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BSU Students Learn the Power of Yin and Yang

By Funke Oyelade

Bowie State University’s Department of English and Modern Languages presented the “Black Men’s Usage of Yin Power” October 3, 2013, in CLT 102. The keynote speaker Professor Hoke “Brother Yao” Glover spoke about going to China and studying there, while learning about their concept of power.

Glover talked about the yin and yang symbol, while breaking down what the colors represented in Chinese culture. Yin, the black side, represents: Dark/moon, recessive/nurturing, damp/cool/water, female, negative charge, earth, autumn and winter. However, Yang, the white side, represents: light/bright/sun, strong aggressive, dry/hot/fire, male positive charge, heaven, spring and summer.

Glover gave an example of how the two contrast physically by passing out a flyer for Tai-chi, a form of Yin martial arts. He joked that if you see people doing Tai-chi it seems as though they are lazy, however they aren’t. Yin forms of martial arts are soft and flexible. However Yang forms of martial arts is more kung-fu like with the external force, acrobatic moves, impact, and heavy breathing.

The Chinese believe that no one is all bad or all good, but people move back and forth. Water when its ice is hard, but can be broken, meanwhile water in its liquid form always obeys gravity, but can destroy houses, buildings, cars, and anything when a flood happens. However, Americans tend to believe that one is either absolutely good or absolutely bad, Glover said.

In the Western world, yin and yang means good and evil, white equals good and black equals bad.  The belief of absolute good and absolute bad, Glover said, cannot be found outside Western ideology. “This country has to confront [that people outside of Western ideals] believe in alternative types of power.”

This has caused African American’s to be stereotyped as inherently bad, when that is not the case. He talked about the books he has read catered to understanding or define the black male in America, each implying that there is something inherently negative about them that needs fixing.

However, despite how African American’s have been treated due to these ideals from slavery to now, they have survived by using yin power, Glover said.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a slave writing his way to freedom, and what black men are taught from their parents, Glover said are examples of African Americans using yin to survive under oppression. King used yin power to create change through non-violent confrontations with their violent (yang) oppressors. 

A current form of yin power, Glover said, is the way black men have been taught from an early age how to conduct themselves when they encounter law enforcement officers. Young black males are taught to keep their hands where they are visible, tell the cops what they are going to do before they do it, make sure to use “yes sir” and “no sir,” and appear as non-threatening as possible, even if the cop is being aggressive.

America culture teaches people to fight yang with yang, or fire with fire, example of this could be the Revolutionary War,  Civil War, and others wars in American history that aided in the colonist bring free from the British crown, Glover said.

However, historical conditions have forced African Americans to develop a different kind of power, opposite of fire versus fire, Glover said. This alternative power has been yin, which was done in defiance of the laws that tried to take way every part of their culture, but never the essence of who they were.

Glover stated that “a law has never mandated who Africans are as a people, no outlawing of drums or languages” ever stopped the African from expressing themselves or being creative. An example of this is through genres created by Africans in America such as jazz, blues, rock & roll, hip-hop, and more.

The ability to express and be creative and be oneself regardless of what the laws said in public spaces has helped African-Americans to create free black spaces for themselves, Glover said.

Although racism of course plays a part in this, Glover said he believes that racism has to be redefined not about skin, but about a division between what is right and wrong. When it comes to black men, they must go outside theWestern concept to understand alternatives forms of power.