PERSISTENCE OF THE AFRICAN-CENTERED WORLDVIEW
In order to better grasp the worldview that emerges from an African reality, it is first necessary to understand, and in some cases re-examine, the notion of culture. Culture has been inappropriately equated with a number of superficial variables like food, music, clothing, and artifacts. Although each of these items is a represen- tation or a manifestation of culture, they are not culture in and of themselves.
Culture is a complex constellation of mores, values, customs, tradition, and practices that guide and influence a people’s cognitive, affective, and behavioral response to life circumstances. In essence, culture provides a general design for living and a pattern for interpreting reality (Nobles, 1986). Thus, in seeking to clarify and understand the African-centered worldview, the relevant question be- comes: How do African Americans construct their design for living, and what patterns do they use to interpret reality? Take for example, a July 2009 incident in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Harvard Professor and African-American in- tellectual Henry Louis Gates is arrested by that city’s police at his home for “dis- turbing the peace and disorderly conduct.” The incident made national headlines and was the subject of intense debate on all major networks for weeks, with opinions being shared on both sides about the significance of race in this cir- cumstance. However, there is more at play here than the fact that Professor Gates is African American and the police officer(s) was White. What is clear is that in that situation each participant’s mindset, and ultimate response that never de-escalated until Gates was booked at the local jail, was influenced by his or her design for living and pattern for interpreting reality. Contextually, Gates is re- turning from a trip abroad and is just arriving home with his driver and bags in toe. Because he experiences some difficulty in opening the door to his house, he motions to his driver to provide him with some assistance. Now, you have two Black males, on a porch in a predominantly White suburb of Boston, attempting to gain entry into a house. A vigilant neighbor observes the two men, and calls police, assuming that Gates and his driver are attempting to break in and gain illegal entry. That’s when the police respond. Before they arrive, Gates has entered his home and is putting things down. Once the police have arrived, he is asked to show identification to verify his local address, but perceives that his interrogation is moving way beyond the boundaries of what is acceptable, particularly having just produced the identification the police demanded. Gates reportedly demands to know the name and badge number of the officer in charge, and emotions escalate, tempers flare, and ultimately, Professor Gates is arrested for what can only be imagined as being belligerent to the police.
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