One of the things that has emerged as a consequence of the attempted deAfrikanization of our people via the Maafa is an irreverence for African tradition, our ancestral traditions. In this–the modern, western context–tradition is described as the abode of the dead, the static, and the anachronistic. Herein, tradition is not that which links the children to the elders to the ancestors–thus providing a necessary force of social cohesion. Tradition is not regarded as that accumulated wisdom, borne of our people’s deep study of the universe, society, and humankind. Rather our traditions are described as fetters, as encumbrances–things and ideas which impedes the full flowering of our modern, individual expression.
What must be noted here is that while African tradition is decried, the western tradition is embraced. Thus western notions of governance (i.e., liberal democracy), economics (i.e., free market capitalism), ethics (i.e., Dr. Ani’s “rhetorical ethic”), family (i.e., the nuclear family), humanity (i.e., hyper-individualism), and so forth are not relegated to the rubbish bin as useless, outmoded, or alien ways of being. Instead, having been described and imposed as universal, these notions are thus ever-relevant, ever-compelling, and ever-suited for African people today. These traditions, though embraced in the modern context, owe their formation to older intellectual, political, economic, and philosophical traditions in the west–from ancient Greek philosophers to 19th and 20th Century social theorists. Thus, these modern and supposedly universal ideas are grounded in a European tradition.
Given that what is occurring is not the evisceration of tradition per se, but rather the the continuing supplanting of an African one by a European one, several urgent questions come to mind:
- What are psychological, economic, or political the implications of privileging the traditions of aliens over one’s own?
- What are the economic and political systems that buttresses the hegemony of the western paradigm–and by extension facilitate the erasure of our own?
- How does dependence upon alien paradigms and ways of being inevitably determine the form and parameters of our cultural expression?
- Can African people free themselves , political and economically, on the basis of alien constructs?
I will not take up the first three questions now, but I will offer Dr. Carruthers’s wisdom with respect to the final question, whose insights suggest that any supposed freedom based on alien paradigms will ultimately prove insufficient. Our ancestor stated: “We cannot move our people by borrowing our foundations from other people.”