What of our morals?
Africana art and philosophy has offered us a stunning insight into the principals and aesthetics that shape vital pieces of Africana art and culture.
This school of philosophy represents the moral implications of logic and metaphysical thought directed towards black bodies and in doing so, allows elaboration on race and it’s detrimental effects on black people.
But why is it that we don’t hail Africana philosophy as we do philosophers like Plato, Hume, Descartes, Kant, and (widely known), Nietzsche? Well, one of the simple answers is one worded — white.
Western ideas of import and knowledge are synonymous with traditional notions of intelligence. The structure of intellectual writing intertwines with the idea of European culture and aesthetics as being a dominant and superior art form, reigning from Greco-Roman idea and thought. Besides dictating the pillars for society and solidifying the institutions that deal directly with socio-political and geographical climates and boundaries, Eurocentrism has consistently and historically appointed what is favourable for us (as a collective world) to learn.
This has re-directed us from studying vital pieces and dialogue rooted in African thought. To understand the meaning and importance of freedom and the condition of the black body in and outside of North America and Africa, we have to advocate the advancement of philosophical logic as applied toward black people and other people of colour as well.
Instead of romanticising and quoting certain dialectical methods used by ancient and modern ethnic philosophers, how about we get some insight into the context of which these theories are applied?
These philosophies are vital and sustaining forces that reinforce the sentiments of humanity that black people have adamantly fought for for centuries. We must deviate from these institutions based in Westernised logic to be able to formulate thoughts that allow us to be able to speak coherently on the black condition.
To be able to study these things within themselves are hard because it requires intensive thinking and cognitive awareness; yet to have this opportunity in an American schooling system (the only one that I can speak with experience on) is highly unlikely. These philosophies, as one may be aware, can create an environment that may breed radical thought.
Is radicalism necessarily a bad thing? Absolutely not. The definition of a radical (as according to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary) is as follows:
adjective rad·i·cal \ˈra-di-kəl\
: very new and different from what is traditional or ordinary
: very basic and important
: having extreme political or social views that are not shared by most people
People involved in the movement for Civil Rights and Social Activism were considered to be radicals because their ideas of progressivism and equality deviated from the people around them, right? Our James Baldwin’s, Angela Davis’s, and Kathleen Cleaver’s.
Our Huey P. Newton’s and Audre Lorde’s and Cornell West’s.
All of them added unique perspectives to the newly coined ‘civil disobedience’ that was adopted by activists.
These figureheads wrote literature that acted as frameworks: outlining radical thought and political notion to convey the important themes that young revolutionaries were marching and protesting for. Be it through speech, writing, or debate: we have recorded narratives, dialogues, and other vital pieces of documents by black authors that are able to teach us about revolutionary philosophy.
Art in itself has had historical impact in calling people to arms to fight injustice face to face. In the black community, the transparency of art is in all forms of community and life. On streets, clothing, nails — even hair. It’s everlasting and it’s this beautiful, tangible thing that has managed to bring an oppressed people to their feet. Whether it be from listening to a rap artist spit beautifully intricate lyrics with more poetic impact than any bland English novel I’ve ever had to read, or be it in a simple black and white photograph of a black body swinging from a noose with leering white faces surrounding it.
Southern trees truly do bare strange fruit.
Recognising the impact that Africana people have in art historically and how political ideology and intellectual thought have woven their way into different movements of social activism is, indeed, remarkable. We should have an appreciation of these things as we do for European artists and intellectuals.
We need to stop solely connecting intelligence with whiteness.