When we were kings
6th August 2013 · 0 Comments
By Edmund W. Lewis
Almost every day we read or hear about something that attests to the historical greatness and significance of Africa. And almost every other day, someone comes along to try to refute that greatness as if Africa’s role in the history of the world diminishes or cheapens the historical reputation and legacy of his or her reference group.
Take, for example, the growing number of books that call into question evidence which suggests that ancient Egyptians were dark-skinned Africans. One can only wonder why men and women who call themselves scholars and seekers of truth would devote so much time and energy to disproving that ancient Egyptians were Black. What’s at stake here? Why go through so much trouble, especially during a junction in American history when every day people are celebrating and trying to point out evidence of the declining significance of race?
African-centered studies of world history have apparently offended a significant number of Western scholars on a number of points. First, Afrocentricity is an attempt to right the historical lies perpetuated by those who have tried to paint the inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere as the great civilizers, philosophers and God-ordained rulers of the planet. In order to accomplish such a harrowing task, a number of historical facts had to be altered or distorted to make it look like Western Europeans accomplished virtually every feat of significance in the history of mankind.
Of this compulsion to alter world history to improve one’s standing, Rene de Chateaubriand, in Analyse de l’Histoire de France, writes: “In past history we look for our own image and we are annoyed not to find it. With the spirit of equality now dominant among us, the exclusive presence of a few nobles in our annals irritates us. We ask whether we are not worth a great deal more than those fellows, and whether our fathers were of no account in the destinies of our fatherland.”
Similarly, in Race: A Study in Superstition, Jacques Barzun writes: “Race is a convenient living symbol for ideas and principles, and it is useful propaganda for keeping one’s followers conscious of their worth. The value of historical essays on racial principles is to persuade the ‘Nordics’ themselves that they have a great past, encourage them to feel superior and justify their attacks on inconvenient neighbors.”
While some may think that such a bloated belief in one’s worth as a member of the “chosen” or “master” race is harmless, such racial doctrines paved the way for men like Adolf Hitler to exterminate millions of Jews, Roman Catholics, infidels and gypsies. Such racial and cultural narcissism is no doubt what prompted Arthur de Gobineau to assert that “all that is not German is born to serve” and Oswald Spengler to write in 1924: “Lastly we have learnt something that I shall mention straight out: the ability to hate. Whoever cannot hate is not a man, and History is made by Men.”
So why then, some might ask, would anyone seek to replace white supremacist doctrines with Afrocentric? First off, Afrocentricity merely seeks to present world history through the eyes of the sons and daughters of Africa. Up to this point, world history has largely been presented through the eyes and from the perspective of Western Europeans and their American cousins. The contributions and achievements of people of color in Asia, Africa, India and other parts of the world were either ignored or somehow attributed to Western influence. Thus, the conquerors and mercenaries who visited these distant lands were seen as valiant heroes bent on civilizing the world — at whatever cost to both those they conquered and themselves — while those who fought to protect their families and their way of life were painted as savages in the annals of history. European scholars rifled through their histories and cultures the way some of us rummage through old boxes we stumble across in the attic of our homes, and whatever they found that they could neither comprehend nor appreciate they labeled “primitive.” And yet the libraries and museums of Europe — particularly Western Europe — are filled with the “primitive” artifacts and creations of “lesser” peoples they trampled upon in carrying out the fulfillment of Manifest Destiny.
Some, like columnist George Will, have characterized the efforts by African-centered scholars to identify great Africans in world history as “ethnic cheerleading.” This from a people who insist upon calling Europe a continent when by objective standards it clearly is not and depicting the African continent smaller than it actually is on world maps. Then of course there are those Western scholars who still try to deny that Egypt is a part of Africa, even though it is clearly linked geographically, historically and culturally to the rest of the Motherland. It is both amusing and infuriating that some Europeans are offended by the attempts of Africans to reclaim our history, for had Europeans not stripped Africans of knowledge of ourselves, our history and culture, such endeavors would not be necessary.
Despite objections to African-centered history, we need to be fully committed to uncovering the truth about our past. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that ancient Egyptians were Black. Did other peoples visit, marry and live among the ancient people of Kemet? No doubt.
One of the more pitiful attempts to distort history and further confuse Africans was the film Stargate which suggested that the ancient pyramids were conceived, designed and erected by extraterrestrial beings who came to earth to share their intellect and rule over the dwellers of this planet. If you buy that, I have a pocketful of magic beans that will make you come through in the clutch like Kobe Bryant and sing like Luther…
Our accomplishments in ancient Kemet (Egypt) are actually just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve done so much more. Look at ancient African kingdoms and empires like Mali, Ghana, Songhay, Benin, Timbuktu, Taseti and Kanem-Bornu. It’s already been irrefutably proven that Africa is the birthplace of mankind. And Africa is also the place where many of the world’s earliest religions were either formed or significantly influenced. Moses was raised by a Kemetic pharaoh’s daughter in Africa. The man we call Jesus Christ (aka Yashua) spent some of his formative years in the Motherland. What did he learn while he was there? Some of the pivotal figures in the formation of Islam were Black Africans. Who, in their right mind, can question the role Africa and Africans have played in shaping the history of the world?
We are descendants of a great people who recognized the omnipotence and benevolence of the Creator and understood that nothing was more important than cultivating a relationship with the Supreme Being. No, we were not all kings, but we were all part of a network of cultures that believed in the sacredness of all life, the importance of ancestral ties and the dignity of all human beings. We were not perfect but we were much better off culturally than we are now. We were taught by our elders who we were and why we were put on the planet, and we knew that the Creator is the source and aim of all living things.
Long before we ever laid eyes on our European brothers, Greeks, Arabs and other peoples, we were building great civilizations — many of which we may never be able to recall without the help of the ancestors and the Creator — and making giant leaps forward for all mankind. We were the first to travel the world — see Ivan Van Sertima’s They Came Before Columbus — and the last to try and conquer it.
Does that make us better than Europeans? Of course not. I do, however, believe that we have strayed less from our “essence” than some of our European brethren.
All peoples have at one point or another in world history played a pivotal role in the development and uplift of humanity. All of us have had a chance to “get our shine on.”
Although some Western scholars will not admit it, we know that we influenced the ancient Greeks. The ancient Greeks themselves apparently had no problem admitting this, but Westerners intent on carving up a more significant place of honor and prestige for themselves in world history have left out this truth in order to make themselves look better. You see, if Africans influenced ancient Greeks, and Greek culture, philosophy and science are supposed to be the cornerstone of Western civilization, what does that say about the historical relationship between Africa and Europe?
As white historians continue to deny that Egypt is a part of Africa, several years ago a dark-skinned immigrant from Egypt sued the United States because it insisted upon classifying Egyptians and other North Africans as “white,” regardless of how they look. If that isn’t the epitome of cultural insularity and intellectual autism, I don’t know what is.
So let Western scholars have their way and continue to claim that the sun rises and sets on Western civilization, for it is these scholars and those they represent who remain slaves to their own lies and half-truths. And the truth is the only thing that has the power to set them free. Hotep.
This article originally published in the August 5, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.