“How many future African scientific researchers have been killed who would have discovered the cure for HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and Ebola? How many future African doctors and nurses have been killed who would have brought relief to the sick by providing adequate care for their ailments? How many future African agricultural scientists have been killed who would have found a solution to the increasing desertification of the continent and boost food production to feed the people? How many future African political, social and economic scientists have been killed who would have made substantial contributions to the development of the continent’s resources, both material and human, which would benefit not only the continent but all humankind as a whole? How many future African teachers have been killed who would have inspired and managed the educational development of their students to be leaders in the field of science and other disciplines? How many future African astro-scientists have been killed who would have revolutionized space travel and exploration and make it possible to reach the impossible dream?”
I found this litany of loss painful to even read. The point Afro-Spear made was about the "euro-centric" perspective that people of African descent have nothing to contribute to the progress of mankind and can thus be "left behind" in the striving for new human accomplishments. One could also say that that's why there has been so little regret about the severe loss of African humanity over the last twenty years as well.
But I wonder.
Specifically, I wonder about whether the "euro-centric" or "Anglo-Saxon" imperial perspective that values people of African descent so little is as powerful as Afro-Spear thinks.
Certainly, the imperial perspective has weakened in Europe and even the foremost champions of the Anglo-Saxon imperium on American right aren't very confident that they can continue to bully the American public into supporting a program of (white) American domination.
There's no doubt that the vision of leaving people of African descent behind still has a great deal of cultural power in the United States.
But that's not the only vision.
In fact, there are a variety of cultural perspectives from which African-American perspectives are viewed either as equal to those of whites or as primary in themselves. People tend to underestimate the extent to which the cultural egalitarianism of the multi-cultural ethic has taken hold among American whites. African-American figures like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Sojourner Truth have become standard parts of America's heroic pantheon and African-American figures like Oprah Winfrey are just as much a part of the cultural firmament as their white counterparts.
If not more so.
In the case of Ken Burns' influential films, the experiences and virtues of African-Americans as portrayed as the core of what it means to be American. The valuing of African-Americans in these films is not done in the same terms as the valuing of African-Americans in Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. DuBois, jazz, or Martin Luther King. But Burns and white multi-culturalists more generally are closer to the African-American view than they are to the cultural and political imperialism that is still defined as the American creed by conservatives.
I don't want to get pollyannish here. Certainly, the gradual mutual assimilation of African and European cultures in the United States does not in any way compensate for the monstrous exploitation of African humanity in this country.
But that mutual assimilation is real and continues to gain strength despite the continued power of the imperialism vision of American conservatives.
And as long as that's the case, the impulse to "leave African-Americans behind" will get weaker rather than stronger.