A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

University Education turned into Ethnocentrism?
By Keisha Saul

With the decrease in University enrollment of African Americans, the faculty at many of these universities with less than 10% Black representation have been battling an organization-internal conflict. Fact is, many universities across the nation do not have a Black Studies Department. More striking is that those who do have been battling what I call an "organization-internal conflict"; this conflict is exactly which culture should dominate the department the African traditional culture, the culture of the African-American, or that of the West Indian or Caribbean Immigrant.

With differing views, some Black Americans fail to realize that all African culture spawned from the Continent itself. Within Black Studies Departments, there has been a long struggle for culture domination. Courses on African-American culture taught in many universities have been replaced, or slightly altered to include courses on African traditional culture and history of the Caribbean. For many African-American department heads, this is unacceptable. Some believe that the Black Studies department within the university should carry out the task of promoting awareness of the Black American's sociological problems, including living in the aftermath of slavery. But haven't Africans on the continent and those who have been forced into colonization in the Caribbean also suffered the same faith?

The Black Studies department at University of California at Berkeley is no stranger to the theory that the African-American professor is being pushed out of his/her position, only to be replaced by a cultured African or Caribbean immigrant. Author Marvin X, former professor at the university, speaks of his experience in critical, at times biased words "We were immediately replaced with acceptable Negroes, the more pliant variety of military types, intelligent agents, and yes, in many cases, immigrant Negroes more acceptable to the colonial college administrators. Thus Africans and Caribbean Negroes were in many cases less radical".

Now remind yourself that this is a Black man being quoted, who does not refer to himself as racist, biased, a bigot, or believes that he is in many ways demonstrating forms of self-hatred.

Authors, educated men such as Marvin X and Cecil Brown, pass a stereotype against immigrants by labeling them as "more pliant Negroes". They both felt as if they were pushed out of their department, their classes re-named with African and Caribbean influence, and their departments changed from the personality of the radical African-American to that of the "pliant" African immigrant.

It is what I believe to be true that many immigrants have stereotypes of what it is to be a Black American. The stereotype that they (Black Americans) are cultureless, prone to violence, and have a lack of respect for education is a widespread belief. It is also widespread among many African Americans that African immigrants from the continent are uneducated, uncivilized, are acculturated to believe in barbaric ways of living, and are very radical in tradition. Some Caribbean immigrants hold stereotypes of their own, including the belief that a certain level of "whiteness" is achieved by disestablishing the significance of the Black American. Fact is, to exist in a country such as the United States, which has in many ways institutionalized racism, is a difficult reality.

So what do these stereotypes mean for the university student, who has absolutely nothing to do with the race politics inside their Black Studies Department? Courses are steadily altered, professors are burdened by the conflict and according to who is in charge, there may be less representation of your presence on campus.