Archive for January, 2022

Andrew Laurence Mocks Brighton and Hove for Introducing Racial Guilt for White Pupils in Schools

January 30, 2022

Andrew Laurence is a right-wing YouTuber, whom I normally wouldn’t bother with. He posts videos satirising the Left in the character of an extremely ‘woke’ academic. I largely don’t find them either funny or witty. They’re mostly just the usual trite Tory talking points about the loony Left, Corbyn and so on. But this time he has a point. His rant, in the guise of the woke professor Dr Gideon Micropenis, attacks Brighton and Hove council for having introduced Critical Race Theory into its schools. This seems to be based on an article in today’s Telegraph, which reports that children are being taught that if they’re White, they’re at the top of a racial hierarchy, and at the bottom if they’re Black. The council’s currently governed by the Greens, who seem responsible for this material. Laurence slams it as teaching White kids to feel guilty about the slave trade, for which they personally aren’t responsible and have absolutely nothing to do with. Here’s the video

The Torygraph article by Ewan Somerville, on which his rant is based, ‘Children aged seven to be taught that they are not ‘racially innocent”, begins

‘Children as young as seven are to be told they are not “racially innocent” because they view “white at the top of the hierarchy” as part of diversity training for teachers.

Brighton and Hove City Council has been accused of “indoctrinating” children through its five-year plan for an anti-racist education system, which endorses critical race theory and white privilege – contentious ideologies that have sparked protests.

The council states that all teachers require the training, which will inform “specific racial literacy-focused lessons” for pupils. The Green-controlled authority is in a row with parents opposed to the classes and one has launched a petition to have the training scrapped, which has attracted 4,000 signatures.

Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, has previously told the Commons that schools teaching white privilege as an uncontested fact are breaking the law.

The Telegraph has obtained recordings, PowerPoint slides and reading lists that form the “Racial Literacy 101” sessions. Teachers began the training in the autumn term, and 300 have undertaken it so far. 

Brighton is the first British authority to roll out such training, and the hour-long session covers the history of the slave trade and racism in contemporary society.’

The article also reports that a petition against it has been started by a man, Adrian Hart, whose son is at sixth form college in the town, with the campaign group Don’t Divide Us.

While I really don’t have much time for Laurence and his right-wing humour, this time I think he’s absolutely right. Critical Race Theory is a nasty postmodern doctrine that rejects class as the instrument of social oppression and replaces it with race. All Whites are held to be privileged, while Blacks are held to be oppressed. It also rejects claims that racism has improved, holding instead that it has simply become better hidden. Furthermore, its adherents bitterly oppose the civil rights legislation introduced following the heroic protests and demonstrations by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X because these have had the effect of incorporating Black people into bourgeois society. Critical Race Theory began as a radical movement within American Marxist lawyers, and it believes that the only way a true anti-racist society can be created is through revolution. It aims to increase racial consciousness and agitation to that end, rather than bring people together. See the relevant chapter on CRT in James Lindsay’s and Helen Pluckrose’s Cynical Theories (London: Swift 2021). And it is indeed venomously anti-White. There are clips on the web of a young Black woman, Angela Shackleford, telling a class room of Whites that they were not born into a humanity and are devils to her. It does absolutely nothing to solve the problem of racism, bring Whites and Blacks together or really improve conditions for Blacks. It just seems to me that it merely increases racial resentment on the one hand and racial guilt on the other.

As for the Greens, in Bristol Cleo Lake, the Green councillor for Cotham, introduced a motion in the local council last year, that reparations for slavery should be paid to ‘all Afrikans’ in the city. This would actually take the form of increased grants and funding to Black organisations to create prosperous, self-sustaining Black communities. It was seconded by Asher Craig, the head of Equalities at the council and the deputy mayor, and passed by all the parties except the Conservatives. And unfortunately, I think this time the Tories were right.

I don’t have a problem with increased funding for Bristol’s Black communities, as there are problems with unemployment, drugs, and crime, along with feelings of marginalisation. But it shouldn’t be connected to the slave trade, at least, not for all ‘Afrikans’. It makes Britain assume responsibility for African peoples we didn’t enslaves, and who themselves actively participated in the trade as well as practised it within their own states. It also does what CRT does, and divide people into virtuous, enslaved Blacks and evil White oppressors.

