goto Appendx main menu A Black Manifesto :
Darell W. Fields
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Within the confines of things known to us as identities or disciplines, the formation of relatively clear and distinct definitions are possible. I have more than alluded to the formation of the church, at least my church, as a device that constructs, maintains, and deploys categories as well as the identities within these categories. Of course, the church is only one example of such a mechanism, and it would be simplistic not to acknowledge that it is only one of any number of institutions that bind "identities" to persons.  But this definition is problematic because it places priority on the categories and implies that these circumstances result in a monolithic identity. It suggests that the "whole" is constructed by the stacking or appending of events and/or circumstances rather than acknowledging another reality that posits that such identities could literally have been carved into the whole itself. The former definition proposes that a society binds events and circumstances, resulting in functional identities, which can then be condoned and managed by that same society. The latter alludes to singular and distinct formal identities, which are usually legitimized by the mythical use of origins and an inane conceptualization of history. The black body, Appendx 1 page break 24 | 25or that body I am "calling" black, exists in neither of these two poles but somewhere between them. On the one hand, it cannot help but resist and attempt to reject those functions that attempt to bind it to a stereotypical construction of blackness, while on the other hand, it is not capable of locating and, more important, legitimizing a particular origin or history stripped from it long ago. 

For example, the tendency to vacillate between names is less necessary among other ethnic or racial groups. In fact, relative to black culture, the names for these other groups appear to be quite stagnant: the whites have always been whites. Are we progressing so quickly in social, cultural, and economic determinants that we achieve "new identities" every ten to twenty years? Of course, the answer is no. This naming or renaming comes more from within (if there is any such place) than from anywhere else. These names are not constructed out of an objective externalization of what is being produced by black—sorry, African-American— communities. If anything, we are producing the same things we have always produced: ministers, thieves, scholars, pimps, musicians, families, doctors, lawyers, gangsters, politicians, and so on. I believe that these naming distinctions occur under the veil of some "internal" (for lack of a better term)  political or class-constructing activity. That is, they are artificially produced by various political and social factions who wish to manifest social and political distinctions from which they are then able to pursue more refined sets of goals relative to their interests. This is not an inherently bad or good thing, but is merely an indication that the two-master syndrome exists within the very fiber of black—sorry, African-American—communities. 

These definitions or redefinitions are evidence that we (they) have progressed- progressed so much that the rhetoric that speaks of a history of slavery may be considered as a history of "immigration." Furthermore, those groupings of elites (scholars, politicians, and so-called activists) who dabble in these definitions are working intensively to distance themselves from their past—or at least what they believe to be their past. These definitions or redefinitions are evidence that we (they) have progressed—progressed so much that a history of slavery may be rhetorically reworked as a history of "immigration." For too long we have placed our hopes in these types of social constructions and definitions, believing that if they were made public in law as reinforced by scripture, the playing field would somehow become level. Similar ideals, ideals of progress, were vested in the idea of integration—and to be sure, some of us have progressed because of it. But we must also admit that despite such attempts at inclusion, either into the good graces of the United States of America's history or into those places where we believed society disallowed our full participation, the majority of us have been left behind.Appendx 1 page break 25 | 26 
An example of this paradox is held within the use of the term "African-American." Those who call themselves African-American will assume that they have gained greater specificity by using this term, when in fact it is full of assumptions and contradictions. First, the term, as denoted by its use of "African," is frustrated in its aspirations to identify the geographical location, a point of origin, that denotes a specific and particular heritage. "African" and "American" are both geographical terms that deny realities induced by boundaries preventing the passage of bodies and ideas from one "political" space to another. The term "African" homogenizes Africa: it neutralizes and makes indistinguishable cultural and political determinants that make Libyans different from Egyptians different from Nigerians different from South Africans. The assumption that the term "African" defines and pinpoints "heritage" for black people in the United States is fundamentally misleading. It usurps distinct and substantial cultural, political, and ethnic differences among the many countries composing the continent of Africa, while undermining sociopolitical and cultural distinctions among black people that were forged in this country. 

