Amber Davis, University of Maryland Baltimore County
African Americans have created a culture out of survival and necessity- a culture that is a mix of influences. Though I am African American, I do not identify with the American culture. If I am not connected to the culture of the country I claim, then patriotisms and nationalism are nothing but words. To live in a country that does not represent your interest, and whose polices do not see you as equal; can be challenging especially when coupled with the idea that my “original” culture- the African part of my identification has been all but stripped from me. So it’s a Catch 22, the dominant culture of the society that I live in marginalizes me, while the culture of my original African heritage is almost completely foreign. So what’s to be said of our culture than? If it does not have traditional roots, nor has it been integrated into the national culture- it seems as though we are floating.
I argue that African Americans have have done something spectacular. We have grounded our culture in our struggle. Our struggle towards equality, is how we symbolize ourselves. If there was to be a symbol of our collective, our symbol would be the fight against oppression. Though the trials of our slave past binds us all, more than anything our pursuit of a more prosperous future is where our strength lies.
We are not afraid to speak on injustice. We are not afraid to speak on white privilege. We are not afraid to declare that our lives matter. This struggler for our freedom has been uphill. And like any war, when one is born into it- you adapt. So just as slave children learned to outsmart their white terrorizers, teach themselves to read or devise an underground system of escape - each innovation was based on the ability to adapt and innovate dependent on any given scenario.
So when I hear people say that African Americans do not have a culture, I quietly think to myself that with each speech made- Malcolm, Martin, and Marcus all shaped our culture. With every paper written Du Bois, Washington, and Douglas shaped our culture. Our culture will be proliferated and determined by how hard and how long we fight. Because one cannot be African American without fighting against the tyranny of white institutions daily. So let us unify in the notion that our culture is based on overcoming challenge and continue to overcome them.