It further looks to me from Lake’s statement about ‘all Afrikans’ that she’s an Afrocentrist. This is a pseudo-discipline that holds that the Egyptians were Black and created the roots of modern, western civilisation, which the Greeks and Romans stole. It also claims that they created a unified culture in Africa after colonising them. It claims that every achievement of African culture and civilisation is therefore due to the ancient Egyptians, and where this is mixed by practices viewed as barbaric, such as human sacrifice, it is due to racial degeneration. It further holds that there is a single African psychology and philosophy held by both western Blacks and Black Africans. Blacks are held to be less logical, but more emotional, intuitive and communal in organisation compared to Whites. Who are supposed to be competitive, aggressive and exploitative, among a number of other unpleasant features. Some Afrocentrist writers have described Whites as ‘albinistic mutants’. I don’t know if Lake holds these extreme views, but it seems very much to me that she holds at least some Afrocentric views. To me, this makes her entirely unsuitable for formulating a genuinely workable racial policy or for teaching an objective history of Africa and its relations with the outside world.

Critical Race Theory and Afrocentrism have nothing positive to say or add to real discussions of race and Black history and should be banned.

Academic Article on ‘Brown’ Third World Racism against Blacks

January 29, 2022

I’ve said several times that I believe that there should be more research and awareness that racism simply isn’t a matter of Whites hating and oppressing Blacks. Prejudice knows no racial or religious boundaries and there are various forms of indigenous, traditional racism against different ethnicities all over the world. But research and action in this area is largely absent or actively discouraged from fears of activists like the Labour MP, Diane Abbott, that action against prejudice and conflict among BAME groups will be used by ‘them’ to ‘divide and rule’. Googling the subject yesterday, I was able to find one academic article on the ‘Brown’ racism of the lighter-skinned Asian countries against people of African descent. The article is ‘Brown Racism and the Formation of a World System of Racial Stratification’, by Robert E. Washington, published in the International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, vol. 4, no. 2., 1990. The article’s on JSTOR, the academic internet archive and network. Unless you have membership through your university or library, you have to pay. And it’s not cheap, so I’ve been able to do no more than read and copy the first page of the article.

This reads

‘Probably no problem of race relations in the contemporary world has been more mysteriously insulated – and thus, in as strange sense, free – from critical scrutiny than the phenomenon I term brown racism. I use the term “brown” here not in the literal but in the figurative sense, as a reference to the neither white white nor black but colored peoples of the third world (the Chinese, East Indians, Filipinos, Mestizos, etc.). These people occupy an intermediate position along the black-white spectrum of color classification. By brown racism, I refer to the prevalence of prejudice among these fair complexioned colored groups and societies towards blacks, especially those groups or individuals of African ancestry.

‘Studies of racism have tended to focus on only one patter, white racism towards nonwhites. This emphasis is understandable-given the major historical impact of white racism throughout the world; nevertheless, the virtual silence about brown racism is not only curious; it is also harmful. That is because it conduces to the persistence of both brown and white racism. In what follows I hope to draw long overdue attention to the problem of brown racism, to explain the condition effecting its development, and to indicate its ramifications in the modern world.

‘Brown racism is commonplace throughout the third world, though only its most dramatic manifestations are like to gain the notice of the media. Several years ago, in Egypt, for instance, a scheduled telecast of an American movie dramatization of Anwar Sadat’s life was cancelled because a public outcry arose when itwas learned that the slain Egyptian leader would be portrayed by a black American actor (Newsweek, 1984: 37). In China, the government….’

I remember reading an Observer report on an anti-Black riot in China, and since then there have been numerous instances of anti-Black prejudice there. The Chinese movie poster for the Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, was altered to remove or play down the Finn character, who was Black. The Covid pandemic has also led to some Chinese restaurants refusing to serve, or behaving with exaggerated cleanliness, towards Blacks because they are somehow seen as more likely to spread the disease. And this is apart from the genocide of the Uyghurs. Back in Britain, there have been riots in Birmingham and elsewhere, not between Whites and Blacks, but between Blacks and Asians. As the Asian fellow who asked Abbott what she was going to do about racism between ethnic minorities shows, this problem hasn’t gone away.

But appallingly, because of these political pressures, I don’t see there being the necessary research into it and attempts to combat it.

To see the JSTOR article, go to https://www.jstor.org/stable/20006991.

