The life of Afro-American intellectuals is governed by a web of contradictions. Simply put, there is this central contradiction: while black
intellectuals work within the aesthetic limits of a pariah-like ethnicity, this ethnicity’s cultural forms are used and exploited—both intellectually and commercially—by the dominant white culture.
The black intellectual’s quest for self-identity might have been easier, one wryly reflects, had the cultural and aesthetic boundaries between black and white Americans been rigidly sustained, like those in South Africa. But the
precarious amalgam of cultural identities and feelings in American society permits no such painful clarity.
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