The Ordeal of Citizenship in the Digital Era
Center for the Study of Communication and Culture Catolica Universidad, Lisbon
Molefi Kete Asante
November 12, 2010
My task is to elucidate a complex set of discourses around the post-modern warping of citizenship by giving special attention to immigrant and native narratives in various contemporary societies. Transnational boundaries and transgenerational communication are cornerstones of the new era of a digitized world. Understanding and maintaining a common state of citizenship in a world where it is easy to own bank accounts, pay taxes, and live anywhere has allowed the contemporary scholar of culture and communication to explore the human being in the world as a challenge. Therefore, I want to pose as many questions as I answer, but certainly to answer the ones that are most pressing in an analysis of contemporary citizenship.
Furthermore, I seek to explore the increasingly intrusive nature of the digital revolution on the question of being, not simply autonomous ontology, but being aware of others, being-in-company, and being in company. I shall show, as Abdul JanMohammed has claimed, that the love of difference has emerged in our discourse with an undue exuberance.1 I am not suggesting that difference or differance is without value, only that the suppression of identity, to the degree that it has been suppressed, might be unwarranted in many cases.2 Indeed, the suppression of identity might lead to further communicative oppression of certain groups. The valorization of difference, a sort of hetero-philia, has warped the way we see relationships. It is true that I am different from you and yet at the same time my alterity carries its own identity and it is not simply, the other. In either case, whether in love of difference or love of identity, we are bundles of affections and cognitions that are evident in our communications.
My thesis is that most racial and ethnic discourses related to questions of citizenship are ultimately false and nothing more than fear reactions based on the idea that we will lose something that we really do not possess and can never possess exclusively. We cannot possess perfection in human relationships, even though the endeavor itself is worthy of humanity. Racial discourses are about our petty imperfections as well as the valorization of difference. Identity figures in this equation only to the extent that the Sartrean racist seeks to take his identity for granted and for meaning while simultaneously denying an identity-with-substance to others.3 In other words, a hollow symbol, an empty shell, a shadow, an unsubstantial sign, or a stereotype laden with the potential to create fear suffices for the racist imagination.
Yet in modern European and American societies it is this fear, not so much of difference but of identity that sits at the very entrance to our own freedom.4 We are stunted in our imagination, deformed by our anxieties, and hemmed in by our desire to escape from genuine humanism that recognizes identity as well as difference. Nothing less than the upheaval of our established fears can allow for the re-awakening of a human society based on the duality of difference and identity.
We have not yet abandoned the European Renaissance or the Enlightenment in social views and there are perhaps many aspects of those movements that we should not abandon, but we must continue to advance from the structured cocoon created by those who sought to control every aspect of the world. This was a control that was not simply one concerned with gold, oil, rubber, diamond, silver, or uranium, but the control of people, and people’s thoughts and behaviors. Sometimes living in the United States of America through political campaigns, where the various voices of the past are brought to the present, I imagine a17th century déjà vu experience. The 21st century is not very far from the 17th.
The United States of America was born with two serious birth defects that have truly challenged the citizenship idea. The first was the dispossession of the Native Americans and the second was the enslavement of Africans. In the process of its growth and evolution the American nation, with bravado, managed also to conquer Mexican territories. How these events are remembered and how they are passed on to students in American Studies are important matters of memory. Nevertheless, we are confronted by desires of dominance in the Althusserian sense where people are willing to exercise violence to maintain dominance over others. But as Fanon understood violence often creates more violence.5
Yet the manner in which our collective memories organize national identities and allegiances to given political platforms is of special concern. If we know anything, we know that intellectual topographies, digital literacies, embedded mythologies, reified symbols and motifs, and new histories, encourage the construction of boundaries as much as they eliminate them. In our present moment in human history two intellectual traditions converge at the level of reading and locating.6 Derrida’s reading of difference and differance and the Afrocentrist’s locating of agency and passivity, or center and margins, are deep constructions of thought meant to breakdown, to deconstruct, in order to reintegrate human thinking. I do not believe that we should dispense with either of these ideas.