Farewell – Comedy Legend Barry Cryer Dies Aged 86

January 28, 2022

I’m putting this up for everyone who enjoys the radio ‘antidote to panel games’ I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, among the other great comedians, actors and shows which used his material or included him among their performers. As well as performing himself with such greats as Jasper Carrott in The Detectives, Cryer also wrote for many others, including the late, great Kenny Everett. He said in an interview with mad right-wing YouTuber from years ago, presumably when Belfield hadn’t fallen out with the Beeb, that Everett was his favourite. He said that many performers would reject his work. Despite liking it, they thought it ‘wasn’t them’. Everett, however, was up for everything. Unfortunately this included an infamous Tory rally in which he joked about bombing Russia and kicking away then Labour leader Michael Foot’s walking stick away. Cryer explained later that Everett had been led astray by Michael Winner. Winner had invited him to the Carleton Club. Cryer advised him not to go, as ‘I know you, something will happen’. Unfortunately it did. But Cryer pointed out that this wasn’t actually what Everett was really like.

Cryer himself published a couple of books on his life and career, one of them with the title Butterfly Brain. Which a friend of mine gave me for Christmas a few years ago. He also said in an interview that his niece or other young relative called him ‘Uncle Jester’.

I won’t put up the Belfield tribute because, well, it’s Belfield, so here’s one from the Guardian on his funniest jokes.

Cryer was a genuine comedy great, and his departure has diminished British humour, just as the death of satirist and broadcaster Alan Coren did nearly two decades ago.

Farewell, big man. You will be missed.

Labour Elected Mayor Marvin Rees’ Policies for Bristol

January 28, 2022

I got this newsletter from Bristol’s elected mayor, Marvin Rees, via email yesterday. In it he lays out his policies for Bristol and how his administration is working to stamp out housing discrimination against people on benefits. He also promotes the Labour candidate for the Southmead ward in the forthcoming council by-election, Kye Dudd. The mayor writes

‘I hope you’re keeping well.

I’m writing to you regarding the Council’s budget – including our plan for homes – and the upcoming election. If you have any questions, then please do get in touch.

On Tuesday, our budget came to Cabinet for sign-off. Drafting this budget was always going to be difficult. The circumstances are challenging: a decade of Government austerity and the pandemic which has simultaneously reduced council revenues and increased the need for council services. This has resulted in us needing to find £19m worth of savings in the General Fund. 

These are challenges facing councils across the country. Across Britains major cities budget gaps average £30m and range from £7m to £79m. In Bristol we’ve worked hard to protect our frontline services by delivering these savings by reducing the Council’s internal expenses, such as through selling off buildings and leaving unfilled posts vacant.  As a result, we remain the only Core City to still maintain the 100% Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which means Bristol’s most vulnerable don’t have to pay any Council Tax. We have protected all of our libraries and children’s centres, our parks, and our social care plans that enable people to stay in their homes for longer. Budget decisions are never easy, but I’m proud that we have managed to find a way to prioritise helping the worst-off and our transition to net-zero.

It’s important that our General Fund is not taken in isolation, because it is only part of the budget. We have also set the Housing Revenue Account which commits £1.8bn of investment in housing delivery, and a separate investment budget for social housing. This is one of the most ambitious plans in the country and will enable the Council to:

  • Build over 2,000 council homes by 2028, and 300 more every year after
  • Invest an additional £80m in to retrofitting (making council homes more energy efficient, saving them money and reducing Co2 output) bringing funding to a total of £97m.
  • £12.5m to upgrade council tenants’ bathrooms improving quality of life and improving water efficiency in thousands of homes
  • £8.7m investment into communal areas
  • £350k for council tenants’ in financial difficulties
  • £13.5m funding to adapt homes to make them more accessible

Building affordable, quality homes is one of the single most significant policy tools we have for shaping life chances and the carbon and ecological cost the planet will pay for meeting our population’s needs. Housing remains at the forefront of our priorities. 

Benefits discrimination

Cllr Tom Renhard, Cabinet Members Homes and Housing Delivery, recently put forward a motion to stamp out anti-benefits discrimination in Bristol. If you have tried to rent a home in Bristol, you will be familiar with seeing advertisements listed as ‘working professionals only’, meaning people on benefits aren’t allowed to rent the property. This is discrimination – plain and simple – and we’re committed to eradicating this practice from Bristol.

