Inadequate attention seems to have been paid to the significance of racial miscegenation (or us “in-betweeners”) in the process of domination.
“It is unfashionable to be associated with anything African at the moment.”
“Coloured” in Africa denotes something other than what it denotes in America, though it can mean the same skin tone for many on both continents at times. A coloured in most parts of Africa is the offspring of a black person and either a European or Asian (traditionally Indian, but yes, recently increasing numbers of Chinese). I am coloured in the African sense.
The university town that I grew up in did not have many coloureds. I am tempted to add “thankfully” for some reason. There was Professor DM and his American wife, but their three daughters went to the rich kids’ school. Then Dr K and another Dr K but their kids were much younger so I didn’t associate with them much. Dr S’s wife on our street was coloured, however, probably due to the influence of the father, the children, my friends, didn’t really “act” coloured. It is hard for me to associate with coloureds and their distinct culture even though I’ve moved to a larger city with a sizable coloured population. My education probably makes this a bit harder. My kids will probably end up “coloured.” Mulatto. Not quadroon. Apparently I shouldn’t be teaching them our Bantu language let alone give them African names. There seems to be some unwritten agenda that we are supposed to be participating in.
Apparently we coloureds stick together and are prone to violence (and look down on African languages and names).
“Dr S’s wife on our street was coloured, however, probably due to the influence of the father, the children, my friends, didn’t really ‘act’ coloured.”
After one of my maternal grandparents’ visits, my mother put up a token effort after my grandfather – of counties Donegal and Armagh extraction – had pointed out to her how “un-English” we were turning out to be. It was to be a battle doomed from inception.
I don’t know if it was hard for my white friends. For me it was different, my parents wouldn’t have to arrange a visit to any of my “other” friends; we would just walk to each others’ houses. Sometimes my mother would drive me across town in our voyages of Anglicization. Food could be a challenge (on their part, not mine). I preferred walking to my friends spontaneously. I now prefer African food. It is certainly healthier.
Here we are, in the midst of a great decivilizing mission and no-one is talking about it. Well, there was a Stanford graduate student who studied the coloured population of Malawi a couple of decades ago.
I presume that empire wished to be informed whether coloureds can be relied on to uphold capitalism. In which case my advice would be to stick to fomenting the traditional “tribalism” as the European proto-colonials learnt to do. The Tumbuka and Chewa hate each other sufficiently to be relied on in case the country ever becomes important enough for a coup instigation. Divide et impera.
I didn’t know about the burden of manifest destiny then, but now I speculate as to what sinister motives would guide empire to send someone across the globe to our insignificant country for such a study. Now, Latin American and other histories inform that capitalism is a beast whose hunger is ever-growing. If the limits of the finite world approach, create an infinite quantum reality where the madness can continue.
“The Tumbuka and Chewa hate each other sufficiently to be relied on in case the country ever becomes important enough for a coup instigation.”
Let’s be kind and assume it was just curiosity (not some prelude to a new phase in this continuing erasure of black cultural identity, Globalization 2.0). Anyway, it was mildly bewildering for me at the time to be a human guinea pig in this multicultural experiment that we find ourselves in.
I am perplexed at some Africans’ staunch indignation at what some Chinese do. Not that anyone should get away with any wrongdoing, but it has been okay for whites to do it for centuries and their Indian lackeys too in their wake for decades, but h*ll no: not this latest newcomer! I say: bring it on. It will only fortify our processes of decolonization.
A subcontinental acquaintance has been building a compound of five lovely “town houses” up the street from me for a decade or so. A Chinese gang has put up the same number across the street beginning last year, ready for occupation next month. Globalization in your face! Brownies continuing where whitey left off.
Back to the politics of colour in Africa. Inadequate attention seems to have been paid to the significance of racial miscegenation (or us “in-betweeners”) in the process of domination and therefore too as a corollary in the process of decolonisation (and a process it must be not a historical event with attendant white-celebrated Mandelas). Yet, what the indigenous black majority intuitively suspects is that cultural erasure has always been on the agenda (which is why many of those who identify as black are quick to suspect laboratory origins, a twentieth century kind of smallpox blanket affair, of many of these newish pestilences) in tandem with actual physical destruction: nothing wrong with making a buck while carrying out Darwinian or biblical preordination. But we remain confident as only first peoples can, despite participating via hair straighteners and skin bleachers. Angoni saatha onse. “The Ngoni do not all perish.” A Malawian saying in the aftermaths of those Ngoni that fled Tchaka in their aftermath of the Voortrekkers.
“What the indigenous black majority intuitively suspects is that cultural erasure has always been on the agenda.”
