Final paper for Theories of Personality at Philander Smith College HBCU by Michael S Brown (White Male)
This was my final report for Theories of Personality Psychology Course at Philander Smith College. Although 3/4 of the course dealt with the European models of psychology (Freud, Jung, Murry, Erikson, Masalow, Adler, etc.) our final was based on “Theories of African American Personality: Classification, Basic Constructs and Empirical Predictions/Assessment.” After studying the models and given our final to report on African psychology I asked my professor and was allowed to go a different route writing my final seeing as how obviously I am white, and when I publish my writings I hope to bring understanding of different cultures and ideals to all you guys. A primary reason I enrolled at a HBCU was to create unity, expand understanding between cultures, and social justice. Here is my final, I hope you enjoy it. Especially if it can give at least one person more understanding of tolerance, respect, equality, and/or understanding that we really are all one people.

Nigrescence is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as ‘a process of becoming black or dark,’ it is not an adjective or a verb but a noun which is particular in its own right. A noun is defined as ‘a word (other than a pronoun) used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things. Therefor Nigrescence is the word used to identify a class of people who are in a process of becoming black. Nigrescence is pronounced (ni·gres·cence) or for the layman (NI-GRESS-SENSE) although if not discussing around a scholarly environment or relevant conversation some creeds may wish to refrain from loosely throwing around the term as it closely mirrors the notorious word that many of us are bound not to utter, aka the infamous N-word. See as where the N-word can be used as weapon or a source of admiration and positivity greatly depends and varies based on the person/class that is delivering the most controversial and guarded word in the English language. Nigrescence is much more defined as it is a philosophical theory of thought based on distinct cognitive-emotional states in transition from an Anti-Blackness and Pro-white orientation to a conscious multi-cultural/pro-diversity/ transracial/inclusively humanistic orientation at its mature-optimal level of expression. Once again, to simplify what Nigrescence means is the process by which one embraces their root culture (for the sake of this report we will primarily focus on African Americans/African Worldview) then balance knowledge of self with a conscious integration into (White America/European Worldview).

The purpose of this paper is to relay a fact-based report based on Africentric Theories compared/contrasted with Non-Africentric Theories (widely known as European Worldviews/Models & other accredited theories/models) to create a bridge of mutual understanding and respect in a world that has been dominated by racism, injustice, and inequality since the inception of recorded history. It’s a bit late to go back and save the slaves of ancient Egypt, or the generations who lived & died as servants doing nothing except building gigantic monuments for their Kings & Gods. Perhaps it’s not too late for us to fear not the complications and cultural differences between modern day races & cultures.

Knowledge truly is power, so just as the example set in the first paragraph: Nigrescence is a model for being Africentric and having knowledge of self, while functioning in a European Model society. While Nigrescence is an African American (AA) orientation of black self-awareness and humanistic orientation in a white world, this paper will also look at two primary AA models: Africentric vs Pseudo-Africentric so readers can get better understanding of the AA culture in response to modern culture in relation to history and Eurocentric models of thought.

Before delving into the different theories of personality in relation to one another and trying to make a bridge of understanding and mutual acceptance for differing cultures it is first relative to address the elephant in the room and address the N-word. Wikipedia describes the history of the N-word as:

In the present-day English language, the word nigger is an ethnic slur, usually directed at black people. The word originated as a neutral term referring to people with black skin, as a variation of the Spanish and Portuguese noun negro, a descendant of the Latin adjective niger (meaning the color “black”). It was often used derogatorily, and by the mid-twentieth century, particularly in the United States, its usage became unambiguously a pejorative, racist insult. Accordingly, it began to disappear from popular culture, and its continued inclusion in classic works of literature has sparked controversy. Because the term is considered extremely offensive, published written media often replace it with the euphemism “the N-word”.

The variant “nigga” has to some extent been reclaimed by African Americans.

The current debate is over the last line of Wikipedia’s definition in relation to what is considered derogatory, and the usage with the “Nigg-ER” vs “Nigg-A.” Wikipedia defines “Nigga” as:

Nigga (/ˈnɪɡə/) is a colloquial term used in African American Vernacular English that began as an eye dialect form of the word nigger, an ethnic slur against black people. The word is pronounced the same as nigger in some dialects of English, including where common speech is non-rhotic.

Then Wikipedia further describes the dichotomy of the word in terms of the “Nigg-A” by describing its usage as follows:

In practice, its use and meaning are heavily dependent on context. Presently, the word nigga is used more liberally among younger members of all races and ethnicities in the United States. In addition to African Americans, other ethnic groups have adopted the term as part of their vernacular.

