During the legendary Barack/Black Church/Tucker post there was some discussion of Afrocentrism (in relation to the church) and how it was either the same as or different from White Supremacy. I noted at the time that perhaps this blog needed a post that talks about the difference between Afrocentrism and White Supremacy; this is the post. I’m putting it in the Monday Debate category because I would love to have a dialogue about this. But, for me, I pretty much feel that these two terms, philosophies, and world views are completely different and not at all two sides of the same coin.
Let’s start with some definitions.
White Supremacy is:
a racist belief that white people are superior to other races. The term is sometimes specifically used to describe a philosophical belief that whites are not only superior to others, but should rule over them. (according to Wikipedia… today)
the prejudice that members of the white race are superior to members of other races. (according to theFreeDictionary)
the belief, theory, or doctrine that the white race is superior to all other races, esp. the black race, and should therefore retain control in all relationships. (according to Dictionary.com)
Afrocentrism (or Afrocentric) is:
an academic, philosophical, and historical approach to the study of world history. Afrocentrism holds that Eurocentrism has led to the neglect or denial of the contributions of African people and focused instead on a generally European-centered model of world civilization and history. Therefore, Afrocentrism aims to shift the focus from a perceived European-centered history to an African-centered history. More broadly, Afrocentrism is concerned with distinguishing the influence of European and Oriental peoples from African achievements. (according to Wikipedia… today)
centered on Africa or on African-derived cultures, as those of Brazil, Cuba, and Haiti. (according to Dictionary.com)
centered or focused on Africa or African peoples, especially in relation to historical or cultural influence. (according to the FreeDictionary)
In the context of this conversation, I’m not going to touch on the ‘study of world history’ part of the Afrocentrism definition. Though that is very important, I’m talking more about Afrocentrism in the social/culture sphere. Afrocentrism as it applies to the present time and our present lives.
The definitions alone should show that Afrocentrism and White Supremacy are two different animals. One seeks to focus on the positive aspects of a particular culture and one seeks to diminish and dominate all other cultures. So why is it that some folks (mostly white folks) feel they can toss around accusations that being Afrocentric is just like being a White (or Black) Supremacist?
Maybe because the language we use isn’t always that cut-and-dried. For instance, in the Barack post, Tucker takes exception to the phrase “Soldiers for Black Freedom” and the church’s calls to uplift the black race. If you switch out black for white in that sentence, you get people working for White Freedom and uplifting the White Race. To some people, switching black and white does not fundamentally change those sentences at all. But in my eyes, there is all the difference in the world. Why? Because in one version, an oppressed group is working to gain equal footing with the dominant group, in the other the dominant group is working to ensure their continued dominance. See the difference?
White people in America (and, I would argue, in most of the world, especially when the definition of ‘white’ encompasses most folks of European descent) do not need uplifting. They aren’t in danger of being un-free. This is, of course, in general. Yes, there are poor, lower class white folks in the world. Somewhere there are young blond women who are forced into sexual slavery. But when we’re speaking in broad strokes, white people are the dominant group. So any talk about strengthening the White Race is bound to make any non-white person more than a little nervous. It sounds like White Supremacy, frankly, and I’m going to declare that a Universal Bad.
While I do feel that black people are awesome (because I am one), I don’t feel that black people should dominate other races, either. When I choose to focus on black issues, black heritage, and the contributions of black people in the past and present, I am not doing so at the expense of other races.
If, by focusing on ‘black stuff’ I take some of the thunder away from the all-important ‘white stuff’, it’s only because the white stuff is overly dominant. But, surprise, white people often do not feel this way. Any time you take a piece of candy from a small child, even if you’re doing it because the small child already has too much candy and because some of that candy should have gone to the child’s brothers and sisters, anyway, the child will still cry. (Trust me on this… I lived with a small child.)
Afrocentrism is not the same as Black Supremacy. It is a natural outgrowth of an oppressed group wanting to find the positive aspects of their culture (and ultimately themselves as individuals) that the dominant culture tries to suppress, erase, or vilify. Therefore, it is not the same as White Supremacy. Not even in the ballpark.