A Pan-Africanist Analysis of Black Seminole Perceptions of Racism, Discrimination, and Exclusion

By Von Robertson, Ray | Journal of Pan African Studies, September 2011 | Go to article overview

A Pan-Africanist Analysis of Black Seminole Perceptions of Racism, Discrimination, and Exclusion


Von Robertson, Ray, Journal of Pan African Studies


Introduction

Black Americans have been denied legitimate access to their history. Despite being permitted to attend educational institutions, albeit not always equal to and of the same quality of those of whites, the pedagogical style, along with the informational content, has in no way been African-centered. Schools, both secondary and post-secondary, have done relatively little to alleviate the indelible mark that the aforementioned has placed upon the black psyche. Additionally, schools have done little to inculcate Black students with any sort of knowledge of the Black Holocaust (Lusane, 2002). The information routinely dispensed to students regarding Black Americans and our struggles has focused primarily on the following: 1) crime; 2) poverty; 3) civil rights; 4) enslavement; and 5) how the aforementioned are no longer relevant due to the alleged entrance into a post-racial period fostered by the election of President Barack Obama (Wise, 2010). Consequently, peoples of African descent, and the variables that make up their sociological milieu, are frequently excluded from educational discourse (Karenga, 2002). An example of a group that has made significant contributions to the history of Black people yet are excluded from historical and sociological discourse pertaining to peoples of African descent, are the Black Seminoles. (i)

The Black Seminoles go by several monikers. They are often referred to as Seminole Freedmen or the Estelusti (Muskogee Indian word for Black), (Robertson, 2002). The different monikers will be used throughout this work. The Estelusti consists of individuals of both mixed Seminole and African American ancestry (and non-mixed people of African ancestry who came to live among them in 1866 that are dispersed throughout Oklahoma, Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean (Jackson, 1999, Robertson, 2009; & Twyman, 1999).

The purpose of this work will be to examine the sojourn of the Black Seminoles culminating with their current tenuous status position within the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma from an African-centered sociological perspective. Previous works (e.g., Katz, 1997; Mulroy, 1993) focus on symbiotic relations between the two groups but do not tap into the unique sensibilities and nuances of the African/Black experience in the same manner that an approach which puts the concerns of Africans at the center as opposed to the periphery would. (ii) More poignantly, my work seeks to answer the central question: "Why are the Black Seminoles marginalized within the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma"? The preceding question will be explored by an investigation of the historical antecedents which have resulted in exclusion and marginalization of blacks within the Seminole Nation through the line of sight offered by a Pan-Africanist sociological approach.

An African-centered Approach to Sociology

This paper represents an attempt to develop a sociological epistemology that is grounded in the concerns and thought processes of Africans across the Diaspora. So when Staples (1976) says "the purpose of Afro-American sociology is to study life and culture which when seen from a Black perspective can serve to correct myths about Afro-Americans found in the sociological literature and to further study Black life as it is affected by political and economic factors" (pg. 21), he has articulated the foundation of a Pan-Africanist sociological approach. Moreover, Pan-Africanist/African-centered sociology will examine Black life and circumstances as non-pathological. Consequently, the aim of Afro-American, i.e., Black sociology, can be viewed as inclusive of several themes:

(1) The study of Black life and people from a Black perspective;

(2) The correction of myths about Blacks in popular sociological discourse;

(3) The Study of Black life as affected by political and economic factors;

(4) Black, i.e., African-centered sociology, must be an emancipatory and liberating endeavor.

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