In the past few years, we’ve been expanding our Landlord Licensing scheme, meaning rogue and slum landlords are no longer allowed to rent out properties in Bristol. This has driven up standards where it’s been in place and we intend to expand the scheme to cover the whole of Bristol.  This, combined with our anti-discrimination motion, means that landlords who discriminate against people on benefits won’t be allowed to let properties in Bristol.

It will take some time to expand the licensing scheme citywide so in the meantime, we will be carrying out other policies to help renters. The Council will now assist tenants’ efforts to take discriminatory landlords to the appropriate authorities, will run a public awareness campaign on tenants’ rights, and will create a local action plan to formulate policies to build on these in future – among other things.

Southmead by-election

As former councillor Helen Godwin stood down in the new year, a by-election has been called to fill her vacant seat in Southmead. I am delighted that Kye Dudd has been selected as our candidate for the seat. Kye has been a stalwart of the trade union movement, working for the Communication Workers’ Union for fifteen years, and has served as the Cabinet Member for Transport, Energy, and Connectivity – leading our work to expand our bus and active travel infrastructure, develop our work on mass transit, and decarbonise our energy systems. More recently, he has been working with Empire Fighting Chance, a boxing charity who work with some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable young people in our city.

He will be running on a campaign of:

  • ·        Investing in Southmead’s youth services
  • ·        Investing in Council homes
  • ·        Protecting local green spaces
  • ·        Making Southmead safer for all
  • ·        Supporting the community-led regeneration of Arnside’

It ends with the statement that it is vitally important to get Mr Dudd elected and the email address Southmead Labour party if I wanted to be involved.

I broadly support mayor Marvin, as I think he has done a good overall governing the city. He has tried to remain impartial about the controversy over the wretched statue of Edward Colston, despite his justifiable hatred of it as a man of colour. I believe the policies outlined here are excellent. My problem is with the Labour party as it stands under the leadership of Keef Stalin. Starmer has done everything he can to purge the left and turn it into another version of the Tories. One of his favoured MPs, the vile Rachel Reeves, added insult to injury a few days ago when she described those who have left the party in disgust at Starmer’s factionalism and treachery as ‘anti-Semites’. As I’m sick of saying, the people Starmer and his collaborators in the NEC have smeared and purged are most definitely not Jew-haters. They are decent people, many of them with proud records of fighting racism and anti-Semitism. About four-fifths of those he’s thrown out are actually Jewish, decent, self-respecting people, often the victims of real anti-Semitic abuse and vilification. They are not ‘self-hating’. But then, truth means nothing to the liars of the right, the British media and political establishment, and the Israel lobby.

I had a series of emails from the Labour party over the past week or so asking me if I would care to campaign for Mr. Dudd and help get Boris out, and Starmer in. Well, my health at the moment prevents me from getting out much. Southmead isn’t my ward, and the buses from where I live have become very unreliable, so I simply won’t be able to join them. And obviously I do want to get Bozo out.

But I don’t want Starmer in.

I see no difference whatsoever between him and Johnson. Both are lying, treacherous right-wingers with precious little real ability to govern and an intense contempt for the working class. They both want to privatise whatever has been left, including the NHS. I don’t trust him to restore the welfare state to anything like the level that’s needed, nor to strengthen the trade unions. He won’t give workers much needed rights at work. And he definitely won’t do anything to improve public services by nationalising them, despite the obvious fact that they’re decaying as we look under private ownership.

And the voting public aren’t enamoured of Starmer either. I’ve got the impression that at the moment Labour’s haemorrhaged support to the Greens so that they’re almost neck and neck with Labour on the local council.

Now I do support Marvin and hope Mr. Dudd wins the council election when it comes.

But I very much do not want Starmer to get anywhere near No. 10 and definitely want him out as leader of the Labour party.

Email from We Own It Opposing Tory Privatisation of Channel 4

January 28, 2022

This morning I received this email from the anti-privatisation organisation, We Own It, about the open letter they have written as well as their blog posts and a tweet opposing the privatisation of Channel 4. As they state in their message, We Own It had also appeared at Nadine Dorries’ office to express their opinions against it, joined by trade unionists. The message runs

Today We Own It supporters showed up at Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ office to send her a clear message: stop the privatisation of Channel 4

We were joined by members of Equity and BECTU trade unions as we launched our open letter to Nadine Dorries. We are still collecting signatures, but already top trade unionists, the West of England and West Yorkshire Mayors and independent production companies have signed.

