A Portrait of Afrocentrism

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Afrocentrism is the cultural movement in which African-Americans embrace the African culture. It has inspired strong opinions and scholastic debate throughout its history. Afro-centrists misinterpret both African culture and their personal histories. They reject negative aspects of their history and the Afrocentric movement as a collective has a selfish attitude, especially in relation to other cultures. In Everyday Use, Alice Walker uses Dee to represent the major aspects of the Afrocentric movement. These include its selfish and one-sided nature, misplaced historical significance and misconceptions of African culture. The thoughts and actions of Dee will be compared to these aspects of Afrocentrism in order to show how Dee represents them.

An Afrocentrist believes that their culture and their heritage is more significant that of someone of a different identity. Moreover, they believe that their culture and heritage are the only ones with relevance to them. In her article Errors of the Afrocentrists, Anne Wortham examines Afrocentrism and its tendencies to prioritize their heritage over those of other cultures. They don't see their culture as a part of a bigger picture and believe that their history and contributions to society should be more prominently featured. “Afrocentrists claim that the way to improve the educational achievement of black children is to improve their self-image by requiring teachers to include or emphasize the contribution of blacks in the curriculum” (Wortham, 41). Emphasizing the achievements of one group suggests that it is superior or different to another. Wortham goes on to explain that such an educational policy could in fact, lead to lower self esteem levels in white and black child...

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...s that Afrocentrists are purely detrimental to the African-American zeitgeist. Walker makes Dee such a negative character to reflect her opinion about the merits of Afrocentrism. She uses Everyday Use as a vehicle to propel the idea that any form of centrism is wrong. Furthermore, rather then focusing on our own cultural backgrounds we should all embrace the diversity of our collective society.

Works Cited

Reed, W. Edward, Erma J. Lawson, and Tyson Gibbs. "Afrocentrism in the 21st Century."Western Journal of Black Studies 21.3 (1997): 173-79. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 May 2011.

Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” The Norton Book of American Short Stories. Peter S. Prescott,

ed. New York: Norton, 1988. 714-21. Print.

Wortham, Anne. "Errors of the Afrocentrists." Academic Questions 5.4 (1992): 36-47.Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 May 2011.
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