From Black to African American: A New Social Representation

From Black to African American: A New Social Representation

From Black to African American: A New Social Representation

From Black to African American: A New Social Representation

Synopsis

An analysis of the recent switch from the name "Black" to "African American" symbolizes a reconceptualization of Americans of African descent away from race to culture. This book examines the emergence of a new representation whose rapid spread has been fuelled by widely shared projections of a different future capable of overcoming the legacy of racism.

Excerpt

There is no goal more important today than to create the conditions for the eradication of racism. For there to be democratic politics, a democratic culture, anything democratic, the first step has to be cultural, to create the kind of cultural source that would inexorably eliminate all those things undermining democracy as well as human dignity.

As a social psychologist I can recognize that two circumstances have rendered this goal so important, even radical. I am using the word radical not in the sense of a rise to extremes, but in the sense given to it by Marx, as a return to the roots of the human being. First, the holocaust showed the length to which obscure racial sentiments can go in nations which have worked so hard for their own grandeur, yet have done nothing or next to nothing for the value of humans. And then there were those circumstances which have propelled forward human rights, proclaimed by both the American and the French Revolutions as the criteria and bedrock for relations between nations and individuals, hence our culture of today in the making. And among these rights, the one of resisting oppression is the heart, as numerous thinkers have declared.

Any observer can recognize that the introduction of human rights has had the effect of activating passive minorities, of sparking energy and movement. This is advantageous, since it ends stagnation and thus prepares the ground for a reaction capable of producing something better and more elevated from the point of view of culture. As the great Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa has written: "When disorder takes hold, a healthy society responds right away--not to maintain order which can only be provisional, but to attack the evil that has caused this disorder. . . ."

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