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Anti-Semitism and Afrocentrism

July 27, 1994

* In response to "Recovering a Sense of Community," Commentary, July 12:

The definition of Afrocentrism professed by authors Xandra Kayden and Madison Shockley is narrow and misleading. They speak of "intellectuals carrying their arguments to extremes" and therefore negatively influencing "a generation of African American students."

I am an Afrocentric instructor of history on the community college level. If I am negatively influencing a generation of African American students, then I am equally guilty of negatively influencing the total generation of community college students. Racial gerrymandering of ethnic studies classrooms is the creation of Kayden and Shockley, not the educational establishment.

The examples that are used to legitimize this incorrect definition are equally narrow and paint a racial identity on a non-racial entity. Africa is the home of man, we are all Africans.

Racial labeling is most clearly expressed with color-based vocabulary. A black is clearly a racial being. An African is not. As an African, Afrocentrism places me at the center of society, asking the question, "What can I do to advance the human family to a higher level of human consciousness and loving appreciation?"

The statements made about the appreciation of the Jewish experience by Afrocentric scholars are presumptuous and shallow. The shallowness is expressed in the attempt to confine the history of African-Jewish relationships to the civil rights movement in the U.S. Afrocentric scholarship takes Egypt out of the Middle East, returns it to Africa, and defines Egyptian culture as the prime origin of Western culture.

I would think that the contributions of Hebrews to civilization would not be omitted from any ancient history class, whether Afrocentric or Eurocentric. Equally important, the omission of the commonality of experience of Jews and Africans in the diaspora would leave out the most productive source of psychological reaction to blatant oppression. The search for analogies between the reaction to Nazism and the reaction to chattel slavery is the prime source of tactics of denial of loss of identity that I find available.

"Schindler's List' is a brilliant presentation of the ability to rationalize societal displacement. Jews wore armbands in a futile attempt to appease their oppressors. We stopped calling ourselves Africans with the same goal of appeasement. And so today, racial labeling is supported by African Americans who are comfortable with a label that means evil, slave and illegal.

PETE M. MHUNZI

Pasadena City College

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