There is conflicting popular opinion on whether there is any meaningful difference between nigga and nigger as a spoken term. Many people consider the terms to be equally pejorative, and the use of nigga both in and outside black communities remains controversial. H. Lewis Smith, author of Bury that Sucka: A Scandalous Affair with the N-word, believes that “replacing the ‘er’ with an ‘a’ changes nothing other than the pronunciation” and the African American Registry notes, “Brother (Brotha) and Sister (Sistah or Sista) are terms of endearment. Nigger was and still is a word of disrespect.” The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a civil rights group, condemns use of both nigga and nigger.

Some African-Americans only consider nigga offensive when used by people of other races, its use outside a defined social group being an unwelcome cultural appropriation. Used by blacks, the term may indicate “solidarity or affection”, similar to the usage of the words dude, homeboy, and bro. Others consider “nigga” non-offensive except when directed from a non-African-American towards an African-American. Yet others have derided this as hypocritical and harmful, enabling white racists to use the word and confusing the issue over nigger.

Non-rhotic English-speakers, such as speakers of many British dialects and African American Vernacular English, pronounce “nigger” and “nigga” identically and do not distinguish between the two words.

The purpose of analyzing the N-word before delving into African theories of personality vs European is because to look at complex theories of thought and psychoanalysis sometimes one must consider the most basic sources that can divide cultures and humanity. No clearer example has ever been more apparent than the N-word in modern society. Ripped out of current headlines, white political comedian Bill Maher made an off-color joke during a recent episode of his HBO program “Real Time” by stating, “Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house nigger. No, it’s a joke.” The backlash from Maher’s statement was immediate and fierce as many AA and others were highly offended by his use of the derogatory term. Like many non-AAs Bill Maher had gotten a bit too comfortable in his rhetoric and crossed a line many AA take very personally due to the history and oppression caused by a word. Shortly after the incident, and backlash Maher welcomed rapper/actor Ice Cube from the legendary group N.W.A. (Niggaz Wit Attitudes) for an interview, and the topic of Maher’s slur was immediately addressed. Ice Cube effectively explained the use of the word, and why it is unacceptable for anyone not of AA decent to repeat the word:

I still think you need to get to the root of the psyche because I think there’s a lot of guys out there who cross the line because they’re a little too familiar, or they think they’re too familiar. Or, guys that, you know, might have a black girlfriend or two that made them Kool-Aid every now and then, and then they think they can cross the line. And they can’t. You know, it’s a word that has been used against us. It’s like a knife, man. You can use it as a weapon or you can use it as a tool. It’s when you use it as a weapon against us, by white people, and we’re not going to let that happened again … because it’s not cool … That’s our word, and you can’t have it back.

… It’s not cool because when I hear my homie say it, it don’t feel like venom. When I hear a white person say it, it feel like that knife stabbing you, even if they don’t mean to.

Now that the elephant in the room has been addressed it’s important to understand African psychology vs European theories. Reason being, is the base of modern psychology was established by scholars, such as the first person to propose a comprehensive theory of human personality, Sigmund Freud, a clinical neurologist who formulated his ideas while treating patients in Vienna, Austria, in the 19th century. Although contemporary personality theories strive to be inclusive studying the influences of age, gender, race, ethnic origin, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and child-rearing practices; it’s hard to analyze the personalities of 19th century studies of consciousness, behavior, and unconscious verses the ideals and theories of AA personalities. Fact is the foundation of basic psychology is based on studies involving exclusive parameters (typically all white people) with no consideration of being inclusive to all races, origins, and the foundation of other cultures, and their set of belief systems before being forced the “universally accepted” European model which does not consider the parameters that separate cultures. A European model of studying personality does not consider the stripping of AA from their homeland, their tribal rituals/beliefs which were forcibly erased from their culture through slavery and the oppression minorities face up to this very day.

The first thing one must understand when making judgements upon another culture’s psychology is to understand that many of the negative stereotypes cast upon minorities or alien actions/philosophies are the results of reactive actions. To be truly human, and altruistic the goal is racial, gender, and sexual equality. Why do you have the right to live better, get paid more, or have more opportunity than the next man? A naïve answer, say from a typical American education, is that we are all created equal. That is easy for the controlling majority to proclaim, but far from the reality of true American life; especially when considering the plight of minorities and AA.

Just 400 years ago the first AA slaves arrived in the American colonies. For over 250 years AA were thought of as property, with no rights or freedoms until the Civil War ended in 1865, but that was merely the beginning of the AA fight for equality. Just one year later in 1866 the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was formed with intentions of establishing white supremacy through methods not limited to but including murder, oppression, and terrorism. In 1881, the Jim Crow laws were created for segregating AA and oppressing their efforts to become equal citizens. Continuing through the 19th Century and the relentless fight for equality via the Civil Rights Movement, leading all the way up to current times where AA are still segregated in ghettos with poor living conditions, subpar educational systems, and little opportunity to pursue the American dream.

