Cultural surrender is more than a matter of rejecting one’s father and mother culture. It means that one accepts a new definition as a person. The culturally grounded person is a creator. The culturally dependent person is a mere spectator, a receptacle for the creativities of others. To demand freedom from slavery only to use that freedom to commit one’s self to a voluntary cultural servitude is to lose the chance to be human. People who have no ‘parents’ will never learn to parent. That is to say, people who have no awareness of a parent cultural identity have little meaning to offer to their children. Any group that participates in cultural surrender need not waste time with concerns about parenting. That is like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.”
Asa G. Hilliard
The Maroon Within Us
Why have African Americans in general so willingly engaged in CULTURAL SURRENDER? I think that there are several reasons. We have tended to accept certain false dichotomies:
1. We have tended to equate sophisticated technology with culture, believing that such technology is exclusively European and that to affirm African culture is to reject technology.
2. We have tended to equate modern with technology, and to value modern as if it were cultural “progress.” At the same time, we have seen the affirmation of African/African American culture as a matter of retrogression. Further, we have seen African/African American culture as static rather than dynamic and adaptive.
3. We have tended to equate European culture with wealth and African/African American culture with poverty.
4. We have tended to associate education with the acquisition of all the cultural forms of Europeans, and find it hard to conceive of educated persons who live the African/African American culture.
5. We have tended to equate self-affirmation with the hatred of others.
6. We have tended to equate religion with particular forms of European interpretations of Christianity and have not seen our own people as religious.
7. Generally we have failed to study ourselves and to know our culture.
“These are all errors. Because we have made these particular errors, we have been vulnerable to confused definitions of our problems in education. We have accepted a whole host of remedies for ‘problems’ that we have seen as originating in individuals or in isolated families. We have accepted programs to improve the ‘self-concept’ of ‘individuals,’ to diagnose an ‘individual’s learning disability, to put ‘individuals’ into a mainstream, to work with ‘individual’ adolescents about their pregnancies, to cure ‘individuals’ from drug addiction, to respond to problems created for ‘individual’ families that are ‘broken.’ At no point have we realized that a community or group may be culturally disabled because of the distortion or suppression of culture. And yet, any superficial study of strong nations and groups will reveal the degree of detailed attention and high level of resources that go into the study, articulation, dissemination, preservation, and institutionalization of cultural forms.”
“We on the contrary, have failed to understand the political function of culture. Franz Fanon showed us its meaning where language is concerned. He tells us that the very act of speaking a language means not only to grasp the rules of that language, but, in addition, to assume a culture, supporting the weight of the civilization itself. Therefore, a person who has a language has a world that is also expressed and implied by that language.”
“Fanon says that every colonized people, in whose soul an inferiority complex has been deposited because of the death and burial of their local cultural originality, will find themselves face to face with the language of their oppressor. Therefore, the colonized are said to be ‘elevated above their ‘jungle status’’ to the degree that they adopt the language of the colonizing country. As they become ‘Whiter,’ renouncing Blackness, renouncing their environment, they are frequently called upon to act as interpreters, as go-betweens brokering for Whites and their interests. They convey their masters’ orders to their fellows, and as a result enjoy a certain position of honor.”
Asa G. Hilliard III, Ed. D.
Nana Baffour Amankwatia II
“The Maroon Within Us: Selected Essays on African American Community Socialization”