Black in America: The Absurdity of Blackness pt. 2 Duality and Paradox

Posted: May 31, 2013 in Black In America, General, The Absurdity of Blackness
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20130702-120307.jpgA series, inspired by the CNN special, dedicated to race related identity issues concerning Black people in America.

The Absurd

Albert Camus, a philosopher, developed the theory of Absurdism to detail the emotional and psychological affects that take place within a person when, in search of reason and rationality, they find none.

Camus believes the world to be a place that does not make sense. He asserts that the world is not logical and is not bound to the constraints of reason. Camus says,


This world in itself is not reasonable, that is all that can be said. But what is absurd is the confrontation of this irrational and the wild longing for clarity whose call echoes in the human heart. The absurd depends as much on man as on the world. For the moment it is all that links them together. It binds them one to the other as only hatred can weld two creatures together.

The absurd is about the contradictions in the relationship between mankind and the world in which we live. This contradiction is especially true for America and it’s citizens. Consider the American dream. This notion of being able to work hard and make all your dreams come true and how everything in American society works in opposition to this thought, it is irrational to believe.

And when we consider the oppression and discrimination experienced by Black people in America, that irrationality becomes a cruel joke that places an individual in an existential crises. How can one be both Black and American? The contradiction is in the duality of the Black American existence.


The Duality

The duality of being both Black and American is a subject most accurately described by W.E.B. DuBois. DuBois describes it as a double consciousness. Double consciousness is how Black people instinctively function in America. We are not allowed the privelege of having the public opinion naturally align with our perspective; therefore, we are forced to always see ourselves as we know ourselves to be and as we know society sees us. The two perspectives do not always agree.This is the duality of our existence.

It is this duality that causes us to believe that things of non-Black origin or control are better. This is why we will patronize a business where we have been discriminated against before we spend our money at the locally owned Black establishment which probably isn’t in the best location, doesn’t have expensive marketing tactics, elaborate branding, or fancy imports. It has become so ingrained into our being that most people barely realize it exists.

When the duality of our life perspective contradicts popular opinion (which it at some point will since we have hardly had a hand in shaping of adding to public opinion) we find ourselves in a paradox. And as Albert Camus once stated, we can live with duality but not the paradox.

The Paradox

To be both Black and American in a society that supports being American but abhors what it means to be Black, creates a paradox. A paradox that encapsulates the life of Black people. This causes Black people, whether consciously or unconsciously to resent their own existence. In America everything outside the Black psyche is teaching it to hate itself and love the other. But how can one love anything or anyone if they have not first loved themselves? They can’t. What they will call love for someone else will be a perversion of affection hellbent on validating themselves. That person will exist I
In order to have projected upon them the love that individual has denied themselves. This is the paradox of the Black existence in America.

The Problem

The problem is that we, as Black people, fail to accept the truth about the paradox of our existence in America. We fail to acknowledge that eerie pressure we feel to be unlike what we most naturally are. Frantz Fanon said:


Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.

That is what happens when the duality of Black American life becomes a paradox. The challenge that the paradox causes both to the things that society is urging Black people to believe about themselves and the world as well as what Black people know about themselves and the world is called cognitive dissonance. That cognitive dissonance will either drive a person to confront the truth or drive them insane trying to avoid it.

The Point

Historically we have seen the Black community respond to cognitive dissonance by creating an illusion that makes them believe that they are the same as every other American and that there are no obstacles or objections to their acquiring what these others have. We have thought that would prove that we are equal to everyone else. And having convinced ourselves we are the same as the others, we thought we loved ourselves. In truth, it only reinforced our loathing of ourselves because no matter how thoroughly we convinced ourselves, we had not convinced America. And the masks we constructed for ourselves threatened to smother us.

In the absurdity of the Black American existence, the duality is an adaptive consciousness that supported our survival through the holocaust of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial discrimination and prejudice. But when that duality evolves into a paradox, we will be forced to confront ourselves and in so doing, confront the world in which we live. We could live with the duality, but the duality is destined to become a paradox and that we cannot abide. We can hide behind a mask, but we cannot live within it.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man


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