Drawing on a mixture of discourses rooted in my understanding of historical themes, articulated human conflicts, and our debates over interstitial territories, I champion an alternative set of discourses based on an ancient African system of maat as articulated in the writings of Maulana Karenga.7
The ancient Africans who lived along the Nile Valley created the idea of holding back chaos and made that idea the central fact of their concepts of the ethical, physical, intellectual, and eternal life. Maat, according to Maulana Karenga, is normally referred to in modern European languages as truth, justice, propriety, harmony, balance, reciprocity, and order. But while Maat is common in our contemporary language it is exceedingly rare in national behaviors. In fact it is easy to understand why it is difficult to achieve when Karenga says that “Maat means rightness in the spiritual and moral sense in three realms: the Divine, the natural and the social.”8 In effect, as Seba Khun-Anup says, “Speak Maat, do Maat, for Maat is mighty, it is great, it endures…Wrongdoing does not achieve its goal, but one who is righteous reaches dry land.”9 Our task, as communicators, cultural thinkers, and is to pose Maat in the making of citizens where the digital era has broken the boundaries of territories and place. Our dealings with each other, no longer local, but global and digial, must rise to the level of Maat.
Recently I read in the New York Times that the Israeli government was planning to send 400 children, born in Israel, to the original home of their parents because the parents were undocumented aliens when the children were born (Haaretz.com). Israel is not alone in this tendency to seek external causes for economic and social turbulence. Squeezed because jobs are scarce during a recession, many Israelis blame the lack of job opportunities on the presence of the once much-needed foreign laborers.
In the United States the immigration issue has taken on some of the vilest expressions of racism we have seen in a few years. The motivation for the anti-immigration activities in the United States is the Mexican immigrant, most often undocumented. There may be twelve million undocumented aliens, principally Mexicans, but also some Eastern Europeans, in the United States according to the authorities. Believing that the Mexican government is broken and that the growing migration of undocumented Mexicans to the United States cannot be completely stopped, the State of Arizona, in the American southwest, a state that borders Mexico wrote a law requiring police to arrest anyone who might be considered illegal. The probem is that the only people they were considering with this law were Mexicans. Fortunately, a federal court prevented this negative law from going into effect. There will be more debate and legal actions by the State of Arizona and the United States federal government. It appears from some news reports that there might also have been some capitalist interests in pushing this law since a few corporations that specialize in housing aliens stand to win millions of dollars worth of contracts with the State of Arizona. The plan was to have law enforcement officers arrest the aliens and since there was not enough space in the local jails, the capitalist prison developers would meet the need by producing their own holding cells. They would stand to make millions of dollars on such a scheme.
As important as these suspicions, the protections of traditional dominance patterns are at the core of these irrational actions. There are fears here, not simply fears of Mexicans taking jobs from Anglos, but profound ontological fear. Mexicans will further Mexicanize the culture, the food, the language, the philosophy of beauty, and the history of the region. The question for the whites is, “How to maintain Anglo-Saxon control and dominance in a region that is becoming increasingly Mexican?” People know certain things or they think they know certain things because this is the way it has been done in the past or this is what their parents told them about a situation. What we have known before, that is, what we knew during the analog age, we knew viscerally with our affective as well as cognitive dimensions. Sometimes we have brought the past attitudes too far into the 21st century much like a child who grows up in her parents’ religion and then in adulthood believes, genuinely believes, that she made an independent choice to be a member of a certain religion. In such a case one has no choice but to choose our parents’ choice. There is a wave of imposition, a tide of coercion, that exists in our social interactions around what we think are our independent choices.
Our language and our ability to decipher appear to succumb to no particular hegemonic system. We know now, however, that it is respect for others that must govern all true intellectual quests regardless of hegemony. This is the basis of all listening to others even when we hear others say, “I do not care what you say. I do not want to listen.” Actually they are listening at that very moment and they do care even though they may not act upon what they have heard or may be angry about it.
