mistake when he addresses the differences in the language used by Eurocentrics and Afrocentrics. I think Asante's biggest fault with this argument is the fact that he uses Martin Luther King JR as his example of a afrocentric speaker. I see two problems with this. Martin Luther King JR was an extraordinary public speaker. Several of his speeches are still observed in speech classes around and world, likewise his style of speaking is being taught in several classes around the world. I took a speech class in at a small community college in Northern Colorado where our teacher urged us to pattern our speeches after Dr. King's "I have a dream speech." Therefore, to use Martin Luther King JR as a measuring stick for all speakers, whether Eurocentric or Afrocentric seems a bit illogical to me. Secondly, I think Asante fails to take into consideration that Martin Luther King J.R. was a politican, and a good one. Nearly all politicians have the ability to talk or come off differently depending on what the situation calls for. If they cannot do this, they do not remain politicans for long. I think the fact King was a great speaker has little to do with his race, but more his political ability as well as his political views. I would like to see the Minister Farakaun address a group of white scholars at Harvard, I do not think he would be as readily accepted as the Dr. was, both are African-Americans, yet their messages are different, I feel this is the main difference. Good work Doug, look forward to reading your nest review. Tim Clark
From: "Eric T. Knepper"
Subject: REVIEW: Molefi Kete Asante (Knepper)
Molefi Kete Asante, THE AFROCENTRIC IDEA (Temple University Press, 1987). Reviewed by Eric Knepper, Illinois State University. April 7, 1998 ========================================================= Molefi Kete Asante suggests that the European way of looking at the world (Eurocentric) is not the only nor the proper way to analyze the worlds various people, cultures, and history. The African way of looking at the world (Afrocentric) needs to be understood, by the dominant Eurocentrics, and embraced, by the African people of the world, particularly in the United States. The aim (I think) of Molefi Kete Asantes book THE AFROCENTRIC IDEA is to advance the study and appreciation of the complexity and history of African culture. With this lengthy treatise Dr. Asante has succeeded on the first count to advance the study of African culture. However he has failed on the second count to advance an appreciation of the African culture; nothing he presents is of any remarkable interest or importance for the study of African culture. The reason I am unsure of the exact point of this work is because Dr. Asante has written in the Afrocentric way which is circular and continually "beating around the bush" rather than in the Eurocentric way which is more direct and to the point. After having struggled through this book, I am at a predictable disadvantage in understanding and writing about it. You see, as Dr. Asante would point out, I am a white male and my Eurocentric background and upbringing has permanently clouded my vision and prevents me from objectively reviewing and criticizing this scholarly work about a topic that is not Eurocentric in nature. I will, none-the-less, give it my best shot. In the first section of this book Dr. Asante belabors the point that analysis of cultures will be biased by the researchers own cultural biases, background, and beliefs. He also lays a foundation of African traits that imply the existence and validity of a separate African method of speaking. Dr. Asante discusses several influences including Africans rhythm, lyrical speech patterns, and speaker/audience interaction. When Africans speak, Dr. Asante suggests that they use more rhythm than European speakers. He calls this African trait "styling". Martin Luther King was the epitome of this African ability to capture an audience by varying his speech patterns. Or was he? To a lesser extent, is not President Clinton a very stylish and rhythmical speaker who is able to capture a crowds attention by his speaking patterns and cadence? Another African trait is lyrical speech patterns. Communication and language are lyrical for Africans. Their oral traditions are based on telling stories and "the African American speaker often approaches the central issues of talk in a circuitous fashion" (51). Is this also a purely African ability? Was not former President Reagan a circuitous communicator and master story teller able to communicate his goals and ideas through the most innocent and provocative story? A third trait of African communication that Dr. Asante presents is "the art of improvisation". "The Afrocentric presentation forms are related to music, particularly the epic styles of blues and jazz" (54). The frequent affirmations (what Eurocentric speakers would consider interruption), such as the calling out of "Amen" or "Thats right" or "Tell the truth", during a speech are typical of African speech patterns. The analogy to Eurocentric speakers is applause during a speech. Concluding the first section of this work is the African notion of NOMMO. Nommo refers to an African persons "ability to construct a discourse reality capable of calling forth the generative and productive power of the spoken word" (17) [did you get that?]