Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Hideous dream and meditations on African influences in America.

One book which has totally changed the way that I think about African American culture is "Hideous Dream" by Stan Goff. It's a memoir of the invasion of Haiti which took place in the mid '90s. Goff is very sympathetic to the Haitians and gives really good insights into their culture.

Which is very relevant because essentially Haitians and African Americans are the same people and Haiti and Haitian culture can be looked at as what Africans in the Americas would choose to do if they got the chance for self government.

It explains an awful lot; particularly it points out the West African influence in a lot of what,unfortunately, to many whites, are mysteries in how African Americans act and what African American culture is like.

I'll go into it later, but there's been a constant misinterpretation of what are essentially parts of an ethnic culture as being, in the eyes of racist whites, somehow transgressive and 'being bad'. Not so, of course, West African culture is very open and communal, and Haitian culture and, I think, African American culture reflect that. It isn't being transgressive in any way, any more than Italians having a more leisurely culture that doesn't emphasize the sort of dog eat dog competition of northern European culture is 'being lazy'.

In a way the fact that after enslavement the slaves were brought to the south is a cruel irony, because, if the South is an agrarian culture in many ways West Africa is an agrarian culture doubly and triply. Imagine, being enslaved and transported across the ocean only to find that you're serving in a society that vaguely resembles your own.

I don't know which would be worse, to find yourself in a situation like that or in a situation where the culture you're in is totally foreign.

It's sort of like if Italians were enslaved and found themselves in a social system that vaguely resembled the Roman Empire, only they are now at the very bottom of the pecking order.

History is ironic like that sometimes.

I'm glad, though, that there's an affinity in the deep south between Southern culture and African culture; it's better than the Northeast, which is totally hostile to it.

That's one of the reasons why I like the Pacific Northwest. Because of its isolation and other factors it's a sort of happy medium between the agrarianism of the South and the industrialism of the north.

Anyways, to get back to the point, sort of, I wouldn't want to be called 'nigger' either.

No comments: