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The Struggle for Identity In African-American Society
Transcript of The Struggle for Identity In African-American Society
"House Negro" vs the "Field Negro"
In the opening sentence to “Message to the Grass Roots” X states “if you’re afraid of Black Nationalism, you’re afraid of revolution. And if you love revolution, you love Black Nationalism.” (Revelations 67) He then classifies the two types of black people: the “house negro” who in modern day is the black person who likes to be in the center of white society and brags about being the only black person there and the “field negro” who are the majority and wish to overthrow white society and refuses to consider himself a part of it.
Broadening the Definition
In Raspberry’s essay he talks about how color or race becomes associated with certain qualities or characteristics of the people of that race.
In conclusion, both essays by Malcolm X, “Message to the Grass Roots”, and William Raspberry, “The Handicap of Definition”, both address the ways in which African-Americans are supposed to be. However, unlike in Malcolm X’s essay Raspberry feels that there should be no definition or category of what an African-American is or can achieve. I agree with Raspberry that by trying to define African-Americans or any race we are creating boundaries for what they can achieve. The boundaries limit that race because the people in it feel obligated to act or feel a certain way and rather than go outside of those boundaries and excel in something else. This makes a struggle for identity because people are trying to be what they are supposed to be, as defined by society in order to fit into a the status quo and when they try to venture out they can be judged by their own people and seen as wrong.
In both the past and the present of African –American culture the idea that one can either have a “house negro” mentality or a “field negro” mentality has be ever present. However, this one or the other mentality minimizes the countless abilities of African- Americans and the idea that our people can also pursue and achieve things that are not deemed the norm for us and contributes to the struggle of African-Americans to find their own identity when they had grown up believing they could only fit into two categories. I chose to write my synthesis essay on the struggle to find identity because of predisposed notion of African-American capabilities in America based on the conflicting ideas of two short stories
"Message to Grass Roots"(1963)
The first essay I used to show the conflicting viewpoints of the types of "black" there were was "Message to Grass Roots" by Civil Rights Movement icon Malcolm X. He emphasized the common experience of all African Americans, regardless of their religious or political beliefs and also argued that black people as a whole should unite against their common enemy, white people.
"The Handicap of Definition"(1982)
The second essay I used it "The Handicap of Definition" by William Raspberry who was a Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist. In his short essay he wrote about how by defining people, not just African-Americans, you are limiting thier capabilities and making them feel trapped to fulfill a stereotype.
However I disagree with this mentality that there are only two types of African-Americans in both the past and present day America because you cannot generalize all black people as Uncle Toms or Nat Turner like figures.
This essay also gives black people the idea that they either need to be with the masses which may result in them sacrificing morals and opinions or not consider themselves black at all.
Raspberry also says “one of the hardest burdens Americans- and black children have to bear is the burden of handicap of definition: the question of what it means to be black.” (HU Handbook 315)
These definitions limit us as people bad makes us question our capabilities due to what society as a whole says we are good at. Narrow definitions if black people are particularly wrong because not everyone can fit into two molds and by having this children and people in general may think something is wrong with them or they are less black for not fitting into these two molds.
Raspberry wishes to let African-Americans know that it is not unordinary to be interested in obtaining knowledge versus playing a sport and that success is not limited to certain races. He also encourages black people especially parents to say that we are moral, come from good families, are determined, courageous and enjoy learning so that generations to come can have more positive qualities to associate with being black.