The letter lays out our case against Channel 4 privatisation. You can read the letter and see who’s signed it below!

READ THE OPEN LETTER

The action was full of surprises…

Including Boris Johnson fancy dress, an unexpected appearance from Margaret Thatcher in support of our campaign, and a sudden outburst in which Boris Johnson literally tore up job opportunities in the nations and regions! 

You can read all about it and see pictures from the day on our blog.

READ THE BLOG

This fight is not over and there will be more campaign actions to come.

But today we want to say thank you to everyone who came along!

And even if you couldn’t make it, you can show your opposition to Channel 4 privatisation by sharing our tweet far and wide.

SHARE THE TWEET

We know that when you come together with other We Own It supporters we can achieve big wins.

You and supporters like you have also been making your opposition to the privatisation of Channel 4 heard loud and clear. You’ve sent letters to your MPs. And you’ve shared YOUR reasons why Channel 4 needs to stay in public ownership. Including! 

Caroline: If we allow this Government to get their hands on Channel 4, it will have far-reaching consequences for many and will join the growing list of treasures we as a nation value but are in danger of losing.

Irena: I totally object to Channel 4 being removed from public ownership. It creates thousands of jobs for our economy.

Jon: Channel 4 produces brilliant work, excellent documentaries and independent news – what’s not to like?

We saved Channel 4 before. Let’s do it again! 

Solidarity, 

Cat, Zana, Jack, Johnbosco, Alice, Matthew, Tom – The We Own It team

P.S. We are still collecting signatures to our open letter. If your organisation would like to sign or you can share it with someone who you think would you can email info@weownit’ 

I fully support their campaign to save Channel 4 from privatisation and was one of those who wrote to my local MP, Karen Smyth, about it. She sent me a very kind reply stating that she was also opposed to it and would vote against it in parliament. I’ve noted that the West of England Metro mayor, Dan Norris, is also one of the signatories to the open letter.

This isn’t about saving money or opening up broadcasting to private competition, although that’s certainly part of the reason. It’s because the Tories hate public service broadcasting. Channel 4 was set up in the 1980s to be an alternative to BBC 2. Hence it was supposed to include programming that would appeal to ethnic minorities, such a season of Indian films, ‘All India Goldies’, as well as the organised working class. Jeremy Isaacs in his book about his career with the broadcaster also included miners’ oral history as one of the kinds of programmes he wanted to include in the station’s repertoire. The broadcaster was also intended to be particularly strong on news. Much of this was dropped in the 1990s when the channel became much more mainstream. Which is a shame, because they did produce some excellent programmes which introduced high art to a mass audience. I particularly remember some of the operatic events broadcast, which really did much to make it more accessible to a mass audience.

But I suspect it’s the news coverage that the Tories hate. Veteran news anchors and reporters like John Snow do hold the government to account. When Snow resigned, right-wing Tory sites and blogs celebrated it as the end of a ‘liar’ or ‘SJW’. The Tories want it gone for the same reason they want the Beeb gone, so it can all be replaced by reliably right-wing broadcasters like GB News and anything set up and owned by Rupert Murdoch.

I wish We Own It every success in opposing the Tories’ grotty privatisation and in saving this vitally important British broadcaster.

Class Bias and Elitism in Afrocentrism

January 28, 2022

Howe’s book Afrocentrism also discusses the arguments of the movement’s Black critics that its values represent those of the Black middle class and ignores the different needs of the classes below them. He writes

In the eyes of some critics the4 patriarchal bias is closely linked to a class-based one. Ransby and Matthew make this point in passing, seeing Afrocentric rhetoric as implicitly invoking classic stereotypes of the dysfunctional Black ‘underclass’. The argument is more central, however, in polemics like that of the prolific black socialist scholar Manning Marable, who sees the real origins of Afrocentrism like this:

‘The black-nationalist-oriented intelligentsia, tied to elements of the new African-American upper-middle-class by income, social position and cultural outlook, began to search for ways of expressing itself through the ‘permanent’ prism of race, while rationalising its relatively privileged class position.’