I have heard some of my contemporaries say, “I am comfortable with the way the world as it is, as I see it, do not disturb my world. Do not bring new ideas.” These are the dinosaurs of thought. Do you remember what happened to Leonardo Fibonnacci when he brought to Europe the African-Arab numerals that replaced the bulky Roman Numerals that had been introduced by the Roman Empire?10
Many people ridiculed Leonardo Fibonacci, called him a witch, an evil man filled with mysterious ideas about how the world should or could work more efficiently, and then threw him into jail. What audacity he had to bring innovations in the way Europe wrote numerals? Today, six hundred years later the world is grateful that he insisted on the portability and practicality of the new numerals.
During the early part of the last century in the American South, a place laced with a history of charm and cruelty, and in more recent times in South Africa under the white minority regime there was signage racism, personal racism emerging in the signage throughout the country. Signs pointed people to either “white” or “black” places to eat, sleep, or drink. We knew this in the United States for a hundred years after the end of the enslavement in 1865. In the l9th century there had been a brief twelve years of Reconstruction when it looked like the old structure of enslavement would give way to a world of interracial freedom and collective responsibility toward government.11 Blacks were elected to Congress, served as senators, and briefly as governor of one state. But by 1877 the reaction was so severe, the response of the right wing racist political operatives caused an abrupt halt to what could have been a regime of good relations. The era degenerated into the establishment of the Ku Klux Klan, a terrorist organization, with the purpose of bringing back the old regime in which blacks “knew” their places and their places were not alongside whites.
In the present day it is hard to imagine black and white racial signs to separate people but it has not been so long ago that there were those times in África, in America. What could have possibly gone through the minds of the perpetrators of these divisive structures in America and in South África? Who could devise such laws? What would a white person do in a toilet that a black woman would not or could not? How could a black man use a urinal differently than a white man? What contamination would I cause to a white person by eating my food in the same room? How is it that our societies have advanced beyond this static kill of the spirit of humanity? Who is responsible for the death of reason? These are telling questions because once we answer them we are right back at the heart of the matter. Humans are responsible for all conventions by which we live regardless of our societies. If I do not want for you what I want for myself then I am reducing you to something other than human. In effect, to be human, as I am human or think I am, I have certain expectations but if I am able to separate you from me and to define you as outside of those expectations, then I have reduced you, thrown you into a pile of trash, or to the human wayside. This is the core meaning of all forms of human discrimination. The racist says, “You are not me and you do not deserve the rights or expectations that I have.” All societies have dank corners of these antiqúe beliefs in their closets because all societies have individuals who believe they are better than others. Chattel slavery in the past was the epitome of the idea of otherness, the enslaved were those who were really not considered human at all, but property, to be owned, managed, and disposed of at will.
Portugal has its own closet of questions, so does Spain, and France, the UK, and the United States. There are no gods that have devised racist regulations and restrictions or anti-feminist attitudes; all these actions belong to humans. The makers of social terror that lead to destruction of trust and deep self-rejection are all humans. They look like our neighbors, in fact, they look like us. However, all violence against human beings has the capacity to ignite the fires of hatred.12
I must add, however, that I would not ask the majority to decide on the rightness of these anti-human actions nor would I put these issues to some human majority in an effort pursue some form of Foucault’s popular justice because majorities can be very wrong.13 If we think popular in the sense of majority or mass public opinion we know that such popular opinions have often been responsible for killing decent people.
I do not need to remind you that a few months ago we had a horrendous debate in the United States over whether or not the Islamic community in New York should build a community center on land that they own close to the site where the World Trade Towers were attacked? There were many irrational arguments in this debate. In the United States, the Constitution, almost a sacred document, protects “freedom of religion” and “freedom of speech.”
But the masses of Americans, according to the pollsters at the times, wanted to deny those freedoms to Muslims. “They must not build their community center which included a mosque so close to Ground Zero,” the masses said. Popular justice is sometimes based on mass justice and mass justice has its limitations when it comes to ethics.
