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My children hate African-American history and so did I.


Guest Donna Bassette

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Guest Donna Bassette

African-American children are more likely to embrace white history than their own.  Often our children are embarrassed and sometimes outright humiliated by all things Africa in the classroom.  It's an ugly and hurtful truth.  In this portion of an interview, I discuss why this is and what I am doing to change it.  https://youtu.be/vauDwqNiK2M 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Guest R.S. Basi

Let the Pendulum Swing the Other Way.

 

Excellent discussion.  As we all know, the scars of hearsay defile recorded history. Yet our confidence in writing, even with obvious layers of translation or the opaque lens of cultural interpretation, is often a difficult bias to overcome. Despite context being easily lost in the passage of time or even the subtle perspectives and agendas of authors, we are inclined to trust the written word. Songs and oral narratives, a primary source of indigenous history in Africa and many other ancient homelands, are therefore normally discounted in favor of inherently biased European narratives. Concurrently, African influence on Europe and America is minimized or even ignored, while exaggerations of Europe’s effect on Africa abound.

 

Deference to writing probably gives one person’s bias the power to disregard a collective and contextual consensus - a tragedy of ignorance that may consume the most poignant lessons of our forefathers. Add to this the fact that historical “fact” was, as the saying goes, written by the victors.  These thoughts are always heavy in my mind when I travel in Africa and research its history. As the genesis for common stereotypes, bias is there to be recognized and neutralized. Despite the many examples of powerful African leaders and kingdoms, few have made it to American history books. And even most that are in common folklore (Prester John, Cleopatra, etc.), have had their cultural context removed such that many people do not associate them with Africa at all.

 

Early on in my research, I realized the importance of context and the difficulty of extrapolating even seemingly evident links like motivation and reaction.  Inferences about such personal struggles as moral dilemmas from context is even more challenging and, at best, merely informed conjecture.  Discerning details of social and political conditions at any given time involve numerous and consequential judgment calls.  The likelihood of overcorrecting for assumed bias and being dismissive of eyewitness opinion merely to empathize with the unheard voice is nearly as certain as the original bias itself.  Indeed, the danger of undermining the truth is always present.

 

Ultimately, and especially when we are talking about African history, which has traditionally been marginalized in Western literature, I see an urgency to make an effort at delivering a narrative premised on context discerned through an African perspective.  Even the fear of almost certain inaccuracy must not be permitted to paralyze the progress that has been made disseminating alternative narratives, most of which are as plausible or possible as any eyewitness accounts.  Any credible attempt at truth, after all, is inextricably linked to the various cultural context of the circumstances being described.  We’ve most certainly lived with falsehoods from deference to the cultural biases of the eyewitness accounts of African history.  I see no greater risks in adopting even exaggerated biases attendant to grounding context in the indigenous culture.  

 

Consequences of such significance demand contextual exploration, despite the numerous risks of extrapolation.  Take the risk. Put in the time. It will be worth it.

 

I have been studying and publishing on African History since 2009. My most recent book, Convictions of Faith, is a fiction novel that attempts to contextualize the journals of European missionaries from an African perspective. It was featured this year in the National Association of Black Journalist's annual convention, and selected as a "Book of Interest to African American Scholars" by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.  The foregoing comment is my defense of the inevitable conjecture involved in constructing context for a novel as I did.

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On 11/20/2020 at 6:23 PM, Guest R.S. Basi said:

Songs and oral narratives, a primary source of indigenous history in Africa and many other ancient homelands, are therefore normally discounted in favor of inherently biased European narratives

I believe there are many efforts to record these narratives. I think the biggest problem is the lack of adequate marketing. 

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