Posts Tagged ‘african american black mission sociology’

In my last and final post during Black History Month I want to talk about blackness in terms of identification with the group. Paul Hiebert’s theory of centered sets and bounded sets has been used alot in mission circles to define how groups operate. In thinking about what it means to be black I think this paradigm is helpful. Being black is a very fluid thing. This is because the original culture was stolen and destroyed and the remnant of it was given to hybridization and improvisation. The one thing that did galvanize black America was the civil rights struggle. Now that segregation has been abolished black America has been lacking a strong identity. Hence the book Disintegration.
The author of this book describes differerent types of African Americans: the ultra rich and powerful, the middle class, the abandoned ghetto dwellers, and the new immigrants and biracial people. I think these descriptions are good but they are lacking in one specific ingredient: identity requires identification. To put it simply if you do not identify with it then it is not your identity. There are some people (especially the new immigrants and bi racials who do not identify as being African American, There are even some who are middle class and ultra rich who do not identify as African American. The folks who can’t seem to escape this identity are the ones in the abandoned ghetto. This is what we mostly see as black in the media.

So enter Paul Hiebert’s centered set and bounded set model. In the bounded set people are part of the group by doing certain things and jumping through certain hoops. There are clear and established boundaries that keep certain people “in” and certain people “out”. This is what people do on a daily basis with blackness. Skiing-that’s not black! Surfing-that ain’t black! River dancing-that’s definitely not black!
bounded set

I think we need to change the way we think about blackness. I think being an African American should be defined as an identification with the community which leads you toward the center. If you identify with being African American that is enough to be included as an African American. It is not about how you talk or walk or dress or what kind of food you eat but more about your identification with the African American community. There are many utlra rich African Americans who do not identify with the African American community. They may do so verbally but their actions do not. There are others of the new immigrants and biracials who do not even identify verbally. They will say I am a Nigerian American or Jamaican American. No matter what the cops and their racial profiling might say this is definitely not identification with being African American.
centered set

So that’s my proposal. That we define blackness by willingness to identify with blackness. Would love to hear your thoughts. Is this a good definition? What do you think?