I am a descendant of people who have lived with a majority that has over the years believed in slavery, racial segregation, Ku Klux Klan violence, the lynching of Africans. The southern majorities in America condoned attacks on little school children because they were black, and now we are often confronted in many societies with violent homophobia, anti-Jewishness, anti-Africanness, and discrimination against women.
If you had taken a poll of the masses during the heat of many of these debates rational people would have wondered if we did not live in a mad society, so vitriolic and violent were the arguments and actions against others. Too often, freedom is interpreted as something that we could have but not others. This thinking, of course, is the beginning of terror.
Terror, the political term of the era, has two forms, petty and grave. They form a merry-go-round, you see them here and then you see them there. They are parts of the same process of negation of self and others. Perhaps the petty terror is different from the grave terror in some respects, as I will show, but they are pretty much of the same game. They play on the same football pitch, though in different positions at different times. They are consistent in their ability to strike from any position on the field. This is our dilemma.
Petty terror operates in our societies, as it has in previous societies, as violent attacks and assaults against people and institutions with which the terrorists have differences. Terror, in such cases, is a message sent with the most awful consequences to individuals, families, homes, and institutions.
But even in the most vile assaults on property and individuals this petty terror is never so ovewhelming or so consequential as the grave terror that demonstrates its awesome power in the devastation of a people’s will to live, in their desire to achieve, in their ability to maintain culture, and in their absolute economic degradation on a daily basis.
Grave terror is created when a society is able to produce an extensive, indeed, in some instances a comprehensive malaise and immobility in thinking, in action, and in behavior. It reigns supreme in the avenues of our brain like massive trucks consuming all of the space on the road. You know the experience of driving around the side of a mountain and meeting a huge truck that takes up all of the road and you are squeezed into the smallest possible área to avoid a disaster. Well, this is grave terror. Like petty terror it is based on successfully peddling the idea of mortal fear. Of course, no where else in the world has terror been de-historicized as in the United States. The 9-11 attack on the United States brought a new awareness of terror, but Africans, Native Americans had lived with terror for several hundred years. Lynching of blacks became a recreational pasttime in the 20th century. General Sherman sent soldiers to kill millions of buffalo on the American plains in an effort to force the Native Americans into reservation camps.
One thing we have learned in the modern world is that fear is contagious. It sends fundamentalists, of whatever religious banner, into action with a vengeance. The terrorists are fearful themselves and they use their own fear to scare the hell out of others. They blow up this and that or they tell this lie or that lie, but utlimately the malaise brought on by fear multiplies so that there is a headlong rush of masses of people seeking to hold back the collapse of structure.
They have to be against love. They have to be against Mexicans. They have to be against Africans. They have to be against Christians. They have to be against Muslims. They have to be against Catholics. They have to be against Communists. They have clear prejudices against everyone and every culture, gender, creed, or ethnic group. They are miserably locked into a world of madness. It is this madness that screams at them and creates racism, colorism, religious prejudice, women haters, and so forth.
And now we see that this suspected hetero-philia, love of difference, is somewhat a mirage, a phantom, because what matters to the hater, the denier, is his own identity, something he would like to prevent the other from ever possessing.
There are white Americans, for example, who insist even now that President Barack Obama is not an American despite the fact that the authorities in his home state of Hawaii have produced copies of his birth certificate. We call these doubters, birthers, meaning that they question his nationality. “How could he be an American,” they say, since he thinks like a European or an African? In their minds they believe that his emphasis on social justice, religious freedom, environmental protection, health care for all, is an anti-American position. Some even ask, “How could Obama be an American since he was born in Hawaii”? Not knowing that Hawaii is a state of the United States of America these birthers betray reason and show their ignorance of their own history. Others ask, “How could he be an American since his step-father was an Indonésian and he was raised in Jakarta?” “How could he be an American since his Kansan mother married a Kenyan, and Kenya is in Africa?”
