Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Race Matters: Cosmopolitanism, Afropolitanism, and Pan-Africanism Via Edward Wilmot Blyden

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Race Matters: Cosmopolitanism, Afropolitanism, and Pan-Africanism Via Edward Wilmot Blyden

Article excerpt

"...the time of slavery negates the common-sense intuition of time as continuity or progression, then and now coexist; we are coeval with the dead" (Hartman, "Time of Slavery" 759)

Blakk wi blak, we nay tun back/ Blakk wi blak, we under attack (Mutabaruka, Blakk wi blak..k..k)

We are at the point in which the concept of "race" has undergone radical rethinking. Resulting from scientific breakthroughs in recent scholarship, race-based theorizing, as well as race identification, is seen as outdated thinking that limits the advancement to a post-ethnic, deracinated future - a cosmopolitan ideal. Yet, "Black Lives Matter" has become the slogan for the recent sets of rallies against police brutality. So it seems that racial identities are still very much de rigueur in the real world, and academicians, once again, present a position that totally contradicts actuality. Public empathy against this post-millenium violence on Black bodies visibly shifted in the wake of Travyvon Martin's death, but it took the concentrated deaths of 11 people in 2014 alone,1 the most well-known being Eric Garner (age 46), Michael Brown (age 18), Akai Gurley (age 28), and Tamir Rice (age 12), for the acknowledgment of the sustainability of what DuBois termed the color line. Successive movements from abolitionism, anti-lynching campaigns, civil rights and its local anti-segregationist missions, to what many lauded as its teleological end, the election of the first Black president, all gave hope for this deracinated future. Race is not real, we have been told, and our most renowned cultural and philosophical critics like Paul Gilroy, in Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line (2000), and Kwame Anthony Appiah in Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (2006), have opined on how continued racialism, perverts humanistic values. The two together share the quest to denaturalize race as a signifier of human difference and its attendant forms of racialism and racism. In previous works, I specifically rebutted Gilroy's against race positionality (Sterling 2012; Sterling 2007). The ubiquity of violence on Black peoples now impels my interrogation of Appiah's concept of cosmopolitanism, as such work is used in academe as a key articulation of an idealized post-race trajectory. Like Gilroy, Appiah's critique of racialized discourses, which admittedly came well before the events outlined here, is not against the sets of historically charged values that continue to condition and define Blacks as perverted and grotesque, that limit social, cultural, economic and transnational access, and make violence against them perfectly natural, but against the use of race as a paradigm in modern day constructs.

With the first election of Barack Obama in 2007, and the celebratory narrative proclaiming the end of racism, we were officially in a post-racial era, activated by coalitions of likeminded peoples, who simultaneously identify within and beyond race, but who collectively sought for the perfectibility of the human experience. Ironically, however, as I made my way to a friend's apartment in Brooklyn to watch the inauguration, a young, tall, good looking Black man, asked me for a swipe on my metrocard, because he could not afford to pay the $2.00 to take the train and dared not risk jumping the turnstile, as he knew that he could end up, if lucky, just face down on the concrete - arrested, and if not so lucky, simply dead. Yet, too, just a month previously in October 2007, right before this first "post-race" election, our leading DNA expert, James D. Watson, stated that Blacks are less intelligent than whites.

While the knowledge gained from mapping the human genome tells us that there is little to no differences between human beings, Watson claimed that testing has shown and the advanced level of testing that would develop in the next 10 years would show that Blacks did not have equal capacity to reason as whites (Milmo). Dr. …

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