Another convo with Mel, more musing by me: His dissertation will be on so-called Americo-Liberians -- "African American" descended Liberians -- in an effort to deconstruct this identity and illustrate it to be a political remnant of colonialism. Because, as he explained, there were all kinds of people migrating to Liberia at the same time as former American slaves were repatriating -- West Indians, even West Africans from other locales.
Yet, everyone who is not a native Liberian becomes clumped into this identity or just eliminated from the Liberian political discussion. The construction of this antagonistic picture traditionally pits the Americo-Liberians against the Native Liberians (reminds me of yet another western effort to say "hey, see, this tendency for cultural groups to fight is universal!") in an overly simplistic picture of Liberian society.
Right away, I dug it. And I even can envision this taking places all over the world, people moving to deconstruct their colonial acquired political identities. Perhaps, it will put more emphasis on the commonalities between victims of colonialism.
My only question was of my own encounters with my peers here in the states. The most common resistance I get (from peers and from my own mind to myself) in any conversation attempting to deconstruct "American Blackness" or "Negroness" in favor of a political Pan-Africanism comes from the understandable tendency for cultures to want to remain distinctive.
If a "Black American" as they call us on the continent becomes "African", does that mean she must give up her distinct modern food? Her distinct language? Her distinct dress? Her distinct music? Her distinct spirituality? Even though these may be and are often just extensions of the indigenous (Africana) anyway, there is still that desire to be distinct and have one's own culture as a foundation.
That's when it hit me -- there is a difference between the political and the cultural identity. Mainly that many of our political identities have been handed down to us by a western narrative of the world. Yet our cultural identities have been created by us.
When we view them as one and the same, and someone suggests that our identity has been constructed by the other, it creates a defensiveness in us, for we want to preserve our distinct cultural identity.
But if we can separate the political from the cultural identity, then it allows us to challenge and deconstruct the one while preserving and cultivating the other.
This might be obvious to some, but I always hit that roadblock when my friends form a defense against a unified political identity based on our shared or similar political struggles. This logic helps rid those conversations of the defensiveness I think.
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