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Editor's note: The commentary following is published in the hope that it will provide insight into the thinking of the young Negro community today. The author is a senior student at Hanover College. This is the first of a two-part series.
As another long hot summer has drawn to a close, the battleground of Negro rights shifts from the ghettos of the northern metropolises to the white campus. This sweeping black movement which is led by the black collegian is generating a new mood among Negroes.
TRADITIONALLY when the infrequent Negro was accepted at a white campus he was so elated that he worked frantically to become what he imagined the proper Negro gentleman in a white environment. In his attempts to attain the proper image he found himself confronted with an identity crisis and became what might to be best termed a "white nigger." Even though in the midst of the flow of activities and at the paramount of acceptance made possible by his assimilation he became isolated from his true self by having to conform to standards and values that held little meaning and enrichment for him, since he could never realize the fruits of these values in a hostile, color conscious society. Soon he became aware of that pervading socio-phychological distance which separates him from his white peer.
UNTIL NOW he felt relatively complacent. However, viewing the situation in its true light he is unable to reconcile the bitter emotions within himself which became expressive of hostility.
The result of these factors is the formation Afro or all black clubs or societies. The membership of these black societies is characterized by a mood of militance, articulation and chauvinism. The members of these groups challenge the basic tenets of white America by continually assaulting the racial conscience of White America with protests of the inhuman treatment received by the Negro in America. Along with this surge to blackness or aggressive pride of being black come the rejection of the white culture. The basis of this new movement is an emerging black revolution which ranges in tone from angry militancy to a brotherly desire for mutual improvement which does not reject violence as a means to achieving the end.
AFRO-BLACK GROUPS are formed for various reasons. Among them is the feeling that the curriculum in American universities has omitted or degraded the Afro-American contribution to the nation's history. While, on the other hand, many merely tired of eating alone at dining tables, enjoying little or no social life, and fending off questions about civil rights from white classmates. The creation of Afro-societies may be viewed as a type of self-segregation. The difference lies in the fact that it is a voluntary association, not a forced one. This voluntary association of black students in helping them deal with the realities of life and college and as individuals and Negroes. The best known of these clubs or societies are located on the campuses of Yale, Harvard, Columbia, and San Jose State.
RECENTLY an assemblage of 200 persons met on the second floor of the Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles for the express purpose of deciding whether or not to call a boycott of the 1968 Olympic Games by U. S. Negro athletes. As the meeting closed the participants were divided as to the appropriate action, however the majority voted in favor of the boycott. The gravity of this proposition lies in its usage as a means to express disenchantment with the American system of racial injustice. It is the plight of American Negroes to remain trapped in virtual bondage in a society which recognizes neither his culture nor his heritage, but granted him his freedom over 100 years ago. The black man realized that civilized reason and Christian love which brought him to America in bondage now taunts him with a mythical freedom.
THE NEGRO, an involuntary African transplant finds himself in the center of an unstable, emotional confused society, flanked by a hostile, bigoted Southerner to his right and the intellectually liberal but emotional racist Northerner on his left.
The feelings of the American white are marked by ambivalence toward the Negro. This ambivalence is manifested in a standard of behavior to which the Negro is expected to adhere. Any deviation from this standard constitutes an assault on the power structure. The white man becomes alarmed because the Negro has refused to accept his traditional backseat, and the white man's definition of the Negro's self and identity. It is this white-imposed standard that demands the Negro to be more farseeing and patient than whites and finds virtue in non-violence, inaction, and Tomism. As a result, the militant, chauvinistic Negro imposes a paranoia which transcends the minds of the best thinking white Americans.
The dilemma of White America is that a segment of the population is directing its efforts towards perpetuating the status quo which denies the Negro his humanity. While at the same time, the America--n dream freedom of opportunity, economic prosperity, and civil liberties -- is fervently pursued at the expense of the American Negro. An example of this is the great economic substance realized by industry through the employment of cheap Negro labor. However, industry has done nothing to help improve the economic, social and political conditions of black America in return.
ONLY SINCE the Second World War, which made possible the emergence of the black nations in Africa has the white man attempted to deal with the American Negro in a different manner than ever before. A new sense of self, a black dignity, was invested in the Negro. But the basic indoctrination of inherent inferiority still persisted as a way of life for white American feelings toward the Negro. The white is unable or unwilling to resolve this great dilemma. Instead he retreats further and further into his sanctuary -- suburbia.
The two forces which serve to hinder the Negro freedom movement are the slum merchant and the white liberal. The slum merchant has long posed as the friend of the evolved out of a communal bond Negro. This friendship supposedly shared by both groups as a result of their desire to better the black community. This is a flagrant falacy. The slum merchant, representing the middle man or liaison between the establishment downtown and the Black man uptown has for generations pilfered the Negro community of its dollars and denied it any chance of economic stability, and prosperity.
(To be continued)