Asante’s theories, in Marable’s view, represent the more scholarly and philosophically coherent version of such elite self-rationalization. More ‘vulgar’ Afrocentrists – among whom Marable includes Leonard Jeffries – not only espouse a cruder, more dogmatic racial essentialism shot through with anti-Semitic rhetoric, but express their elite biases more nakedly:

‘Vulgar Afrocentrists deliberately ignored or obscured the historical reality of social class stratification within the African diaspora. They essentially argued that the interests of all black people – from… Colin Powell… (and) Clarence Thomas, to the Black unemployed, homeless and hungry of America’s decaying urban ghettoes – were philosophically, culturally, and racially the same… As such, vulgar Afrocentrism was the perfect social theory for the upwardly mobile black petty bourgeoisie. It gave them a vague, hard, critical study of historical realities… It was, in short, only the latest theoretical construct of a politics of racial identity, a worldview designed to discuss the world, but never really to change it.” (281)

Howe agrees, stating

‘Given the evidence of wildly unscholarly statements from writers like Asante that we have documented, one may think that Marable is overstating a distinction between ‘scholarly’ and ‘vulgar’ Afrocentrists, but his overall judgement has considerable weight.’ (281).

I think the same criticism could be levelled at Critical Race Theory, which rejects class in favour of race and specifically ‘whiteness’ as the main instrument of oppression in western society. It therefore sees all Blacks as equally disenfranchised, even if they are extremely wealthy, and all Whites uniquely privileged even if they are poor.

Afrocentrism Avoids Discussion of the Real Issues Affecting Africa and the African Diaspora

January 28, 2022

Howe in his book on Afrocentrism powerfully states that, rather than actually confronting and tackling the real issues besetting Africa and Black Americans, it actually avoids them. He writes

In the end, indeed, I believe that most of the arguments about the racialisation of scholarship, proposed in recent years from a wide range of perspectives, are an evasion or distraction from serious political issues in relation to Africa and its diaspora, as much as for anywhere else. To observe that scholarly perspectives on Africa and diasporic societies have been massively influenced by racial ideology is one thing, and is obviously true. To analyses these histories of racialized scholarship and to trace the ways in which writers’ own ethnic origins have influenced their views, are important and fascinating tasks. But it is quite another thing to believe that such analyses offer significant aid in solving contemporary political or economic problems – let alone to think that the erection of counter-myths about African racial superiority or unitary, transhistorical ‘black perspective’ does so. At the height of the bitter battles in the American African Studies Association (battles which play a walk-on part in the story told here) Pierre L. van den Berghe pointed out – overgeneralizing in his anger, but with, I believe, an essential powerful truth – that

‘The African peasant does not care one whit whether his oppressor is white or black. Rightly,, he does not consider ‘race’ relevant. It should be a matter of deepest shame to us ‘intellectuals’ that we still talk as if it were relevant.’

If anything, that is even more true today than it was over twenty-five years ago.’ (Afrocentrism, 6).

I don’t think this is quite so true as Afrocentrism has been linked and superseded by the equally racist Critical Race Theory and demands for affirmative action, but Critical Race Theory in its turn will not criticise traditional forms of oppression non-Western societies, as it’s only interested in White colonial oppression.

And so ignores some of the genuine problems of Africa and its peoples, and Black Americans in the US.

Cheikh Anta Diop, the Victorians and Adolf Hitler on the Fundamental Importance of Race

January 28, 2022

Yesterday I put up review of Stephen Howe’s excellent Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes, which traces the history of the movement and examines its ideas and the major figures within the movement. Afrocentrism considers that the ancient Egyptians were Black, and that their civilisation was the basis for western culture, which Whites stole. They also believe that there are major psychological differences between Whites and Blacks. Africans are also believed to have a single philosophy, and to have been able to make great advances in science, religion and politics through their distinct racial constitution. Race is held to be of fundamental importance affecting all aspects of life, culture and civilisation. Cheikh Anta Diop, one of the major figures in the movement and one whom Howe respects, despite his views, stated

‘All of humanity’s historical and social relations, from the beginnings of time right up to the nineteenth century, were ethnic relations, founded in phenotype…. humanity has been governed essentially in its development by these ethnic confrontations.’ (171).

