Foundations for Brown Girls © 2017

12- Black and Afro-desdendant

Towards a Black Consciousness

The great anthropologist Edward T. Hall, who created social anthropology, concluded that Black Americans' distinctive cultural marks -independently from cultural context- were transmitted from parents to children.

We would like to add that those marks can be understood like refexions or shadows transmitted through generations, but once you are in another society, in a different culture, sooner or later your desdendants will change and adapt. That is how Transcultural societies form and evolve.

Primarily, Black Americans belong to the American matrix, not to the African one. In the late sixties, some prominent Black Americans like Nina Simone or Dizzi Gilliespie expressed their genuine feeling of being "at home" the first time they performed in Africa (at the time of the Black Power movement). But those who remained there for a while experienced and faced a different reality: even if feeling good, they noticed that African life, and all its primary systems (habits, language, proxemics) and secundary ones (regulations, limits, allowances) were totally different from those from the US.

Basically, we belong to the place we were born. Notes and Tones (1993) by Jazz musician Arthur Taylor, is a magnificent  book to read where he interviews coallegues like Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Randy Weston, Ornette Coleman, Philly Joe Jones, Ron Carter, Max Roach, Nina Simone, Freddie Hubbard, and many more; they had incredible conversations, not only about music but the whole social and emotional state in the US regarding African Amercians, between the fifties and eighties.

Another issue, present since the mid-20th Century, deals with media. The image of the world we have today is mixed: part of it is our real Habitat, part of it our virtual one, what we watch in TV and now Internet and Mobile phones, like this text. This is a serious and critical subject, analysed and anticipated by Marshall McLuhan, and will be topic for future discussions. Our prospective ideas regarding this (influence of digital media) are not positive.

Argentina: Black Invisibility

The same happens in South America with Black and Afro-descendants, with different degrees. After emigrating, there are some cultural aspects that can survive (body language, gestures, voice's projection, food). However, with all possible shades and differences, a Black person born in Sao Paulo or Cartagena basically thinks like a Brazilian or Colombian, whatever that means,* a Spanish cultural matrix.

History is a dynamic factor, along decades or century things changes, including the degree of racism of a particular region or country, and this is something to consider. To give one example, at the time of its greatess economical success, between 1880 and 1940, Argentina received the majority of European immigrants to South America: seven millions; proportionally, three times more than the US. Argentina was transformed from a large country of three million sq km with a very small mixed population into a predominantly White one... and soon it became a racist society.** However, long before (1827), the first Argentina's president, Bernardino Rivadavia, was Afro-descendant; it seems there were no severe racial issues then. Societies, cultures and genetics are more dynamic than we think: probably 10% of Argentineans are  Afro-descendants, but not many would accept or consider that heritage, not only for rejecting the mere idea of having African ancestors, but also skin colour disappears after one or two generations.

The US has a different past; as already mentioned, the settlements of English,  Welsh and Scotish did not leave any gap for inter-acting with Natives. The conquest campaigns to occupy the vast West territory did the rest.*** Regarding Blacks, the US had a (private) mixing during three long centuries. Genetics tests have shown, in mapping statistics, that Almost every Black American has some White ancestor, which they do not like to talk about.

Mixing happened everywhere along world history. Out of this complex interacting and assimilation processes (including wars) people got mixed and continued the path of life and cultural evolution. In any case, half a million years ago Humanity generated in Africa.

Empiricism and Africans

Empiricism founder John Locke (1632–1704), defined that private property is essentially adding work to Nature. If I cultivate and carefully look after an apple tree, after a few months I collect those apples and they basically belong to me, not to someone who did nothing, and of course not to someone that tried to steal them from me. It does not matter which culture and time-frame we observe, this seems a common denominator of Mankind.

Africa have been an industrious place, opposite popular knowledge. African people tend to organize well in order to face a hard environment, excess hot, absolute dry or humid air. Parts of Africa are have an extreme Habitat, with unbearable hot temperatures. Africa was a continent where species were so extended and numerous (hundred of millions of mamals, birds, reptiles, insects of all kind and size hard to describe), that it is nearly a miracle that humans survived. Africans are very keen on work and private property, but also on comunal work. One of the reasons why Communism did not succeed in Black Africa.

Locke, founder of English Empiricism and Liberalism, noticed that precisely there lies the core of organized social progress. If one culture practiced agriculture and found a viable fertile area that was abandoned but ocuppied by unorganized nomads (hunters-collectors, no settlements), then we face a classical pre-set historical path: the more advanced will take the unproductive land, will make it profitable to start producing, the dominant culture will prevail, but not without cultural traces (positive of negative) of the expelled culture.****

* In South America the differences between Black people in different regions are less visible, not only because the cultual matrix is either Spanish (Spain) or Portuguese (Brazil), but mostly because those countries, in the 16th century, conquered the subcontinent with soldiers, not with families like in the US. Therefore the mixing between Europeans (men) and Natives (women) happened immediately. A similar situation took place regarding African slaves, about two hundred years later, particularly between Spanish or Portugese and Black women in the countryside, but also later between Black men and Spanish, Portuguese or creole women. Integration between races, although not initially in cities, was quite spontaneous in Latin America, even if there are still similar (or worse) levels of segregration in all social classes compared with the US. In Latin America the mixing between races was spectacular: informal partnerhisp or marriages between people of Native American, African and Spanish-Portuguese origin was going to be the rule, not the exception.

** Argentina in the mid-19th century was: Creole 50%, White 25% Black 20%, Native 5%, and after 1930's it became predominantly White: by 1930, 60% of the population had recently arrived in ships from Europe (mostly Italians, then Spanish Germans, French, Russians, Jews, plus some Greeks, Armenian, Arabs).

*** One of the constants facts in history of civilizations, is that when a particular culture reaches a territory occupied by one that is technologically inferior, the first one wins.

**** In recent years, there is an speculation that Locke had a participation as a shareholder in the Royal African Company (slave trading), and most likely his view of Liberty was mostly for Whites. Our position is empirical: let's take from Locke his outstanding teachings, extracted from historical facts and personal behaviour.

Read the next chapter, 3H, here.  

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