. "What I seek to demonstrate in this section is the existence of an African concept of communication rooted in traditional African philosophies" (59). I do not think that any one has ever doubted that African people had their own method of communication that they based on their African traditions and beliefs. I will move on to the next section, not having found much else worthy of discussion in this section beyond his poor attempt to demonstrate the relationship of two African languages by showing four similar symbols in these languages. I was not convinced of a binding relationship. Here is a similar exercise: in Fijian, the word for dog is KOLI (pronounced like our word collie); in Japanese and Fijian the work BAKA means crazy or silly. By this simple demonstration have I shown a linkage and relationship between the languages of Fijian, Japanese, and English? The second section of this work discusses African heritage and African American myth making. African history and culture is oral in nature, therefore it was logical for the slaves who were prevented from learning how to read and write to continue their oral tradition. For African Americans "myth becomes an explanation for the human condition and an answer to the problem of psychological existence in a racist society" (98). Unable to communicate in any other manner, myths continued to be an important aspect of the early slave community. Of the myths mentioned by Dr. Asante, the myth of Harriet Tubman struck me as being of particular interest and importance. Her selfless actions to help free slaves won her mythological status: "Harriet Tubman is a extraordinary mythic figure in our rhetorical consciousness because she is symbolic, that is, an expression of our epic journey. Tubmans transformation from birth to self-imposed exile, to rite of initiation, to triumphant return to the South to deliver her brothers and sisters represents all of us. Tubman embodies the care and concern of a mother figure; she is the Great Mother" (104-5). The other myths mentioned by Dr. Asante were either truly mythological (fictional) figures or other heroic personalities. What Dr. Asante does not make clear is the importance of myth for todays black American. Myths from the early 1900s to 1950s are cited, but no current myth making nor telling is cited. Are truly African myths told (as opposed to myths based on African Americans)? Is myth telling and making still an important part of black Americans lives? The theme of the third and concluding section of the work is lost to the wild claims and accusations that are made. Heres the first: "The decline in the number of universities offering courses in African American literary criticism since the 1960s demonstrates the disregard and low esteem the Eurocentric tradition holds for the assertions of change" (165). Or does it indicate that there is a declining interest in studying a subject matter that leads to few lucrative job opportunities? Dr. Asante criticizes blacks who participate in Eurocentric analysis; they have become "anti-black" and are "victims of their own identity crisis, a crisis produced purely by their submission to the roles whites have forced them to play" (165). Randall Kennedy, a black columnist, would be offended by this accusation. Mr. Kennedy states "I eschew racial pride because of my conception of what should properly be the object of pride for an individual: something that he or she has accomplished. I can feel pride in a good deed I have done or a good effort" (from Atlantic Monthly, "My Race Problem - and Ours", May 1997). Kennedy rejects any notion of racial pride because you can not influence the way you were born, your parents have decided that for you. Dr. Asante has equally damaging assertions for Eurocentric writers. Eurocentric writers who criticize their colleagues and accept Afrocentricity, no matter how hard they try, can not go beyond the limits of their Eurocentric background. Their criticisms of their Eurocentric traditions, no matter how honest and sincere, are not truthful. However, Dr. Asante in a later episode states "a black persons writing does not make the writing Afrocentric" (169). Reverse this statement and you get: a white persons writing does not make the writing Eurocentric. Are blacks able to write in an Eurocentric way if they are "anti-black" while whites are not able to write in an Afrocentric way if they are "anti-white"? The final atrocity Dr. Asante commits is to imply that blacks from the Americas (black Americans, Cubans, Jamaicans, Haitians, etc.) are somehow better than Africans because they have not been through the same horrific experiences that the ancestors of the blacks in the Americas have suffered: the slaveships, the cotton fields, the spit in the face, the segregation. These two groups of Africans do not have the same pathos in their voices. So why does Dr. Asante claim and argue to be inextricably linked to African heritage and culture? Had this book been written by a different author, i.e. by a white person, accusations of racism would be justified. In his concluding paragraphs, Dr. Asante exclaims that all blacks are spiritual, musical, rhythmical, and seeking harmony in their spirituality. And when this harmony manifests itself in a black American "there are those moments when it bursts full blown into our souls and we take wings and fly for awhile" (193). Black athletes are able to utilize this harmony to improve their performance and become more competitive. Consider the implications if I was to say "blacks are born better athletes" in a book about black Americans: Id be fortunate to escape with a few verbal attacks! Dr. Asante has not convinced me of a strong correlation between black Americans and African culture and I dont give much credence to his Afrocentric ideology - Africans have their own culture and heritage as do black Americans. The link between the two has been severed (for better or for worse I will not argue), that is a fact of life. It is time to be proud of your personal accomplishments and to stop looking back at what might have been