By CHRIS AKIRI
FROM a remote period of antiquity, the world has been woefully divided between the “white” offspring of their Caucasoid progenitors and the others. Those who claim to be white look down on the “non-whites”, the so-called coloureds or the “people of colour”. Decades ago, the Klu Klux Klan movement in America violently moved to maintain “white” supremacy by forcing countless innocent non-whites across the Styx. The baseless shibboleth of the “white supremacists” derived from a funny belief that the white colour is superior to all other colours in the world and that since they have been endowed with a “white” skin, they are, ipso facto, sui generis.
The Klu Klux Klan and their successors have reproduced themselves in America and even in Britain, with the result that, time and again, some maniacal groups rise up, threatening the peace of innocent “men and women of colour”. It all started in England in 1601, when Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) reacted to the growing number of blacks in England by ordering their deportation. Everywhere you go in the UK, in continental Europe or in America, people walk on the stilts of arrogance for being “white.”
Only a few weeks ago, some ill-informed “white” young men in the US tried to resuscitate the supremacist ghost of their Klu Klux Klan predecessors but were nabbed by security agents before they could hatch their diabolical plan: they had organized to decimate the population of the so-called people of colour in the US to establish white supremacy. The misguided racial supremacists, including urchins, street Arabs and even highly lettered personages and political leaders, feed themselves and their offspring on the diet of the racist writings of European pseudo-scientists and philosophers. Unscientific descriptions of Africans by fake European anthropologists, such as that Africans live on trees and have long tails like moneys is their Pater Noster. This explains why racialism dies hard. Years ago, a “white” American acquaintance of mine appealed, and profusely apologized, to me before feeling my lower extremities for my tail before it would be excised from my rump in civilized America! When he did not see any tail, he thought I could be the odd man out or that the tail had been cut off before his efforts to locate it!
Herodotus, the father of History, in attempting to explain the African culture, which was vastly different from his, sowed the seed of racial prejudice, when he described Africans as ‘barbarians’ and characterized the people of Libya thus: “their speech resembles the shrieking of a Bat rather than the language of Men.” The “white” man’s prejudicial interpretation of Noah’s curse of Ham is instructive. Robert Graves and Raphael Patai in their book, “Hebrew Myths”, record the belief, prevalent in the Middle Ages that the children of Ham as depicted in Jewish oral traditions and encapsulated in the “Babylonian Talmud”, were black. In that book, Noah’s curse was explained as follows: “It must be Canaan, your firstborn, whom they enslave….Canaan’s children shall be born ugly and black!…Your grandchildren’s hair shall be twisted into kinks…their lips shall swell. Men of this race are called Negroes; their forefather Canaan commanded them to love theft and fornication, to be banded together in hatred of their masters and never to tell the truth.”
This was supported by the translation of a manuscript of Benjamin ben Jonah in which he wrote: “There is a people…who, like animals, eat of the herbs that grow on the banks of the Nile, and in the fields. They go about naked and have not the intelligence of the ordinary men. They cohabit with their sisters and anyone they find…These sons of Ham are black slaves.” In 1725, James Houston, in his book, “Some New and Accurate Observations Of the Coast of Guinea”, wrote: “They (Africans) exactly resemble their Fellow Creatures and Natives, the Monkeys.”
In 1748, a French political philosopher and man of letters, Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de la Brede et de Montesquieu (1689-1755) wrote: “It is impossible for us to suppose these creatures to be men, because, allowing them to be men, a suspicion would follow that we ourselves are not Christians.”
In a footnote to his essay entitled “Of National Character”, a Scottish philosopher, David Hume, wrote: “I am apt to suspect the negroes…to be naturally inferior to the white. There never was a civilized nation of any other complexion than white, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufacturers amongst them, no arts, no sciences.”
A German philosopher, Georg Hegel, in his “Philosophy of History”, wrote: “It is manifest that lack of self-control distinguishes the character of the Negroes. This condition is capable of no development or culture, and as we have seen them at this day, such have they always been….At this point we leave Africa, not to mention it again. For it is no historical part of the world; it has no movement or development to exhibit.”
