The White Redneck Origins of Black Hood Culture
Exploring the complex history and influences behind the culture commonly associated with African Americans
As a Nigerian American with a deep interest in cultural diversity, I have been struck by the attitudes that exist towards African Americans within certain pockets of the Nigerian community. Despite sharing a common ancestry, many Nigerians harbor a strong sense of caution and even mistrust towards their African American counterparts. This is a curious phenomenon that has long fascinated me, particularly given that both groups are black and face many of the same challenges.
To understand this divide, it is essential to examine the cultural context in which it has arisen. Nigeria, like many African nations, has a complex colonial history that has shaped its cultural values and outlook. We’ve lost our spirituality and all this may be due to the idea of one man, dating back to the 1500s. Suffering under centuries of British rule, we have inherited many of the norms and biases of our former colonial masters, including a tendency to view African Americans as “other” and to harbor negative stereotypes about their behavior and values.
These stereotypes are perpetuated and reinforced through popular culture, particularly through the media. Black hood culture, in particular, has been the subject of much scrutiny and analysis, with critics arguing that it perpetuates a narrow and unflattering view of black people that is rife with stereotypes. The images portrayed in Blaxploitation films of the 1970s are often cited as particularly damaging, as they have had a long-lasting impact on the way black people are perceived in popular culture.
To gain a deeper understanding of this issue, we can turn to the work of scholars like Thomas Sowell, who have extensively researched the topic. Sowell's book “Black Rednecks, White Liberals” explores the origins and evolution of black hood culture, providing insights into the social and economic factors that have shaped the experiences of black people in America.
Through this lens, we can begin to unpack the root causes of cultural stereotypes and examine how they have persisted over time. By gaining a more objective perspective, we can also begin to explore how cultures play a role in our daily lives and how we can work to change aspects of our culture that do not align with our values or aspirations.
Ultimately, our goal must be to create a more inclusive society that values the dignity and worth of every individual, regardless of their background that has been manipulated by the powers that be. This requires us to examine our own biases and challenge the stereotypes that limit our perceptions of others. By doing so, we can work towards building a future that is characterized by empathy, understanding, and respect for all.
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Creating a More Equitable Future for All
Thomas Saul is a prominent African-American scholar who works at Stanford. His work on the subject on the fascinating topic of equality has captured my interest and admiration, particularly his poignant story from his childhood. His speech called, Equity: The Their of Human Potential, is listed below:
Sowell recounts how he and his classmates spent their summers practicing spelling instead of playing outside, due to their inability to spell correctly. This experience, which he experienced in either elementary or middle school, was a formative one for Sowell , who still remembers the strict teacher who refused to allow them to have leisure time until they mastered their letters.
Years later, after graduating from an Ivy League university, Sowell reunited with a former classmate. The classmate in question had become a retired multimillionaire living abroad with ample funds. During their conversation, the topic turned to their third-grade teacher, who had made them learn to spell correctly without exception. Both Sowell and his classmate were deeply grateful for this experience, as it taught them the value of holding high standards for oneself, regardless of one's background or ethnicity.
Rather than lowering the bar, as that only makes inequality more, we need to ensure that everyone can meet the bar. But we need to be mindful on the history that shapes one’s culture and that’s what Sowell encourages with his stance on equality. Furthermore, we must recognize that lowering standards for certain groups of individuals only perpetuates inequality.
Now that we’ve had Sowell’s perspective on equality and equity, let’s see what he has to say on the history of black hood culture.
The Emergence and Complexities of American Factions
It is important to provide a brief historical overview regarding the emergence of the societal factions that we’re about to discuss. We’ll be summarizing the one-hour Sowell documentary, “The Origin of Black American Culture and Ebonics.”
Our analysis begins in the 1700s, during which time two distinct regions in England existed: Southern and Western England and the surrounding areas, particularly Northern Borderlands of England/Scotland. The former was typically associated with the nobility and the elite of the era. Conversely, individuals hailing from the later regions of England and Scotland, were colloquially referred to as “rednecks.” From the documentary, we read the following:
The Virginia aristocracy came from different localities in southern and western England. Most of the common white people of the south came from the northern borderlands of England. For centuries, a no man's land between Scotland and England, as well as from the Scottish highlands and from Ulster County, Ireland, all these fringe areas were turbulent if not lawless regions where none of the contending forces was able to establish full control and create a stable order.
Whether called a “Celtic fringe” or “north Britons,” these were people from outside the cultural heartland of England as their behavior on both sides of the Atlantic showed before the era of modern transportation and communication.
Both factions ventured to the Americas, with Southern England settling in the north, whereas Northern England, Scottish and Irish, gravitated towards the southern regions. American history should be traced back to this period and followed through independence, slavery, the Civil War, and now present day.
It is important to note that African Americans were present in both the north and south, with the latter being home to a majority of former slaves. It is worth mentioning that some studies state that somewhere between 2% - 5% of Americans in that era were slave owners, which is equivalent to the present-day scenario where only 1% of the population possesses the majority of wealth and resources.
Despite the popular perception that slavery was a widespread phenomenon, its prevalence was restricted to a small portion of the population. Hence, it is imperative to understand the complexities inherent in the relationship between former slaves and the white populace in the south, where the majority of the former resided.
The Impact of European Redneck Culture on African American Society
“These people are creating a terrible problem in our cities. They can't or won't hold a job, they flout the law constantly and neglect their children, they drink too much and their moral standards would shame an alley cat. For some reason or other they absolutely refuse to accommodate themselves to any kind of decent civilized life.”
This was said in 1956 in Indianapolis. Not about blacks or other minorities but about poor whites from the south.
In the documentary, the striking similarities between blacks and whites are discussed. From language, to religion, to business and behaviors, an exploration of the black hood culture of today and the European redneck culture of the past shows striking similarities. To begin our exploration, we’ll first start with the language.
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