You may be surprised to learn that Ethiopia and Ethiopian are not native African names. It comes from Greek Αἰθίοψ (Aithiops), meaning charred/ burnt face. It was a common Mediterranean belief that skin colour was determined by climate, ‘black’ being a result of overcooking in the sun so to speak. They also reckoned curly/ kinky/ woolly hair is caused by the same. However, this could be seen as negative (due to living at an “extremity of the world”) , or positive. Homer described Ethiopians as pious and divinely favoured while Herodotus called them the most attractive people in the world. Continue reading The term “Ethiopian”
I think of myself as a pro-‘black’ man with a strong passion for knowing the histories and co-creating the futures of all ‘black’ people. I also sympathise with pan-Africanism, as I agree that we’re all better off uniting and supporting each other.
However, I’ve always hesitated to join any one particular movement. Why? Because no one has all the answers, and I hate when someone tries to force me to adopt an ideology in its entirety before I understand it to a degree I’m happy with. A few personal gripes I’ve had with formalised pro-‘black’ movements:
Ancestors: it kind of pisses me off when anyone, regardless of ideology, bangs on so much about ancestors. It creates a mindset that everything they did was right and we’re wrong for wanting to move on or do anything new. TBH that’s a remnant of my Muslim upbringing: following tradition for tradition’s sake is jahil (ignorant). I think that’s a very pragmatic approach. Furthermore, ‘ancestors’ refers to members of your family like parents, grandparents, etc. This is meant to foster a sense of pride in oneself due to knowing we have royalty, scholars, die-hard survivors, revolutionaries and other great people in our DNA. Bit of a backfire, though, if our bloodlines also include assholes, traitors, cowards, rapists and the like.
But from going to so my meetings it’s now clear that they’re not talking about all Africans in the past, nor about members of any particular person’s family tree. They mean any Africans & Afro-diasporans whose lives contained examples of constructive positive action. In a sense, we choose our ancestors! That I can relate to.
Queen Nyabinghi – HOORAY!
Women of the Aba Rebellion 1929 – HOORAY!
Afrika: some claim it’s a more accurate spelling of Africa. To me it makes no difference, except that it kind of looks cooler. It’s still a word of west Asian (European) origin, so until we come up with/ discover an indigenous term for the continent the spelling is irrelevant. Since everyone uses the term Africa/ Afrika nowadays, it’s easiest to stick with it for now. Speaking of indigenous names…
Alkebulan: allegedly the original indigenous name for Africa. Being the detail-oriented person I am, I like to know which language that word came from, exactly when and where it was used, etymology, that kind of stuff. To date I’ve not met a single person able to answer any of those questions. Even the Africans I’ve asked have never heard of it. Sounds like a hoax to me.
No gay Africans: this is the position often held nowadays that homosexuality among ‘black’ people never existed until ‘whites’ came along with their TAST shit. All ‘black’ gays are either agents or sexual victims of the ‘white’ supremacy system. Not just homosexuality, but all non-heterosexual relationships didn’t exist before ‘white’ people. So there were no transvestites, transsexuals (including eunuchs), zoophiles, asexuals, bisexuals, etc. Supposedly, even the gender roles have remained exactly the same throughout all of Africa in all time periods. Men were always warriors & providers, women were always nurturing mothers, and couples were always married. So how about:
- Baka babies being breastfed by their dads- what?
- Woodaabe men wearing make-up – what?
- Mino (all-female warriors of Dahomey) – what?
- Yoruba women using marriages for personal economic gain – what?
Admittedly I’m not the expert on this topic. But I’ve been reading Eccentric Yoruba’s blog and I find it extremely informative. She’s all about evidence of gender & sexual fluidity in pre-colonial Africa.
Unity: nothing wrong with it. It’s for the good of us all. BUT we cannot and must not be united all the time. Sometimes it’s easy to think we’re supposed to be united in everything, like groupthink. Disagreement is forbidden! However, as humans we should know that everyone is different. Being ‘black’ doesn’t erase other aspects of our identity, like being:
- Mensa-level mathematician
- anal about timekeeping
- financially independent
- visually impaired
- victim of domestic abuse
- unmusical (me!)