There’s a South African cape rugby team called the “Griquas.” Thanks to my meandering self re-education, I first encountered this name reading about Mzilikazi, the founder of the Ndebele nation of Zimbabwe. Fleeing from Tchaka wa Senzangakhona Zulu, earlier, the Matebele had encountered the Griqua tribe of coloureds and the two groups butchered each other for a while. No love lost between brown people and black people in Africa.
Race in Africa suddenly stopped mattering in the mid nineties, did it not. Stuck in the past, are you? Missed the post?
Different races hate each other. Blasphemy! Probably mostly down to fear. A higher power (multipolarism, perhaps?) and a deep compassion is required to overcome this base instinct.
Our national hero is John Chilembwe. He lobbed off the head (later to be stuck on a stake) of a William Jervis Livingstone in front of his wife and daughter at their farmhouse not forty kilometers north from where I am writing. Earlier in the previous century our other national hero, nay, savior from darkness, David Livingstone had brought the three C’s of Christianity, Civilization and Commerce to this part of the world. The irony of the two Livingstones – one hero, one villain – is not to be underscored to the primary school intellects at which level most of us remain most of the rest of our lives thanks to Christian inspired education, capitalist media and a lifelong Eurocentric notion of civilization.
During this “uprising” of 1915, according to historian Dudwa Phiri, the Indian caste camped with the Europeans in the relative safety of Mandala. In a different book the same historian chronicles that in 1943 coloureds of what was to be the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland convened a meeting in Kabula and requested to be taxed not as Africans but as Europeans and Indians amongst other similar requests such as separate schools. Small wonder I would rather my kids identify with Bob Nesta Marley than Henry Louis Gates. I guess a few decades is enough for what is the bane of racial supremacists of all hues – in-betweeners – to establish themselves in sizable numbers. Why can’t pesky facts fit the prejudiced school ground ideal of racial purity?
“The Indian caste camped with the Europeans in the relative safety of Mandala.”
There was a logic behind the apartheid design which sandwiched brown people between whites and blacks, an unspoken genocidal agenda: less work for the oppressor. Bigger bottom lines. Not different to the logic behind the creations of middle classes between rulers and commoners.
At some point it was okay to be black, before colour prejudice, as a book by that title attempts to point out. The wikipedia page for “dreadlocks” states that in a period of early ancient Greece half of the surviving sculptures are found wearing dreadlocks. Presumably it was fashionable for a while for the southern Europeans to be like their more cultured (at that time, let’s admit it white folk) Ethiopic, Egyptic, Punic and Puntic neighbors around the frog pond. It is a total irony in the present circumstances that Africans are responsible – if we are to believe Diodorus, that Kadmos (brother of Europa) was “a citizen of Egypt” – for naming Europe and vice versa: Roman Europeans are responsible for the name “Africa.” The Arab geographers placed south at the top of their maps. When Africans redraw their own maps Africa will be center of their world as China is to the Chinese maps. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem sensible to me that the artificial Suez separates Africa and Asia -- the Euphrates, perhaps. Arabians have more in common with North Africans than with Aryan stans.
Was Manetho the Egyptian half-caste? He certainly bridged two cultures: old Africa and insurgent Europe. There were definitely expulsions and mass migrations. Exodi. I theorize that in accordance with Jared Diamond’s continental axis theories, black Africans were eventually inevitably overwhelmed by the more populous Eurasians. A crucial understanding of the past few centuries for us in the periphery cannot overlook the expulsions of the moors from Europe: the advent of a resurgent Europe. The voyages of discovery became the initial global triumphalism.
“The apartheid design which sandwiched brown people between whites and blacks.”
Now. We have forgotten. That is where it becomes an issue. It is an issue because race remains an issue especially for those of us who are “others.” In order to pacify us, we are exhorted to believe in a colour blind world and that racism is only down to a few “bad apples.” Perhaps we need to accept first that we are inherently racist. Then we can begin to build a better world in which we can all live together. Kill each other a little bit less.
Widening the lens, the first Aryan invasion of Africa was by the Persians in 525 BC. (A couple of centuries prior to this Sennacherib the Assyrian and his dynasty fought the Kushites to a standoff. Black people rescued Jerusalem from brown people). The second by way of the coasts: Gold, Ivory, Cape and up the Swahili coasts. The third wave was the partition of Africa at the Berlin conference of 1885. The fourth at Bretton Woods now with its attendant helicopter saviors armed with spreadsheets. No surprise that I am happy to see the Chinese visibly demonstrating their success at decolonization (de-europeanization) right in my neighborhood!
With the stroke of a pen, I place the Arabian peninsula on the same continent as the rest of Africa, separated from Asia by the two potamoi. With such a geography, history begins to make better sense for an African. Christianity was adopted as a state religion cobbled together from various trends in the Roman provinces (and “whitefaced” to hide some African origins). Islam was one response to the empire that was Rome.
