This semester, my sophomore fall, I have been taking two classes that have overlapped quite interestingly. The first, which I am making this website for, Black Comic Cultures, has exposed my to the history of performance in the black community from slavery to the present day. I have learned a great deal about the power of comedy and the potential for comedians to bring people to a greater understanding of how our society works without taking an adversarial or professorial stance. The second, Native North America, has toured me through the legacy of anthropology in indigenous communities of this continent and attempted to rewrite the skewed history by elucidated the commonly erased parts of native existence in the face of brutal colonization.
In moving through these two syllabi concurrently, I frequently saw what seemed to be similarities between the struggles of Native Americans and African Americans in this country, and cautiously assumed like “many public and scholarly discussions… a natural affinity, if not solidarity, between marginalized peoples” (King, 348). But as I continued on in my research I found more and more examples of conflict between these two communities and began to see that both groups “have exacerbated the entrenchment of neocolonialism by continuing to internalize and blindly mimic the white man’s way of seeing things in so many aspects of their lives” (Phillips, 374). Still though, I hesitate to fall into the rhetoric of inevitability, seeing in “rare occasions of cross-racial alliance” the possibility for real and meaningful collaboration (Brooks, 15). I am left feeling that my answer—as it so often is in academia—is: “Yes both. It’s more complicated.”
In researching the intersection between indigenous and black comedy for this website, as well as coalition building between the Black Power Movement and the American Indian Movement for my Native North America final paper, I hope to gain a better grasp of what tensions have existed and do exist between Native American and African American groups, and where histories overlap.