Is Identity Black or White?

Over the past few weeks, most of the literature assigned in this course has been particularly diverse from what I have usually been given to in other courses that focus on African/African American and Caribbean culture. Dionne Brand says “we define ourselves by what we say we are not” and this takes me to one particular theme that is often discussed in these courses, identity.


While many members of these groups still struggle to find their true self, I believe Brand’s way of viewing identity allows us to take another route to explore its ambiguity. In “Nobody Knows the Trouble I See,” Bernice Reagon, a song leader, composer, scholar, and social activist questions “… the challenges faced by [people] who grow up in one culture while being trained to access and function successfully in another, more dominant cultural arena.” This line brings me to a recent exercise where Beth asks us to pivot or to straddle ourselves between two lines. These two activities bring me back to this search for identity.

European culture has longed been idolized for being singular and superior; African culture, however, has been stripped away and infused with European culture. Yet, now that African American culture exists we must question how these people are able to find a balance or why they cant. Whether they pivot and keep one foot in their roots and are willing to put their foot into the dominant culture, or they straddle and do both.

For the rest of the semester, I am interested in seeing whether African American literature favors the pivot or the straddle or whether they are forced to do one to seem like a functional member of society to the dominant culture.


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