Wherever you go in the world, even today, you are not unlikely to hear some self-deluding egomaniacs derogatorily refer to a group of fellow citizens as “coloured people” or “men and women of colour” in covert, sometimes overt, denigration of the objects of their derision. Quite often, the people thus mischievously besmirched, pitiably refer to themselves, too, as “men and women of colour”.
In South Africa, the autochthonous Africans are called “black people”; the erstwhile colonizers and their progeny, that is, the former narcissistic Dutch and English settlers, are wrongly called “white men”, whilst the Indians and the products of the miscegenation between indigenous South Africans and the former colonizers are erroneously called “coloureds”.
In the US, every person who is not of the Caucasoid race is a man/woman of colour! Instead of simply describing a fellow American citizen as “an American”, the descendants of Caucasia superciliously refer to others, whose great grandparents possibly landed in America (in the 1620s or earlier) before their forebears ever heard of the New World, as “men/women of colour” or “African Americans” (a condescending step above the demeaning “Negro” stereotype), without describing themselves as “English Americans”, “Portuguese Americans”, “Dutch Americans”, “French Americans” or even as “European Americans”. “African Americans” can only mean “those who came from Africa to join us (“whites”) here in America”, whereas the boot is on the other foot!
Not being a scientist, it is difficult for me to understand that, other than potable water and air, when it has not collected some coloured particles of smog in its eternal flow, there is anything under the sun, including human beings, that has no colour. Everything has colour, I believe, and that explains why scientists insist that there are over 28 million colours in the world! Therefore, for any group of people to say that they are monochrome or colour-neutral, is ridiculous and deserves psychological interrogation.
It is fatally easy to believe that there is “a white world”, because those who arrogate that description to themselves revel in being so called. I dare say, and want the whole world to take me seriously, that there is no such thing as “a white world”! No human being is entirely white; only ghosts or spectres are. Europeans, including their relations in America, Australia and New Zealand, are anything but white; they are, at least 99.9% of them, BEIGE in colour; some are pink or pinkish, whilst some others wear even darker hues than many Africans. As I write, I have a sheet o f white paper in front of me; no human being has that colour!
But assuming (without ever conceding) that any human being has the tint of a sheet of white paper, he/she would be said to be white, a colour, not a monochrome! So, every human being has a colour after all! I am not unaware that there are, in the ‘beige (not the white) world”), blondes and blonds, with near-white bodies and hair; in Africa, too, there are some brunettes, just as we have people with pink hair and extraordinarily fair skins, devoid of melanin. Such people are called “afo” (in Urhobo), afin (in Yoruba), etc. Like in the beige world, such people (blondes, blonds or afos) are few and far between. They constitute no more than 1% of any nation’s population. Europeans luxuriate in being called white because they associate that colour with purity, and black, with evil.
It is incorrect to classify all the descendants of Africa as black, a pejorative adjective that was coined to label and denigrate the whole continent of Africa as the “dark continent” by some pseudo-scientists of Europe in the scramble for Africa days. To portray the European or his descendant anywhere in the world as “white” or to describe the largely brown, dark-brown African as “black” is to be guilty of colour blindness. Such stereotypes as “black”, “coloured” and “nigger” or “Negroid” derive their origin from a remote period of inglorious antiquity as shown earlier.
That Africa is the cradle of human life and of civilization is indisputable. The fossilized remains of the first homo erectus (Zinjanthropus boisei) were found in Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania in 1959 by Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey and the first artifacts of the launch of civilization were excavated in Coptic Egypt. Additionally, there existed intricately structured empires in West and East Africa before the advent of European explorations. In spite of all this, some beige scientists chose and choose to reduce men and women of Africa down a peg or two.
There is copious empirical evidence that Africans, both in Africa and in the Diaspora, have attained dizzying heights in the realms of the sciences and the liberal arts. That ought to bridle the racial proclivities of the so-called white supremacists and inform them that, exposed to identical, or even similar, conditions, the African would be more than a match for the beige man.
• Chris Akiri is an Attorney-at-Law in Lagos.