What the racists among this cohort are saying is, “How can a black man lead the American nation? How did he gain control over the political apparatus of the United States? So, one of their campaign pledges in the last election, held a few days ago, was “Let’s take our country back!” The double meaning inherent in this political declaration was probably unintentional but the clarity of going backwards is crystal clear.
The implication for many conservative Americans is that Barack Obama is not an American. The fact that the right wing won one of the houses of Congress in 2010 attests to the strength of this identity politics. Although Obama’s intellectual and academic records are impeccable and the fact that he achieved the highest political office by sheer brilliance, eloquence, and the ability to sell his ideas to the majority of the people, those who closed their eyes to reality still see him as an interloper, occupying a white person’s position. I am setting a stage for you to see how the collapse of structure, however ancient in the mind, can cause more fear.
We must never forget that the fear generated in the unconscious masses is dangerous because they believe that there is some threat to them because others are also free. It is the unconscious masses’ unfreedom that produces their fear. They cannot allow others to be free because their unfreedom would unravel.
In many cases the so-call birthers in the United States have been born in Portugual, England, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Sweden, Greece, and other European nations. They came to a country of immigrants and sought to impose the strictest structures on others.
One Hungarian immigrant said that he was against the Mexicans coming to the United States to have children just so they could gain American citizenship, but in his case, he explained it was different. I guess the difference was that he migrated to the United States because of political reasons, the oppressive Soviet Union’s pressure on freedom in Hungary, but the Mexicans seem to be coming for economic reasons. In the end, none of this matters because the Hungarian American is just demonstrating his ignorance of history and prejudice against Mexicans, who are among the first as well as the latest group to arrive. One-third of the United States once belonged to Mexico and it is still an unsettled question in the minds of millions of Mexicans whose land was appropriated nearly one hundred and seventy years ago.
So the issue is sovereignty of nation states in some circles. Those who claim priority of citizenship often devalue the experiences of those who arrived within the jurisdiction of the state without documents. If we cannot discriminate on the basis of ethnicity or race, then we can claim that the person is undocumented. If the person is documented, then we claim that we cannot employ them because of their accents. This is a common situation in Western Canada in the Vancouver area where African immigrants to the area have the highest educational credentials of any immigrant group yet often find it difficult to secure the best jobs because of their English accents. Of course, Vancouver is English-speaking and there is no trouble with the English accent of Australian or British people in the area. To further complicate this problem of linguistic accents, the largest group of immigrants to the Vancouver region are Chinese and they are the ones who are discriminating against the Africans because the Africans do not speak English like the Chinese immigrants. So you understand now, it is not racism, they claim, but accentism that produces the need not to hire or promote the African person. All of this is complicated by the fact that the sovereign government is Canada and yet the operational realities on the ground are counter the realities one would find in Toronto or Montreal.
Sovereignty has two dimensions, as a practical idea or as a popular idea. As a practical idea sovereignty is related to how governments control the domestic actions within its jurisdiction. As a popular idea, one gaining in use, sovereignty is earned by nations on the basis of protection of those within their jurisdiction. However, nothing about it is sacred and it could be transferred from one government entity to another.
The dominance of neoliberalism, after the fall of the Soviet Union, has brought mistrust in governments, not that this is a new idea, but it is new in the sense that we had thought that there were some governments that were truly untrustworthy. Now we are faced with the uncomfortable fact that governments appear to be inherently untrustworthy, regardless of the honesty of the people in the government. The nature of the bureaucracy invites, as Kafka knew, dangers to the public.14 There is a tendency to devalue the personal experiences of the citizen. We are victimized by our own optimism. This was the experience of many leftists during the first couple of years of the Barack Obama government in the United States. Is it ever possible for government to fulfill all of its promises and to what degree are we willing to admit that our favorite politicians have lied to us? They are neither gods nor angels, but like us, they are human. However, unlike us, they make their living selling us the idea that they are really capable of delivering us from evil. In every society, repeatedly, we believe them. Such is the nature of human mistrust of government.
