Afrocentricity Critical Context - Essay

Arthur Lee Smith Jr.

Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

In Afrocentricity, Asante provides a conceptual framework for an ideology that is designed to unshackle a population that has struggled for centuries to realize the greatness of its ancestry. Asante offers an outline to Africans throughout the diaspora explaining how they can obtain an awareness of themselves and of their heritage. In 2003, Asante revisited this framework to determine how hip-hop and other aspects of postmodern culture related to his central thesis. His intent was primarily to make his text more accessible to a new generation of readers and to rebut two decades of criticism; his argument itself remained largely unchanged.

Asante’s ideas on centricity underwent a developmental process. Through the course of visiting Africa over a period of twenty years, Asante came to the conclusion that African Americans were culturally handicapped. This realization enabled Asante to explain what happens to a people who—when they are completely severed from their land of birth and denied their ancestry, culture, language, and history—eventually become emotionally and mentally impaired. Asante explains that a people that has lost its identity lacks direction, confidence, and self-esteem. Culture, however, empowers people; it promotes identity. For African Americans and those Africans throughout the diaspora, Afrocentricity offers a systematic methodology for regaining their heritage, self-confidence, and self-esteem.

Asante does not compromise his strict views on the complete transformation one must undertake to become Afrocentric. Afrocentricity encompasses the complete shedding of any thoughts, behaviors, relationships, and cultures that are foreign to the development of the Afrocentric mind. Asante’s critics are sometimes offended by what they perceive as antiwhite indoctrination and racist attitudes being embraced by some African Americans who adopt Afrocentricity as a way of life. These critics also deplore the idea of dispensing with a Eurocentric curriculum in schools and replacing it with one that some feel is not essentially correct. Asante, however, maintains that African Americans must develop an awareness that is infused into their daily lives and that school curricula provide a vital starting point for such development.