Washington, DC (TFC) – It’s a question we see all the time. Why is “black pride” OK, but “white pride” seen as offensive? Ever wonder why the same backlash doesn’t occur when white folks get together and celebrate Irish Pride, German Pride, Italian Pride, and so on? Would it make the collective white population feel better if blacks celebrated Makua Pride, Akan Pride, BaKongo Pride, or any of the other 3000 tribal affiliations in Africa? Like many things the answer to these little questions lie in history.
Let’s start at the beginning. Why is one seen as a slogan of hate but not the other? The easiest way to demonstrate the difference between the usage of “black pride” and “white pride” in the modern world is pop over to conduct a quick Google Image Search of the two phrases. Go ahead, I’ll wait. The search results for “black pride” include images reading “Black is beautiful”, “United we shall overcome”, “Black lives matter”, “Know your history” (Remember this one), and so on. The symbolism in the images is of Africa and the ubiquitous raised fist, which has been a symbol of resistance against violence for over 4,500 years.
Now let’s take a look at the results for “white pride”. The pictures are full of Nazi imagery ranging from the SS lightning bolts to the Swastika and the Iron Cross. There is a quote from Adolf Hitler. There are racial slurs. The difference should be coming into focus pretty quickly. One is viewed as a hate-filled slogan, because it is most often used as a hate-filled slogan.
So why doesn’t the same backlash and outrage follow when people express pride in some European heritage? When people express European ethnic or national heritage, most times they are simply honoring their family history. They aren’t seeking to denigrate another demographic. It isn’t the act of having pride in one’s heritage that is offensive, it is the act of using pride to mask one’s feelings of hatred for others.
So why don’t black Americans identify with the nation of their ancestors? In most cases, they don’t know their heritage. The ancestors of most black Americans were brought to this country in shackles. Plantation owners didn’t have an interest in keeping track of the cultural heritage of their property. The slave had their culture, religion, language, and historical identity stripped away. Their descendants have only their shared history in slavery and their skin tone for historical identification. That means there is no “Bantu Pride”. There is only Black Pride.
Almost every white American knows where their family came from “in the old country”. That historical memory shapes more of our habits, language, and tastes than we might acknowledge at first. Family recipes came over from the old country. Think about your favorite comfort foods; the foods mom used to make. If you’re thinking of Ravioli or Manicotti, your last name probably ends in a vowel and have family from Italy. If you’re thinking of shepherd’s pie or boxty, you’re probably Catholic and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day a little harder than everyone else. Sticking with those two countries, the cultural identities continue to shape us. Gravy is red and made from tomatoes if you’re from Italy. It’s brown and probably has onions in it if you’re Irish. The physical attributes you find desirable in a mate are oftentimes linked to your cultural identity. The bedtime stories you were told as a kid probably have their roots in the old country. From your favorite drink to the cuss words you use, your cultural heritage plays a huge role in determining who you are as a person.
The institution of slavery ripped that cultural heritage from millions of people. Many of the racial stereotypes about black Americans come from the only heritage they can reach back to. Before you crack another joke about the “weird” food blacks eat in the South, realize that pig’s feet, hawg jowls, and chitlins are dishes that found their way into black kitchens not in Africa, but on plantations. They didn’t choose to eat these foods. The plantation owner chose to allow them to eat it instead of throwing it away.
One of the key facets of the Black Pride movement is encouraging black Americans to learn more about their African roots, as pointed out by the “know your history” slogan. The institution of slavery is one of the darkest chapters in American history, but we tend to only focus on the physical aspects of it. The cultural damage was a tragedy in its own right. Black Pride isn’t something to be afraid of. It’s something that can help an entire people better understand where they come from. Contrary to what you might believe if you only watch the nightly news, these tribes weren’t savage. They were as rich in culture as the Native American tribes most white Americans hold in high regard. They had their own customs, folklore, music, and cuisine. There’s plenty of room on the American patchwork for a few squares from Africa.
So when you see someone say “black pride” you really shouldn’t take any more offense than you do when you see an Irish, Italian, or German flag license plate on a car. It’s not a call to execute white people. It’s a call to reclaim their heritage and culture. When a white American decides to research their family history, they are encouraged and have dozens of websites at their disposal. Why should the desire of black Americans to learn about their forgotten culture and rightfully take pride in it be seen as a threat?
Editor’s Note: This is obviously the opinion of a white guy. You can certainly get a more complete picture of “black pride” from a black person. Ask them. They’re typically more than happy to answer the question of what “black pride” means to them.