The Philosophy of Propaganda

When I think of cultural identity, I automatically think of discontinuities in an individual’s identity such as participation in more than one culture, religious beliefs, and location that must be recognized. The idea that “‘black culture’ is a concept first created by Europeans and defined in opposition to ‘European culture’” is incredibly upsetting as it eliminates those considered multiracial or otherwise multicultural. Why does society have to be divided by separate, non-measurable and incredibly diverse culture? And how does this affect those that are participating in more than one culture, what does this mean for them? (Snead 62).

Hegel’s nonsensical explanation of negro history was poorly executed and incredibly offensive. As I read the excerpt, it felt like I was sitting in a diner reading anti-Black propaganda while race riot news spreads across the country. Hegel meticulously describes the differences between European and African cultures, making huge claims about religion and morality. For example, he claims that “[negro sorcery] exhibits man as the highest power, regarding him as alone occupying a position of command over the power of Nature” — obviously an overwhelmingly shocking statement as he is publicly claiming that Negros act as God. He also states that “the Negro exhibits the natural man in his completely wild and untamed state” and that “there is nothing harmonious with humanity to be found in this type of character,” bravely identifying Negros as inhumane, uncivilized beings by pointing out the differences rather than their similarities to Europeans (Hegel 150-151). Hegel aims to dehumanize Negros in any manner to further his own opinion of them and their traditions.

To conclude, I find the separation of racial and ethnic groups by reasons of cultural differences ridiculous. As a person that is constantly told that she acts a differently than her black peers, I find social expectations regarding cultural history extremely damaging to identity and participation in cultural groups. I think that Black Panther does an incredible job in publicizing the disconnect between those affected by African diaspora and how this disconnect creates rifts in the black community. Furthermore, discussing differences in otherwise unified cultural groups is necessary in order to further unify them by acknowledging their differences and using them toward a better cause. 

One Reply to “The Philosophy of Propaganda”

  1. I love the ways you’re highlighting the constructions of ethnic identity across three texts here, aware that such identity is often – especially for so-called minority identities – based on external perceptions of an individual rather than claimed by that individual – hence “white” or “European” monolithic constructions of what it means to be Black. One of the interesting challenges of Snead’s essay is the way he might be said to enshrine or reify a notion of Blackness that isn’t as diverse as the kinds of multicultural situation you reference make evident. (I think Snead is aware of this, but it’s open to debate; we’ll get to it.) Focussing on difference as something often thwarted in perceptions and presentations of Black culture(s) will be a really interesting angle for you to explore this course, if you’re interested.

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