Tuesday, December 7, 2010
John Henrik Clarke to Mary Lefkowitz in the Black Athena Debate, March, 1996:
“I think you have emphasized too much the word Black. We’ve made the same mistake. Black tells you how you look but it don’t tell you who you are. The proper name of people must always relate to land, history and culture.”
Inner Civilization* on the use of the word "black":
"The truth is, race or color should be important to us only when we need it to be. Our blackness should not be the most important characteristic we use to identify ourselves. It may serve as an initial element in our identification, but this is not the criteria we should use to strengthen ourselves as a people. We should consider ourselves "black" in comparison to "whites” and that is all. Think: whites only refer to themselves as whites in the context of black-white relations. The remainder of the time they are simply "normal" human beings conducting their affairs within the legacy of the universal human condition experienced by all humankind.
The focus on race, as we can see by our behavior today, does not necessarily strengthen our ties and obligations to each other as African Americans or as human beings. Kinship, tradition, a deep sense of community, culture, heritage, faith and determination---these are the elements that strengthen communities and give them texture.
Our skin color is important in the sense that it serves as a threshold on the path towards better understanding what our heritage is, where our homelands were, what our traditions and cultures are, and how our social ties and kinship should be structured. Quite unlike skin color, our culture and ties of kinship are aspects of our lives we have a choice in shaping; they are aspects that we can always improve upon. The way we choose to strengthen our culture, our spirits, and our family structure is up to our own determination and our own efforts. These are the elements of our existence that were lost upon our arrival in America. These are the essential factors of life that have concerned all people across the globe and throughout the ages. Dealing with these issues is what makes us human; it is what makes us know that we are really alive. Unfortunately these are the aspects of our life in America we have neglected the most. In other words we are humans being first and as healthy human beings it is critical that we maintain a significant connection with a common heritage, culture and structure of values."
*From the chapter Developing Black Thought.