It is impossible to analyze the theories of personality when you consider cultures that are oppressed throughout the constructs of modern history. Therefore, AA scholars such as Kobi Kambon and William Cross established Africentric and Pseudo-Africentric models of psychology in efforts to allow AA to understand their heritage while living in a European based world of ethics and psychology. How can one have an idea of self when one does not know the root of one’s own identity? This is what causes the proactive verses reactive relations between races to this very day. One must realize that if a culture is proactively trapped in an environment of violence and crime, the reactive response is going to be elevated rates of murder, theft, and drug trafficking in a reactive effort to survive.

Kambon established personality paradigms based on these notions to give AA a sense of self within the constraints of living in a society which does very little to allow for Africentric identity. Kambon realized and based his theories on “Black self-hatred” from racial comparative research spanning the mid 1930s through the 1970s. Causing AA to have identity confusion, negative racial group perception and stereotyping among AA resulting in: lower self-esteem and negative self-concept among AAs compared to Caucasian Americans. Throughout the modern history of American history AA have been portrayed as having lower intelligence, and mental capacities compared to Caucasian Americans. An environment which shows preference towards white skin leads to AAs having lower achievement aspirations and less competitiveness than whites, more criminally-prone, lower graduation rates, lower college enrollment/graduation rates, drop-out rates, teenage parenting, and overall standard of living than whites.

Kambon realized that AA were trapped within a cultural misorentation. European thought is to alienate, or to make what is not familiar alien. When society typically finds something alien, they alienate it. Much of this alienation comes from stereotypes constructed by European models of thought, and oppression of a culture that live on till this very day. AA are self-destructive, materialistic, criminalistic, substance abusers, and similar perceptions live on to this very day. Kambon established the model that AA should have awareness of their collective African identity. Make priority of African survival, and racial-cultural development. Perpetuate and participate in African Institutions, and finally resolute resistance of anti-African forces (oppressors). Proactive = Reactive & Vice Versa.

Cross’ theories on the Pseudo-Africentric model emphasize finding knowledge of self while functioning in a Eurocentric environment. Understanding one’s identity while living under the impressions of negative stereotypes. Understanding why AA or alien races are treated with “anti-black” attitudes, and learning how to maneuver around such obstacles to move towards a racially neutral or universal human identity with an overall outcome of optimal AA personality development and identity while functioning in a European American environment.

To achieve racial harmony and growth as humans it really boils down to the basics of understanding other cultures, taking pride in one’s own heritage, while setting parameters of respect, and open communication. If not, then once again it leads to the trappings of proactive vs reactive discord among cultures. Simple truths like how many Caucasians live in a black segregated ghetto verses the outrage of when a AA family moves into the suburbs. Even one of Little Rock’s most famous historic facts revolves around the integration of AA into the once all white Central High School.

European models of psychology do a wonderful job of delving into the psyche and trying to find the reason of self. Afrocentric models, Native American Models, and Eastern European models (just to name a few) begin with knowledge of earth, tribe, and culture before immediately turning the mirror on one’s innermost thoughts. That is what modern psychology can learn from the most ancient of cultures. Society can get a lot more knowledge by learning about the spirit of the Earth, the traditions of other cultures, and mutual respect for life’s energy than constantly analyzing why Freud thinks we all act the way we do because we are infatuated with our mothers. There are things to be learned by all the great philosophers throughout the heralds of time, but the one thing societies continually miss is knowledge of others is just as important as knowledge of self.

We live in a connected world. The family that made your shirt in Japan is connected to the person who is wearing it. It is a symbiotic relationship. To eradicate hate, injustice and intolerance learning knowledge of all cultures, so you can have dialogue and create unity between all races: involves knowledge of self, and the understanding of others. Islam is a perfect example. The base teachings of Islam are beautiful, but are they understood by the majority outside the Muslim religion? Opinions are made based on the actions of radical sects of a religion that is tolerant in kind as a majority. These radicals are a reaction to the proactive bombing and slaughter of the Middle Eastern people for over 30 years now. If you bomb, and bomb and destroy civilizations (Proactive); then the (Reactive) result will be radicals seeking what they believe to be justice aka Jihad.

So, when someone wears their native clothing, or takes time to respect their native traditions extra understanding should be extended and furthermore learning about all these traditions throughout the world will ultimately lead to better knowledge of self, of the world, and how to maneuver around it in peace and harmony.