Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Divided-Identity--Hyphenization (part 3)

Slaves were "de-Africanized" almost immediately. But upon arriving in the new land, "Africans in America needed not think even for a moment that they were American's. The beatings, lynchings, and the psychological demoralization of having to call someone 'master' experientially told them that they were not American's. They were not allowed to be Africans, and they were not accepted as Americans." "The ambiguity of being stripped of one's identity and never fully afforded another has been sufficient enough to create existential tension in African American's" W.E.B Du Bois said, "Here, then is the dilemma, and it is a puzzling one, I admit. No Negro who has given earnest thought to the situation of his people in America has failed, at some time in life, to find himself at these crossroads; has failed to ask himself at some time: what, after all, am I? Am I an American or am I a Negro? Can I be both?" Du Bois would also write; 'One ever feels his twoness--an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder." Brad Braxton (PH.D and assistant Professor of Homiletics and Biblical Studies at Wake Forst University Divinity School), argues that the "hyphenated-Americanism" is necessary. Consider his words... "I contend that one of the virtues of African Americans has been our ability to hold the warring ideals of which Du Bois spoke in a dialectical tension and to allow this tension to define and energize our lives. The truth of our existence is this tension. Even though this ambiguity was cast upon us by others, African-American's have transformed this tension of ambiguity into a hallmark of our existence. Moreover, African-American's know that to resolve the tension is to suck the life-blood out of our culture and to obliterate our identity." I invite you to the birthplace of jazz--life on the hyphen! (all quotes from Brad Braxton's book, "No Longer Slaves: Galatians and African American Experience")

10 Comments:

Blogger voixdange said...

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4:34 AM  
Blogger voixdange said...

Wow. I love this post.

As a European-American and a Celt who can trace her family history back for centuries, I have to say it saddens me deeply when I go to work and watch my children playing and think about what was and has been done to their cultural identity, and family identity. I just can't imagine, and knowing that my family was involved at the other end of it...

They were not allowed to be Africans, and they were not accepted as Americans."
So true ....even yet today.

4:36 AM  
Blogger Pete Gall said...

What does a person do, then, with reconciliation? Do the ardent apologies and taking on of culpability by white brethren merely muddy the dichotomy? I know that when I've had those moments with you, JT, I've taken on some measure of a weight I knew you bore. Was I taking something FROM you, rather than FOR you in that? Were my efforts to acknowledge the sins passed down to me - and the curses passed down to you - a threat to your identity...to the hyphen? Is the loyalty to an cultural identity born in the tension of pain something greater than an indentity of shared acknowledgement and redemption of sins past and chronic? Is there no way for you and I to be brothers? Is the hyphen a division between us forever, greater than the identity I hoped we could both choose in Christ?

I don't suppose that such a Christ-centered identity comes without secondary trappings - cultural trappings and ongoing social habits - but it grieves me deeply that my brother has a problem with me and that as a representative of his defining pain, I cannot be reconciled to him without destroying his identity.

7:29 AM  
Blogger Stephen Bess said...

I definitely feel that duality that Dubois spoke of. The strange thing is that I only feel that twoness here in America. I was in the military and traveled abroad. People recognized me as an American (mostly by my accent) and I also introduced myself as American. It's a different story when I am here at home. America forces me to see my African self even though there is Native American and European blood that also runs through my veins. It makes me sad because I can remember raising that flag and feeling some pride even though I didn't feel that it represented my struggle and the struggle of my ancestors.

8:27 AM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

Pete,
I love your posts, I think I grasp most of what you are saying but I'm not sure. You have a fair amount of questions that are either rhetorical or assumptions being stated as questions. Not sure what to do with them...

My response to your final statement...about reconciliation destroying identity...no I don't think that reconciliation results in destruction. Why would you think that destruction would take place on my side of the reconciliation equation?

10:06 AM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

Stephen,
I know what your saying...when I speak to people from other countries (especially Arican nations) I am fully aware of how American I really am, for good or for bad.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Pete Gall said...

"African-American's know that to resolve the tension is to suck the life-blood out of our culture and to obliterate our identity."

The rest of the post led to a description of the "tension" that looked rooted in being uninvited, then in pain, then in resistence...

I absolutely understand what your presence in my world, JT, means to me. I feel the difference and the joy of that difference when I'm at your house or absolutely killing you in cards. Or when I hear your voice on the phone.

Where I start to lose it, and start to wonder what we're doing or what I'm missing beneath the surface of our friendship, comes when we start to explain what it's like to play our respective instruments in the ensemble.

Is that what we're doing? Explaining where explaining isn't helping? Does being with me and not covering this ground feel as frustrating and distancing to you as covering this ground and not being able to quite "get" you feels to me here?

11:54 AM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

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12:24 PM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:27 PM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

Pete,
You lost me at "absolutely killing you in cards." I DO NOT RECALL THAT EVER HAPPENING! I am warning you that if you continue to post such outlandish claims, I will delete them immediately!

3:26 PM  

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