POS334-L: THE RACE AND ETHNICITY BOOK REVIEW DISCUSSION LIST
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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, lllong@ilstu.edu
                    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: mjmonar@acadcomp.cmp.ilstu.edu
To: gmklass@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
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: dsphela@odin.cmp.ilstu.edu


        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 Locke’s way of thinking.  The argument’s 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, Eurocentric’s 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 Afrocentricist’s stressing the
romanticist’s vision.  However in the next comparison, Asante switches
sides, suggesting in Art, to Afrocentricist’s, is a functional product.  It
is functional because it must always say something, do something, or
perform something.  Eurocentricist’s art is that of an romanticist, art for
art’s 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 Afrocentric’s 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 Einstein’s explanation of
modern quantum physics as being “theory which decides what we observe”.
Asante states what Einstein meant was “that the scientist’s 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.  Asante’s 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 African’s are much better at speaking than
Eurocentrics, that  Eurocentric’s 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.  King’s “I’ve 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 one’s 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-American’s 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 African’s
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.
        Afrocentric’s 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 Asante’s 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 Afrocentric’s 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
Afrocentricist’s over the Eurocentricist’s.  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 Asante’s 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
Asante’s 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
world’s 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 Asante’s 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 researcher’s 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 crowd’s 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 "That’s 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 person’s "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. Tubman’s
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 today’s 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.  Here’s 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 person’s writing does not
make the writing Afrocentric" (169).  Reverse this statement and you get: a
white person’s 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: I’d 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 don’t 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…