Culture, pride, identity, dignity, self respect. What happens when one loses these things? What happens when an entire culture experiences the loss of the aforementioned? For decades, Black scholars have researched and argued the legitimacy of Afrocentrism and how important it is to Black culture and to the entire world. I believe we should argue Afrocentrism on the individual level and the scholarly, so we may meet somewhere in the middle.
The greatest disconnect with understanding and implementing an Afrocentric culture lies in the definition. One of the best theoretical definitions I found published in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy by KW Stikkers, describes Afrocentrism as a devotion to the idea that what is in the best interest of African consciousness is at the heart of ethical behavior and seeks to cherish the ideas that “African-ness” itself is an ensemble of ethics. Afrocentrism is still developing, growing, trying to gain a concrete foothold in the consciousness of not just African Americans and Americans as a whole, but also in the global academic community. Ideologically, Afrocentrism “represents the continued longing among Africans for some set of ideas that would bind them together as a community and offer some alternative to an assimilation that is excluded by Europeans or seen by Africans as an admission of inferiority and defeat” (Chawane, 2016). Afrocentrism aspires to be included in relevant discussions regarding the impact of Africans in world history, but it also seeks to communicate to Blacks, Africans that we have a shared history.
An Afrocentric view provides: self-determination, intellectual pride, feeling a connection with ancestors and history, and gives legitimacy to our culture. Typically, when one speaks about self-determination, the definition rendered conveys on a broad scale – the process by which a country determines its own statehood and forms its own allegiances and government. However, we can also identify self-determination as this: the process by which a person controls their own life; free choice of one’s own acts or states without external compulsion. Let’s look at this last bit – “external compulsion”. In terms of African Americans, what can the world external mean here? Perhaps it alludes to Eurocentricity or even Western historical views. Now when combining external with compulsion we can infer that as Africans, the majority forced us to adopt Eurocentric values and perspectives rather than being able to draw on our own African heritage. After World War I, United States President Woodrow Wilson stated, “National aspiration must be respected; people may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent. ‘Self-determination’ is not a mere phase; it is an imperative principle of action.”
I am almost positive in stating President Wilson was not referring to any one American culture group. However, his thoughts can still apply to African Americans. Our self-determination was stolen, stamped out – however way one would like to express it when our culture was repeatedly told we were/are inferior, lazy, poor, uneducated, that we originate from a ‘dark continent’ and our ancestors were savages and uncivilized with no apparent history.