We soon forget the past unless we are constantly reminded and that is why societies create rituals of remembrances, festivals, religious observances, and shrines. Sometimes children do not remember or do not know the debt they owe to their parents for their own livelihoods.
Africans must take notice that the world is no longer after Africans in a physical sense, but after África itself. It is the richest continent, the cake that has not yet been fully eaten; the treasure that has not yet been completely stolen; and the intellectual and philosophical well that remains too deep from which to drink. In the West we assume that Africa is very different, even the word exotic used by the French to identify Josephine Baker was too mild for what some would call African ideas. Terms like primitive, savage, jungle roll off of the lips of Westerners in reference to Africa more than to any other place. As an African I am re-assured by my friends that I am not the African they are thinking about. But this reassurrance does not allay my fears or calm my anxieties. There are very real reasons why I am not at ease with verbal exclusions. I know that I am one with the African world, with the African that is condemned, held in contempt, and that has history torn from its roots. I can be profiled as they say in the United States. It is one of the more onerous state crimes in America, this racial profiling, which allows a police to look at a person and to declare that person dangerous, unfit for the society, or suspicious. While it is now considered unethical and is increasingly prohibited some highway police often have an unwritten law that certain drivers, particularly young black and Latino males, should be routinely pulled over and checked for drugs, seatbelt violations, or any other transgression that could result in the person being imprisoned. Such deliberate targeting of those who are socially or physically “not like the rest of us,” hás been adjudged a violation of a driver’s rights. It is now considered criminal in some states for police to profile individuals for harassment. But the passion for profiling stems from the prediction of dangerousness, not necessarily in physical terms, but in terms of our comfort with our own prejudices.
A recent report by the CCR.Justice.org in New York is most revealing. Jeffrey Fagan, a Professor of Law and Public Health at Columbia University, has supported a class action lawsuit of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) that challenges NYPD stops-and-frisks because these stops were racist.
Nearly 150,000 stops over the last six years lack any legal justification. Another 544,252 stops may be unconstitutional but were not sufficiently documented to analyze. Here are the facts:
Most police stops occur in Black and Latino neighborhoods, and even after adjustments for other factors including crime rates, social conditions and allocation of police resources in those neighborhoods, race is the main factor determining NYPD stops; Black and Latino residents are more likely to be stopped than Whites even in areas with low crime rates where populations are mixed or mostly White; Nearly half of all stops are justified by citing the vague category “furtive movements,” as opposed to only 15 percent citing “fits relevant description”; In more than half of all stops, the officers cite “high crime area” as an “additional circumstance” even in precincts with lower than average crime rates. The Supreme Court has found specifically that it’s unconstitutional to stop and frisk a person simply because they are in a so-called “high-crime” neighborhood; Black and Latino suspects are treated more harshly in instances in which police officers make the determination that a crime has occurred. Black and Latino suspects are more likely to be arrested rather than issued a summons when compared to White suspects who are accused of the same crimes. Black and Latino suspects are more likely to have force used against them; and The rate of gun seizures is nearly zero—0.15 out of a hundred stops—a disturbingly low return for a law enforcement tactic the NYPD claims is designed specifically to remove illegal guns from the streets.
The idea is that the immigrant or ethnic other in a cognitive way, that is, in the mind of the Native, could be punished not for what the immigrant had done, or would do, but for what the Native believe he or she may do in the future. Often the Native believes that he will be harmed by the immigrant’s lifestyle, behavior, food preparations or physical dangerousness. The Native refuses to bear any risk in regard to the immigrant and in fact seeks to project the dangerousness of the immigrant as a reason for violating the immigrant’s status.
