Sunday, February 27, 2011

Anthony B. Pinn: Remembering African American Humanism

From the Humanist Network News:

Remembering African American Humanism

A noteworthy statement by Anthony B. Pinn. I am puzzled though by his final statement, whose meaning I find unclear:
"That is to say, rather than simply acknowledging the diversity of our movement, we might take the next step and make diversity—difference—the hallmark of our movement . . . "
I think the words "diversity" and "difference" miss the mark, that they actually reinforce what Pinn apparently seeks to transcend, i.e. mere diversity. There's actually a stronger argument to be made.

I can't read Pinn's mind, but my reasoning goes like this: if there is an argument to be made about what goes beyond the mere acknowledgment of difference, it's the centrality of the black experience to the understanding of American history, but even this is too bloodless a way of stating it. Various black thinkers and writers have stated that the black experience crystallizes all the tendencies and social forces of the modern world. The implication is that no one's historical experience can be understood without the black experience being addressed. In one way or another, this has been stated by Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Duke Ellington, James Baldwin, and C.L.R. James. This way of looking at things, which may have dropped out of popular consciousness for a few decades, was resuscitated in Paul Gilroy's 1993 book The Black Atlantic.

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