- Spider-Man otaku
You get the picture.
To achieve proper unity, our goals must have the common aim of benefitting all ‘black’ people. Except those who demonstrate a desire to maintain racism/ ‘white’ supremacy, of course. For the sake of those goals, differences in identity must be put aside or used as sources of inspiration/ experiences to draw on. Which brings me nicely to my next point…
‘Black’ = African: Not all pro-‘black’ people spout this, but there are some who reckon that being ‘black’ (wholly or partially) makes you African. I wholeheartedly disagree. ‘Blackness’ is a skin colour, a metaphorical one at that, and one that people didn’t usually give a shit about before colonialism. ‘Africanness’ is an identity, one that only came into being by European definition. The IsiZulu, Ndi-Igbo, Somalis, Fulanis, San, Ovuhimba and the rest didn’t consider themselves the same until colonialism. That’s not to say they were mutual enemies, just that they recognised their differences as well as similarities and got on with their own lives.
Also, just by the process of enslavement most of us are what I’d call Afro-diasporans – not Africans! We (‘black’ people who’ve been in the Americas & Caribbean for the past 500+ years) are not African anymore. We were forced to lose our original names, languages, cultures, clothing, inheritance, knowledge of our bloodlines, even basic self-love! Furthermore, we now have the opportunity to become African again by going to vacation/ live/ work there, and most of us don’t want to. We have more opportunity than ever before to learn the greatness of native/ pre-colonial Africa, and thankfully an increasing number of us are curious. BUT there are still many others who aren’t. So how the fuck are we African?
Not to mention ‘black’ people whose geographic link to Africa ended tens of thousands of years before ‘white’ people existed:
All ‘black’, none African.
Then there are the ‘white’ people who’ve lived in Africa, predominantly north, for centuries (I don’t mean albinos), which I won’t go into now.
Mythology: the amount of fantastical shite being spouted by otherwise conscious ‘black’ people is astounding. The most recent one I’ve heard is the Eve gene, a gene that enables women to birth all the different varieties of humans. Only ‘black’ women possess it. This I find no fault with, as it’s been demonstrated throughout all of human history. However, there’s another aspect of it that hasn’t been scientifically demonstrated – it enables women to reproduce asexually (parthenogenesis). To date no-one has shown that humans have this power. Another I’ve heard is that women used to have a gland that produced sperm just like men. Again, women used to be able to self-impregnate. Somehow at some point they lost this gland. Hmmm…
Also, many people are being more vocal about adopting traditional African culture. Not inherently bad, depending on which cultural aspects are being adopted. Is it right to do FGM, forced fattening, scarification, knocking out your lower incisor teeth, stretching out your necks with giant bangles, etc. just because it’s traditional? Again, jahil.
Kemet (ancient Egypt): nothing wrong with it. It’s very useful to know Kemetians were ‘black’, especially since their influence is glorified in western media while their identities are hidden. However, some pro-‘black’ people think Egypt was the origin and pinnacle of African civilisation. Total dogshit! Kemetian royalty at various points in history were a bunch of inbreds, siblings marrying each other & all that. Kemet freely exchanged ideas and cultural traits with neighbouring Nubians. That’s why Sudan has more and older pyramids than Egypt! What we call north they called south and vice versa, because they looked up, ie. south, to their original homeland: Punt (Horn of Africa). This means they recognised the debt of their existence to their ancestors, whom we now know as Somalis/ Ethiopians.
Not to mention the myriad of other African civilisations and creations: Enkis Calendar, Mali Empire, Aksum, great walls of Benin, Dahomey Empire, Songhai Empire, otjize, Nok civilisation, Fulani Empire, Shona metallurgy, adinkra cloth, Meroe, Numidia, Mutapa Empire, Nri Kingdom, Kongo Kingdom, Carthaginian Empire… I could go on all night! But I won’t. For now…