Re: ‘Black Americans Need a New Story’

This summer’s edition of The American Scholar published an article by Charles Johnson – titled, ‘The End of the Black American Narrative: A new century calls for new stories grounded in the present, leaving behind the painful history of slavery and its consequences.’

In the eleven page article, Johnson spent ten pages exploring the starting point of old narratives dating back to the 17th century, and works his way through the history of slavery, Douglass, the Reconstruction Era, Du Bois, to present day icons, along with issues of institutional racism; i.e. the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Overall, he pays great tribute to the ancestors, for their courage and dignity throughout harsh and unbearable times.

He later concludes with, “[i]n the 21st century, we need new and better stories, new concepts, and new vocabularies and grammar based not on the past but on the dangerous, exciting, and unexplored present, with the understanding that each is, at best, a provisional reading of reality, a single phenomenological profile that one day is likely to be revised, if not completely overturned.”

That being said, transforming ideology and discourse, while transcribing an old narrative into a new form of thinking and living is possible. However, on a profound philosophical note, black society has not jointly reach a level of consciousness whereby we all can say the old narratives “has outlived its usefulness as a tool of interpretation.”

As such, old narratives from the current to past centuries will always be needed to help shape new discourse, giving black society the tools to change rules and norms – to showcase the next best story; many of which from the 21st century have already been historicalized, stemming from “…police chiefs, [politicians], best-selling authors,… [to the] astronauts,… dot-com millionaires, actors,… [and let us not forget] Oprah”-and they all are part of our “dangerous, exciting, and unexplored present.”


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