Free «Continuation to the Harlem Renaissance» Essay Sample

The Harlem Renaissance changed self-identity of people and their understanding of human rights, individuality and freedom. In their works, Langston Hughes, Arthur Schomburge and Alain Locke speaks about a new identity of a black man as a natural response to social and cultural changes in society.  For the Black person who espouses the cultural perspective, unique identity must find some way to separate himself from the devalued reference group in order to minimize the psychological discomfort that arises when one's cognitions are incompatible. In its work, Arthur Schomburge speaks about a crucial role of the past and historical development of a black man. Schomburge gives numerous examples of black identity and its relations with the slave trade, the roots of abolitionist movement and the new social reality. For Schomburge, attributions are typically considered to be either "external" or "internal," though they actually vary along a continuum with these two dimensions anchoring the opposite extremes. In contrast to Schomburge, Alain Locke speaks about outstanding position of blacks in society and unique point of view they hold about themselves. He calls this approach “a new negro” portrayed as liberation and equal rights movement.  Attribution theory roughly pertains to a person's beliefs concerning the reasons for one's own and other people's (perhaps including one's reference group's) rewards and punishments. Internal attribution means that the person believes that he or she (or, more generally, each individual) controls his or her own rewards and punishments; external attribution implies that the person believes that external forces such as luck, destiny, or fate control one's (or others') rewards and punishments. Langston Hughes portrays as problem of black people through lens of race and color.  As applied to one's racial groups, internal issues might mean that the person believes that her or his racial group causes or is responsible for its own outcomes whereas external attribution means that she or he believes that external factors such as another racial group cause outcomes.

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The three works show that racial identity problems are closely connected with the past, historical development and cultural traditions of the American society. These works allow me to understand that if the individual achieves much in society, it is because he or she is a meritorious human being; if he or she achieves nothing, then it is because he or she is deficient in some way. Whites are assumed to hold advantaged status due to extraordinary effort and Blacks are assumed to occupy disadvantaged status because they have not expended equivalent effort. The person either does not acknowledge an ascribed racial identity or identifies with Whites. For the black person, exceptionality or deficiency is defined according to how well or poorly one fits into White culture and demonstrates those traits that the person believes typify White culture.  Langston Hughes portrays this problem as follows: “One of the most promising of the young Negro poets said to me once, "I want to be a poet--not a Negro poet," meaning, I believe, "I want to write like a white poet" (Hughes). The person adopts an inflexible belief in internal causation, individualism, and a just world even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, denial of Blacks as a reference group and source of ascribed identity is present. Additionally, one must continue to believe that social mobility is. The most vivid and clear portrayal of the Harlem renaissance is found in Alain Locke’s work and his understanding of the epoch: “"Harlem as a site of the black cultural sublime was invented … to transform the stereotypical image of Negro Americans as ex-slaves, as members of a race inherently inferior” (Locke). As the person struggles to "discover" a new identity, she or he oscillates between the recently abandoned identity and an as yet unformed Black identity. The struggle that follows constitutes the second phase of change and is comprised of a mixture of feelings including confusion, hopelessness, anxiety, and depression.

 The analysis and ideas found in three works allow me to understand the importance of the Harlem Renaissance in American history and cultural change it brought for millions of black people. Blacks are supposed to, and judges and evaluates other Blacks on the basis of their conformance to these "idealistic" racial standards. Thus, a Black ascribed identity and a Black reference-group orientation dominate the person's personality often at the cost of one's personal identity. Furthermore, because until this point the person's primary descriptions of what it means to be Black have been defined by White society, the person often "acts" Black in very stereotypic ways. In other words, the person's Black referencegroup orientation is externally defined. Thus, one's acknowledgment of Blackness is high though it is not internalized; the person seems to be conforming to a preconceived notion of Black identity. Coping strategies that seemingly correspond to the Immersion phase appear to occur quite often among Black adolescents who find themselves adrift in White educational settings.It appears that painful feelings may be associated more with the former adaptation than the latter. Yet the latter, which also may be dysfunctional in the long run, is not easily recognized because it so closely matches White behavioral norms. The primary difference seems to be that when pressed about his or her viewpoints, it is clear that the Internalization person is certain and confident of his or her own Blackness, whereas the new negro person seems confused about whether or not he or she is Black and can more easily get in touch with dissimilarities rather than similarities between herself or himself and other Blacks. The assumption that racial identity is relatively stable means that a person's racial identity attitudes are enduring personality characteristics that consistently influence the person's interactions within various environments, rather than transitory states likely to shift and to be triggered by the vicissitudes of changing environments. Positive feelings about one's Blackness allow one to be socially committed and allow one to develop a world view that is not restricted by one's own racial attitudes only.

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