Panel discusses idea of Afrocentricity

By Brenden Walz

Although a consensus was never found, panel participants tried to find a formal meaning of the terms “Afrocentrism” and “Eurocentrism.”

The two-hour-long panel discussion titled “Afrocentricity vs. Eurocentricity” was the first of several discussion panels which will be held during Black Heritage Month.

The panel’s four members included Tendaji Ganges, director of Educational Services and Programs, James Norris, dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Sherman Stanage, professor of philosophy and Doctoral Student Ian Baptiste.

Most of the discussion among the panel members focused on what the word Afrocentricity means, but no final consensus emerged from discussion with the audience.

Each panel member was allowed six minutes to present his position, with one minute given for rebuttal.

The panels presented a different point of view, with Norris starting the discussion.

In his opening remarks Norris said he “found it interesting that we are arguing a thesis that is not universally accepted.”

“The idea that there is a single African culture is ridiculous,” Norris said. “Instead, it is very diverse and complex.”

Norris also said he did not like promoting one philosophy against another, and said people should be appreciated for who they are: individuals.

Stanage’s initial comments noted that the name of the continent of Africa came from the Greek civilization, who have been considered by a number of scholars for a long time as one of the main contributors to Western civilization.

Stanage said he felt the forum for the discussion was interesting, noting that the panel forum being used for the discussion was developed by the Greeks also.

“I think it’s a moral outrage that the framing of debate was set up by the Greeks,” Stanage said.

He said that instead of people being a part of one single world, each person is a world of their own and together make up a cooperatively-shared world.

In his remarks, Baptiste suggested several steps to go about in identifying what Afrocentricity is.

“It would be a philosophy and world view whose core of values are rooted in Africa,” Baptiste said.

The process Baptiste proposed included defining what Africa and Europe are, identifying a set of values central to both areas, and finding a method for advancing both.

He said there was no way to explain Afrocentrism, and that any values which one might find in Africa could possibly be found in different cultures on other continents, such as Asia.

Instead of developing a set of values which are labeled Afrocentric, Baptiste said the need was to develop a set of values that incorporates a set of values for all humanity.

The fourth position was presented by Tendaji Ganges, who started out by stating what Afrocentricity is not.

“It is not anti-everything else, but pro-something,” Ganges said.

Ganges added, “It is not an anti-white response, it is not anti-Eurocentricity. It is a response to a void.”

He spoke of Afrocentricity as representing the continent, not the country of Africa.

Ganges said Afrocentricity involved “understanding of the place you hold in the spiritual scheme of things.”

Ganges said borders of countries on the continent were drawn by Europeans while many of the native cultures did not believe in property ownership.

“These people had a relationship with the world,” he said, “the world as they defined it.”