While the Mohammedans were at it they nailed the last-but-one nail in the coffin of Negro confidence (we are not very good at hating – read “fearing” – other races it seems). They also succeeded spectacularly in driving the remaining Romans – read Europeans – out of Africa, where Hannibal had fared less well a millennium earlier.
Obviously whole groups of people will be up in arms. It is unfashionable to be associated with anything African at the moment. A tad different to a few millenia ago during the middle, even late kingdoms. But. They are not my constituency.
At some point when the African academy lives up to the visions of DuBois, Diop, Armah, Obenga and Ngugi, the justifications for orienting a map one way or the other and arbitrarily delineating a continent somewhere not surrounded by oceans might be further elaborated. It is ludicrous that my kids are still being taught that Europe is a continent.
“We Blacks shy away from concluding that we are detested – read feared.”
History will make much more sense (and maybe our children will be less likely to continue the beef) if one starting point is that different races don’t like each other and we blacks seem to be the least liked for now. A geography of Africa that almost totally includes what is predominantly an African language group (Afroasiatic – what is Asiatic about it?) will better help us properly contextualise many historical events and processes not least a fertile trans-saharan-arabian cradle of agriculture at the onset of the holocene epoch.
I suppose one advantage of being African is that a charge of anti-semitism (just in case some deluded sorts may claim that suggesting south west Asia has more in common with north Africa than the rest of the Eurasian mass is anti anything) is absurd: my wounds are deeper, have gone on for longer and still are going on further than anything any other group has faced. So help us God for when the tables turn. I hope we all know that Arabs are classified as semites. Semitocentrism and aryanocentrism are but facets of eurocentrism.
Sartre forewarned that the native, once educated would shun the european academy. Sartre also recognized “Our worthiest souls contain racial prejudice.” But the master too, intuitively knows this, and it keeps him awake at night. So the cycle of violence continues.
The point for the pan-African liberation thinker should be that the glacial process of lightening, is a factor in history. It may pass as innocuous individual choice, for some; to start off with. However, it has historical ramifications for example for the Kamitic and Harrapan civilizations. Architects of systems such as apartheid and casteism are well acquainted with the fact that it is a historical factor. We Blacks shy away from concluding that we are detested – read feared. I suppose a lion fears no other animal.
The sad other point is that many blacks participate in this process of erasure of black cultural identity. The endgame will be that there will at some point be no continent for black people. (Hopefully the whole globe will be brown or colour blind at that point.) Actually that is when the real problems will begin. When black people are brutalized in the Americas and India as they currently are, where will they turn to?
“Semitocentrism and aryanocentrism are but facets of eurocentrism.”
The European project has found it useful for their non-white subjects not to identify with the masses and it works: I would venture that most of the parents at the private school that I send my kids to do not have them speak their indigenous Bantu language at home. Some even take pride in this disability. Ostentatious cripples, according to Ayi Kwei Armah.
It is lost on many of us that our far eastern brothers also faced the butt end of the European endeavor but they have more or less rolled back their setbacks, not by out-europeaning the European but by way of a deep introspection of their core humanity including embracing their own religions. Today Japan makes cars, using the Japanese language. Korea makes smartphones in their language. China has overtaken everyone economically yet still speaks Chinese. African success continues to be defined in colonial languages.
And just how should we define success for the multicultural project? In the words of Bob Marley’s song paraphrasing Haile Selassie’s 1930’s League of Nations speech: once “the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance as the color of his eyes.” Which may beg the question: is it okay, in a multicultural world, to prefer to remain a certain race/ identity with an “own” “continent?’
As the project proves fleeting and a more multipolar world hopefully replaces this unipolar one, perhaps a return to the ancient African concept of Ma’at – harmony – is nigh. Not least because core multiculturalism is actual periphery brain drain. It is the sons and daughters of those able to afford peripheral private education in European languages who are feeding the sateless stomachs of core capitalism even if it is merely in fast food outlets and slow nursing homes. A sorry state for our talented tenths.
Once the inevitably neo-liberal Agenda 2063 (which without a fanfare has replaced Vision 2020 now that this latter milestone looms too large) itself runs out of years to count down perhaps we can have a 2084-85 Benin conference complete with white waiters and waitresses (there was no African representation at Bismarck’s Berlin balkanisation of Africa in 1884-85 unless there to serve teas or provide entertainment) in order to discuss a federation of African states. In time before Vision 2121, of course! Be sure to pour libation to the ancestors before proceedings.
The fact that an ancient Egyptian great year is due roundabout that time will be greatly overplayed for its prophetic implications of course, especially as aquarian water bearers or rain-makers will be in high demand in those climatic apocalyptic times.
The easiest nightmare scenario for Black Africans to envisage is for the Chinese to perfect what the Mohammedans began and the Christians continued.
I will be with the ancestors.
Zanga Chimombo can be reached at z.chimombo(at)gmail.com
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