Opinion: Shahid Abdul-Karim: History Plays Key Role in Establishing Cultural Identity

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT), February 22, 2015 | Go to article overview

Opinion: Shahid Abdul-Karim: History Plays Key Role in Establishing Cultural Identity


In the spirit of human expression and group identity, most ethnic groups and cultures have no problem reminding the world of the pain and suffering they endured to establish their lives and interests on this Earth.

And we see how different cultures have come to America and claimed a part of their destiny by location, territories, and holidays.

In almost every city in America, you'll find areas of ethnicity, or cultural centers that feed the needs and interest of those ethnic communities.

According to cultural historian Anthony T. Browder, speaking in a lecture, "Many of these communities have elementary schools, high schools, colleges, and universities that were created specifically to socialize students and instill within them the legacy of their ancestors."

"Even the British, when they came to America, brought their culture with them, so much so, states are named after places reminiscent of their homeland: New Jersey, New York, and New Hampshire," he said.

It's not surprising part of the East Coast is known as New England, a reflection of heritage and ancestral history.

Culture is definitely an expression of the human spirit.

We've seen this pluralistic country celebrate holidays that reflect the heritage and values of people's traditions and customs annually.

Italians celebrate Columbus Day, the Irish celebrate St. Patrick's Day, Mexican Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

But for most Americans, it's very uncomfortable to talk about the black experience, in particular the slave trade culture and how slavery affects the black community today.

It is troublesome to know that America's past, including its founding fathers had a bloody hand in the lynching, castration, burning and stripping a whole race of people from their heritage and cultural identity.

Some may say that happened 400 plus years ago, that has no bearing on the condition of black America today.

I beg to differ.

Imagine a whole race of people unable to identify their customs, traditions, heritage or lineage and forced to identify with someone else's. That is exactly what happened and, I'm inclined to say, still happens today.

Consider post traumatic slave syndrome as part of the reason certain behaviors are pervasive within the black experience, especially after being traumatized by the breaking process, into an uncivilized state of dependency along with the designation of once being called nigger and savage.

Some components of the breaking process included: bull whipping the male in presence of other slaves, especially the wife and children and using black slave women as sex objects exploited by the master for his indulgence, literally destroying the black family.

In addition, some take offense, and most times are quick to say, "the race card is being pulled," when black Americans remind the world of its pain and suffering or have the audacity to talk about institutional racism, structural racism, mass incarceration or the inequalities of wealth, politics, and media monopolies.

Maybe it's guilt, or fear of freedom it would give, as in the character Django played by Jamie Fox in the movie "Django Unchained," or is it just the invisibility of the American privilege. …

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