The Imperative of Africana Critique

It always bugs me when someone explicitly or implicitly says we as Afrikan people cannot critique Africana “stuff” on the grounds that we’re being disloyal to some supposed orthodox view or consensus. You can’t critique the Black Panther film. You can’t critique Malcolm or DuBois or Martin or Garvey. You can’t criticize bad Africana leadership. You can’t critique misogynist, self-destructive cultural products produced by Afrikans that adversely effect the people. And inevitably this position is hypocritical. The people who advance this type of view always have their pet stuff that THEY critique at will, like white supremacy ideology or Trump or Clarence Thomas or whatever. EVERYTHING is subject to legitimate, fact-based critique. There is a difference between ad hominem criticism and intellectual critique. And I oppose the cynicism of criticizing everything just for the sake of. But among an oppressed people the need for intellectual critique to be applied to everything is paramount, lest they be blindly led by symbolism or mere popular sentiment rather than by facts and truth.

I remember when I took on the CIA role in Black Panther as ideological rubbish and folks spent all day arguing I should rejoice that Hollywood gave us a film. They gave us a film where an institution that assassinated many of our African leaders was recast as an ally. As much as I loved the scenery, the acting, the costumes, and stuff, that was but one of the issues that made me no fan of the intellectual and cognitive effects of the film, as opposed to its acknowledged entertainment value. I believe we are a mature people when we can get to where we can both accept a contribution to the culture AND critique its shortcomings. I feel for too long we have been rhetorically trapped in an echo chamber of sorts where conformity and the sincere desire for collective “unity” trumps (no pun intended) truth.

We need to be able to factually engage with even things that are nominally “ours”, even things we find extant positive value in and critique them, not to destroy or cast aspersion but to refine and make them better for our collective good.

Merely giving me, without observable cost, a cognitive package wrapped in symbolic “blackness” or Afrikaneity does not mean I will accept it blindly and open it into my consciousness without the intellectual “x-ray” of analytical truth or the me(n)tal detector of collective cultural consistency.

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