Beyond Victim Analysis

"In the formal teaching of African American history -- and even on the best BBC specials -- there is 100 percent emphasis on the impact of white supremacy on people of color," Marcia Darling, associate professor at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, said at a panel sponsored by the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights. This approach is much too limited, Darling explained. "The history of victimization offers no legitimate analysis of why people of color still exist. I'm not talking about mere survival analysis. We need to know how black people raised children to smile and laugh and love. To craft a vision of self-determination we need to identify what there is in slavery and in the history of working-class people and indigenous people that kept us going."

Darling described how, as far back as the 1780s, African Americans formed self-help and mutual aid societies, such as the Ladies Union Benevolent Society, to assist each other. These groups were jumping-off points for the early and active role of African Americans in the anti-slavery movement.

"Who tells your history is critical," Darling told the conference. "As we try to keep our own strength together and empower the young, documenting our invisible history can help shift power away from the oppressor. Don't let people shame us into thinking there's nothing in our past that is redemptive."

-- Ronni Sandroff

Go to Beijing '95: Special Report.

© 1995 On The Issues.

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