The Africa Seminal Ideas Series

The Africa Seminal Ideas

Series©

black-servitude

The Africa Seminal Ideas Series, a programme of The Okali Seminal

Ideas Foundation for Africa (OSIFA®), is a Series of publications that seek to document, publish and disseminate in print significant and original ideas emanating from Africa and Africans, with a view to re-asserting the continent’s claim as an important player in the world of ideas.

Volume 1: OF BLACK SERVITUDE WITHOUT SLAVERY The Unspoken Politics of the English Language

The Africa Seminal Ideas Series, a programme of The Okali Seminal Ideas Foundation for Africa (OSIFA®), is a Series of publications that seek to document, publish and disseminate in print significant and original ideas emanating from Africa and Africans, with a view to re-asserting the continent’s claim as an important player in the world of ideas.

Volume 1: OF BLACK SERVITUDE WITHOUT SLAVERY  The Unspoken Politics of the English Language 

One of the enduring realities of modern life is the dominance of English as the language of communication across cultures. Not only is there a large and growing number of people who communicate in it – about one quarter of the world’s population by some estimates – but it is by far the world’s favourite second language, that is, the language more people are likely to speak than any other in addition to their own native tongues. Indeed, one might even say that “As goes English, so goes the world!”

Now, with the acquisition of English, one also acquires not just the words and expressions, but, most critically, the system of thought and mindset associated with the language. Therein lies the crux of the matter – the unfortunate implications of this global dominance of the English language for the black race, as this book demonstrates. Everyone knows that in English – and its associated culture – bad things are “black” and “black” things are not good (e.g. black spot, blackmail, black sheep). By the same token, good things are “white” and “white” things are not bad (white knight, white magic, white lie, etc.). What we have, thus, is a systemic denigration of “blackness”, coupled with a corresponding glorification of “whiteness”: stick “black” in front of something, if you want to say it is bad and undesirable, and “white”, if you want to convey the opposite, is the clear operating principle.

The serious consequences which flow from the foregoing for both black and white people, and for society at large, are the focus of this book. The book argues that this “blackness of bad/whiteness of good” mindset, unavoidably imported into the realm of racial thinking, creates a situation in which black people effectively are held in perpetual psychological servitude, and the white person, independent of himself or herself, is quite likely imbued from childhood (nursery rhymes not exempted) with a mindset conditioned to react negatively to things/situations designated as “black”, which he or she has to work hard to overcome as regards persons – with varying degrees of success, of course.

Among the contexts in which the subject is analyzed are those of race relations, the black image and black self-esteem, Western aesthetics, including the idea of beauty, and the administration of criminal justice, all of which make the book a must-read for anyone interested in matters of politics, social justice, race relations, philosophy, linguistics, law, and social behaviour generally.

Reviewed By: Ruffina Oserio for Readers’ Favorite    18/08/2016

4.5/5

“As goes Anglophone culture, so goes the world,” is a saying that is powerfully justified in Agwu Ukiwe Okali’s Of Black Servitude without Slavery: The Unspoken Politics of the English Language (Africa Seminal Ideas Series), a work that brilliantly illustrates how language can become the new tool to conquer and control a group of people. English, the widely spoken language, has a hold on populations and that goes way beyond linguistic implications. Language always carries the soul of its people and English, undoubtedly, is a powerful vehicle of thought, which also illustrates the Anglophone mentality and ways of interpreting reality. By embracing the English language as a tool of expression, mentalities are tilted, even altered, to reflect the English culture, psyche, prejudices, and everything in-between. But how does the use of the English language reflect on the African? Such is the question that this book answers, and it does so in surprising ways.

To underline the influence of the English language across cultures, the author evokes the “… the ubiquitous and rapidly expanding influence, specially among the young, of pop music, pop dance, pop dressing, in fact, pop culture – carried to every corner of the globe on the wings of radio, television and the Internet.” With powerful and convincing examples, the author explores how humankind and the African, in particular, becomes vulnerable to the English spell. References to compelling historical figures like Obama, W.E.B. du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and others lends great credibility and authority to Okali’s arguments. The book is a powerful statement on how the English language has slowly become, over time, the new tool of enslavement for the African. Written in clear and highly descriptive prose, Of Black Servitude without Slavery: The Unspoken Politics of the English Language will become a timely addition to works on social anthropology, culture, history, human relations, and global economy. A well-researched, well-written, and a highly captivating book that will serve as an eye-opener for many readers. It is curious that such a work is written in English, and in very beautiful English, a powerful statement in itself. This is another powerful voice that should be listened alongside colossal figures like Achebe and Soyinka.