The links alone:
500 words a day on whatever I want
The following is based on chapter three of William D. Wright’s “Black Intellectuals, Black Cognition and a Black Aesthetic” (1997) with observations of my own added:
Diunital cognition is both-and thinking. Its opposite is dichotomous or either-or thinking. While most Americans are capable of both kinds, blacks favour diunital thinking while whites (and some of the black middle-class) favour dichotomous thinking.
A good example of the difference is Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen of New Orleans in the early 1800s. To white Catholics you cannot be a good Catholic and a voodoo queen at the same time. Either-or. Dichotomous. Yet Laveau was a believing Catholic who faithfully went to mass every day. That is diunital thinking. Both-and.
Or take the word “racist”. Whites can get extremely upset when you point out that they said something racist, no matter how gently or indirectly you try to make your point. It is like you called them a bad person. As if doing something racist means you cannot still be a good person. It is either-or. Dichotomous.
Dichotomous thinking sees the world as opposites:
- good and evil,
- right and wrong,
- straight and gay,
- white and black,
- male and female,
- civilized and savage,
- rational and irrational,
- sane and mad,
- mind and body,
- winners and losers,
- capitalist and communist,
- free and slave,
- modern and backwards
And on and on. Not only that, but one of the two opposites is always seen as something bad and different, as something to avoid, overcome, control or even destroy.
Also common among whites is vertical thinking: they measure and rank things: IQ, income, crime rates, etc. Again, the aim is not to understand but to condemn and control. “The Bell Curve” is almost a self-parody of this style.
In diunital thinking you see things in their fullness, as being independent and equal. Different does not mean unequal. Different is just different. In fact, to rank things would require looking at them in a flattened, one-dimensional way that does not tell the whole story. The world is a coat of many colours, not a coat of one colour that got screwed up. The aim is not to control or condemn but to understand as fully as possible.
Diunital thinking among Black Americans goes back at least to the 1800s – when they stopped calling themselves Africans and started to see themselves as both black and American. Both-and. Two-in-one. Diunital. Compare that to the white, dichotomous view of blacks:
- Black and therefore not truly American (either-or), or
- Americans with a brown skin which they try not to “see” (“I do not see colour”) – because their dichotomous thinking does not allow them to see different as equal.
Diunital thinking does not go back to West Africa like you might expect. The main pattern of thought there is what Wright calls monointeractive. White scientists, dichotomously, understood it as “prelogical” thinking, as part of the “savage” mind. But it is hardly that: the “civilized” Ancient Egyptians also used it as their main pattern of thought.
- Marie Laveau
- the r-word
- The Bell Curve
- Homi K. Bhabha – whose views on Western thinking is pretty much the same as above
- Is Africa backward? – a perfect example of vertical thinking. I did not understand how terrible it was till I tried, as an exercise, to write the very same post about Black Americans.