Curiously, persons espousing the benefits of "Afrocentrism" in the United States tend to gravitate toward claims of superiority, which in practice seem quite contrary to their purposes. Egypt for them is, or was, the epitome of civilization, and the claim that they "are" a part of it is an attempt to legitimize their authority. In fact, this may or may not be true, but whether it is true or not is of no consequence. What is more important is that such an invented association denies not only "present circumstances" but  "history" as well. It is quite peculiar that those in the process of resisting racial myths and stereotypes at one moment in history would use the racial myths and stereotypes of another to legitimize themselves. More simply, Egypt, along with its artifacts of knowledge, power, and art, was made possible because of slave labor extracted from the Jews and other "enemies" of the state. If Egypt is a justifiable construct of heritage as defined by those who reconstruct those histories, then it is only fair that the whole of that history should be used, rather than just some small part of it. If such a "completeness" of history is not attempted, the only thing that has been proven is that the inventor of such a heritage has the potential of being just as ruthless as anyone else in the pursuit of altering history for the sake of legitimizing heritage or tyranny. If the point is that theirs was once a powerful nation, it must also be acknowledged that such power was beaten out of the bodies of others. If one wishes to claim the pyramids of Egypt as artifacts of heritage, then it is impossible to do so without also claiming all of the contingencies that made them possible. If a more pasAppendx 1 page break 26 | 27sive power is deemed more appropriate, it may then mean that no claims should be made of Egypt. 

The same is true but different of the term "American." If one states simply that "I am an American," or is called "American" by some foreigner,  there is an explicit reference to that person being a citizen of the United States of America. Political distinctions evoked by this term, as formulated in the unconscious mind of the speaker, are quite clear regardless of the fact that North America (of which the United States is only a part), Central America, and South America are part of the geographic formation known as the Americas. The utterance of the term "American," unlike the use of the term "African," explicitly acknowledges political and cultural boundaries that deny the fact that other sociopolitical configurations within the same geographic location exist at all. The construction of the term "African-American," relative to its assumptions of meaning, is nothing more than a rhetorical colonizing strategy that in actuality denies and suppresses sociopolitical realities and culture rather than providing, say, a more precise race term that clarifies present political identities and circumstances. This term may be true for blacks in this country, but if held to a more rigorous standard of definition, the same term could be used to describe a "heritage" whose origins are somewhere between Zimbabwe and Peru. Furthermore, to assume that these two "African-Americans" could even carry on a meaningful conversation, relative to their similarities in culture, would be incorrect. 

As a written strategy, "African-American" attempts fictitiously to align itself with other terms relating to the broad history of immigration into this country. Italian-Americans immigrated from Italy, German-Americans from Germany, Japanese-Americans from Japan, and so on. On the other hand, the so-called African-American, in his attempts at realignment, actually denies a substantial and painful part of our history as well as our culture. It is obvious that we are in this country, but our rites of passage were quite different: we were slaves; we did not seek the prosperity of the New World—it sought us. 

I once heard a scholar, an African-American scholar who was discussing this same matter publicly, use the term "immigration" in reference to the presence of African-Americans in this country. This seemed to me a ruthless denial of history, something unbecoming of a scholar—or anyone else, for that matter. I had had the opportunity, along with some of my colleagues, to meet this scholar some months before I heard this statement. At our first meeting, he greeted us with "What do you niggers want?" It wasn't a malicious statement in any way, and it reminded me of the Appendx 1 page break 28 | 29 "familiarity" of certain terms that could be used by members of some peculiar club. I was shocked, but not in a way that harmed me because, in the end, I am nobody's nigger. I was more shocked by the fact that a person of his obvious stature, at least in the world of academia, could concede that he was indeed familiar with us, with me. I actually found comfort in his statement because, even in the most liberal of academic circumstances, it is rare that such associations are conveyed. However, the two utterances, alluding to immigration and to associations formulated within slavery, are completely contradictory but were both held in the mind of, supposedly, a single identity. But then again, he is a scholar and his texts may have revealed to him some evidence that he is an immigrant, and his greeting could have been his way of letting us know that he was on one side of the desk and we were, absolutely, on the other. next page

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