Tuesday, 8 March 2011

African-American Separatism: Black Nationalist Beliefs

The following website outlines the beliefs held by Black Nationalists - those people who favour separatism over assimilation with Caucasians. http://www.realitynews.com/archive/570.html Black Nationalism appears to be based on a sense of "racial unity" as opposed to specific cultural beliefs/practices or ethnicities. The ideology therefore relies on "Pan-Africanism." (N.B - "Journal of Pan-African Studies" : http://www.jpanafrican.com/index.htm - 'The Journal of Pan African Studies is a trans-disciplinary peer reviewed scholarly journal devoted to the intellectual synthesis of research, scholarship and critical thought on the [collective] African experience.')

Such a mergence of multiple cultures and the origins of an all-Black-encompassing group seems rooted in the slave trade. The article states that '[s]laveholders deliberately mixed together slaves of diverse linguistic and tribal backgrounds in order to minimize their ability to communicate and make common cause.' As a response to this, the African slaves, with very diverse backgrounds, learnt to communicate in a unified way, 'bridging ethnic differences' and therefore uniting against one common enemy - white people. Nevertheless, there were differing views on how Black Nationalism should be practised in contemporary America. Some Separatists insisted on a designated territory - some sort of territorial base, whereas others "merely" wanted separate establishments in American society - churches, cemetaries, restaurants and so on.

The article continues, discussing a collective sense of "Black Pride" that should be held dear and strived to maintain. Many Black Nationalists have views, for instance, on "Black Beauty," whereby they are critical of 'black acceptance of white standards' - the examples of straightening one's hair, or craving a lighter skin tone are given. It is not mentioned here, but Whitney Houston was openly criticised when she first became successful in the mid-late 1980s for pandering to white ideals, specifically around her style of music, with many critics likening some of her early hits to being "typically white." 'Black disc jockeys have chided her for "not having soul" and being "too White."' ('Ebony' magazine - May 1991: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1077/is_n7_v46/ai_10640593/ ) As we know, there was also controversy concerning Michael Jackson's drastic change in appearance. "In the 1960s, the phrase "Black is Beautiful" was coined, in conjunction with the infamous "Black Power."

The most forthright and outspoken advocates of Separatism were advocates of emigration or colonisation. The only way in which African-Americans could succeed was through the establishment of all-black settlements, totally going against the idea of assimilation. 'In 1815, for example, Paul Cuffe led a group of 38 African Americans to found a settlement in Sierra Leone,' with the idea of potentially laying the foundations for an independent black state.

It is important to realise that Black Nationalists agree on the needs for separation from white people, but the extent to which they agree differs greatly.

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