Recommended listening: I Don't Want to Be by Gavin DeGraw
Dancing past the mirror,
timidly avoiding any reflection,
flirting with ignorance of what gazes back,
chin glued to chest,
she scurries through the crowd,
escaping faces unlike her own.
Fighting the urge to
raise a hand,
voice a comment,
her tongue tingles with
thoughts never to be conveyed.
This could apply to anyone at any point in time in any part of the world. The struggle with self and identity is not unique to any one individual or culture or time-period. The quest for understanding and acceptance is universal and timeless. This understanding has been crucial thus far in my blog and is the driving force behind this post.
In my English class we were given the following task: find a recently published article about Africa from a credible news source. Simple right? How much could there possibly be to consider or contemplate? Articles and news about America flood our senses every waking moment, so finding substantial news about Africa should be no different.
What my classmates and I realized was that the articles about Africa followed a set of trends. Articles often focused on one or more of the following: disease, poverty, technology, conflict, and foreign aid.
Beyond class my thoughts have shifted past just the trends to the implications for identity. Do these topics touch on enough? Do they paint an ample picture of the African identity? Is there an identity that is uniquely African? Can the entire continent be lumped together as one?
I by no means have all the answers, but my questions have led me to write this post and explore further. I found this source to be particularly insightful. One quotation that really stuck out to me was this:
It is, therefore, unfortunate today that there are some among us who are ashamed of their African heritage and identity, who are ashamed of their blackness and their African roots. Of course everyone is entitled to freedom of their own individual self-expression.
I agree that it is disappointing and extremely unsettling that there remain a number of African American people who, to this day, are not proud of their roots. Chavis goes on to mention President Barack Obama and the pride that should bring to African Americans. And, I would argue that many African Americans are truly very proud to have a president who is African American. But, what I think is missing, is pride in themselves for their race and ethnicity as well. Africa is a rich, complex, and enticing land. Society should not create the type of atmosphere in which any individual would have to be ashamed of their heritage, whether it be African or not.
Stretching past just Africa brings me back to the beginning of my post. All of us, whether black or white, young or old, confident or unsure, struggle with the notion of identity on a number of levels. Cultural identity is one very significant piece of that. After all of my exploration and thought, the challenge is this: How can we reconcile a stable understanding of ethnic identity in a world where so much culture-clash occurs?
All peoples are struggling to blast a way through the industrial monopoly of races and nations, but the Negro as a whole has failed to grasp its true significance and seems to delight in filling only that place created for him by the white man.