What are we to make of President Sarkozy’s rounding up of thousands of Roma in France and shipping them to Romania and Bulgaria? What can actually be the justification for South Africans assaulting Zimbabweans who seek work in South Africa, especially since South Africans received financial, military, and moral support from the Zimbabweans during the days of apartheid? Indeed, there should not be the quid pro quo that humans should be treated with decency simply because they treated others with decency. Why should any human be treated in a fashion less than human? The answer to this question is obvious for those of us who seek to foster new spaces for effective human interactions. No one should have to deny their identity, conceal their names, or hide their background in order to be a full citizen. It was widely reported on September 25, 2010 that two former Polish neo-Nazis who had become violent skinheads in Warsaw during their teenage years learned in 2009 that they were actually Jewish. The report said that their ancestors had hid their Jewish identities in order to protect them from the Nazis. Ola, the woman, and Pawel, the man, now in their thirties said that they believed when they were teenagers that “it was all about white power…that Jews were the biggest plague and the worst evil of this world.”15 Now that they have embraced their Jewish identity and history they are actively trying to overcome the regrets of the past. Of course, they no longer believed the accusations against Jews now that they have understood their own humanity as Jews. Literally they have awakened to become the bodies and the minds they hated without reason. The claiming of identity is a form of census taking. It allows us to know who we are and who the other is only for the purpose of enriching our lives, not destroying theirs or preventing theirs, but seeing clearly how much even with difference we are to each other.
I think we can pose another issue of complexity given the new emphasis on non-geographical social networks such as Internet blogs, online communities, virtual classrooms, and various other non-geographical spaces. We can spread our identities, opinions, and ideas throughout the world in near lightning speed without an editor.
An entire field of intercultural and international communication developed in the l970s around the notion that human beings from various cultures were interacting more regularly because of air travel. This meant that a business person, student, or professor who lived in one cultural settings could easily within a day be situated in another geographical area with someone of a different culture. Now all of this has become far more complicated because our spaces have become arenas of thought, multi-level discourse sites, and even interactive ideologies that are created through digital engagements. In effect, spaces of interpersonal communication and intercultural communication are discovered everyday in our ordinary adventures with each other. They are the spaces where we meet other cultures and interact with them in the context of a common humanity.
Our own identities are created and re-created during these remarkable meetings and it is our emphasis on human relations that re-shapes our spaces so that they are safe. Maulana Karenga, Antonio Gramsci, Stuart Hall, and Ana Monteiro Ferreira, among others, have added the dimensions of class, power, identity, and centeredness to intercultural spaces. I have tried to link Afrocentricity, that is, the idea of agency and subject perspective of African culture, to the best aspects of post-modernity. In an anti-structural sense, a core idea in post-modernity, Afrocentricity has sought to address immigration, diasporas, and representative identities in ways that align with the best thinking of Ama Mazama, belle hooks, Paul du Gay, Stuart Hall, Ien Ang, and even Zizek.
They all suggest that you cannot hear your own opinion and be sane. You have to listen to others, integrate ideas, attached symbols, understand and appreciate diversity, in order to retain a semblance of humanity. But to listen to others is essential communication. President Amadinejad has some of the same issues that President Bush had, he hears his own voice, he sees only his perspective, and he concedes only his history. Yet as the poet said, none of us is an island.
Maat exists sometimes when we have exhausted the means to harm each other. Armies have run out of weapons, distances have proven too great to launch missiles, money has dried up and the people are weary of supporting warfare, and children have been born who have no memory of the reasons for hatreds, animosities, and enmities between people. We must have a new standard of citizenship, based on acceptance of diversity, freedom, and respect for humanity and reason, then we will be able to declare that humanity has met and conquered the ordeal of citizenship in the digital age.
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Fanon, Frantz, The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove, l965
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Karenga, Maulana, Introduction to Black Studies. Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press, 2010.
Karenga, Maulana, Selections from the Husia: Sacred Wisdom of Ancient Egypt. Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press, l984.
Mazama, Ama, ed., The Afrocentric Paradigm. Trenton: Africa World Press, 2003.
Sartre, Jean-Paul. “Orphée Noir.” Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1948.