Howe makes the point that Afrocentrism is strongly influenced by 19th century views of ancient Egypt and Africans. These were themselves the products of colonial administrators and anthropologists steeped in 19th century anti-Black racism. It’s just that they reverse this racism so that Blacks, instead of Whites, are the superior race. He points out that much Afrocentric writing has a curiously old-fashioned ring. Diop’s statement above is an example of this, as it is very much in line with the attitudes of 19th century White imperialists. For example, Benjamin Disraeli said ‘No man will treat with indifference the principle of race. It is the key to history’. ( Peter Vansittart, Voices 1870-1914 (Jonathan Cape 1984) 81).

Hitler believed that all civilisation and culture had been created by White ‘Aryans’. He therefore stated in Mein Kampf that ‘It is the duty of the national State to see to it that a History of the World is eventually written, in which the question of Race occupies a prominent position’. (Adolf Hitler, My Struggle (London: The Paternoster Library 1933) 166).

As for the exaggerated and grotesquely distorted claims made by the Afrocentrists and other Black activists about the importance and achievements of Black scientists, these are also comparable to Hitler’s own ideas about science and race. He also wrote in Mein Kampf

‘The national State will look upon science as a means for increasing national pride. Not only world-history, but also the history of civilisation, must be taught from this point of view. An inventor should appear great not merely as an inventor, but even more so as a fellow-countryman. Admiration of any great deed must be combined with pride because the fortunate doer of it is a member of our own nation. We must extract the greatest from the mass of great names in German history and place them before the youth in so impressive a fashion that they may become the pillars of an unshakable nationalist sentiment.’ (168)

Thus a movement that has the laudable ambition of challenging racism merely becomes another form of it.

A Thorough Critique of Afrocentric Pseudo-History, Psychology, and Science

January 27, 2022

Stephen Howe, Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes (London: Verso 1998)

This is another excellent book I’ve been reading lately. I first came across in it an excellent review by the Black British writer, Caryl Phillips in the Financial Times at the time it was published, though it’s only now I’ve actually got round to ordering a copy and reading it. Afrocentrism is a set of inter-related, pseudo-academic disciplines based on the claim that the ancient Egyptians were Black and are the unacknowledged source of White western culture, which was stolen from them. Not only were the Egyptians themselves Black, but they may also have derived their culture and achievements in turn from the peoples further to the south, the Nubians and Ethiopians. Some Afrocentrists claim that Greece, Rome and Carthage were originally Black ancient Egyptian colonies and that the original peoples of the British isles were also Black. Some push this claim of Black African primacy even further, claiming that ancient Egyptians travelled to the Americas before Columbus, where they founded the Olmec culture. The ancient peoples of Asia too, the Indians, Thais, Chinese and Japanese were also Black. At the same time ancient Egypt expanded to colonise Africa, where it was also responsible for the major cultural, artistic and architectural achievements. Where these coexisted with alleged brutality and barbarism, as in West Africa, which had a highly sophisticated art alongside human sacrifice, this was due to biological degeneration from the original Egyptian herrenvolk.

Black Americans are held to be part of a single Black race and culture with Black Africans, and Afrocentric scholars are active trying to trace authentic African survivals in the speech, culture and psychology of Black America. There is supposed to be a single Black character and psychology and a distinct Black philosophy. At the same time, ,Afrocentric scholars believe that the Egyptians were masters of political theory and science, which can similarly be grotesquely exaggerated. Some of them claim that the ancient Egyptians knew about quantum physics and gravity and that the Tanzanians had semi-conductors. At the same time they are active researching and promoting various Blacks figures they believe were great scientists. Again, these figures, who could, like Benjamin Banneker, be genuinely impressive in their real lives, and their achievements are often wildly exaggerated.

Unsurprisingly there’s much racism mixed up with this. There’s a bitter hatred of Whites, as well as, Jews and Arabs. One Afrocentric writers claims the latter has been attempting to destroy African civilisation and enslave its peoples for 5,000 years. Which is quite incredible, considering that I think the Muslim Arabs only conquered north Africa in the 7th/8th century AD. There’s also a bitter hatred of homosexuality and strong rejection of feminism. In the early 1960s one Afrocentric group insisted that female members should show their submissiveness by crossing their arms and lowering their heads when one of the men passed them. There’s also an insistence on traditional family structures. At the same time, some believe that Blacks are intellectually and emotionally superior to Whites because of the greater amount of the melanin pigment in their brains.

At their heart, this is an attempt to compensate for the massive racial oppression and disparagement Blacks and their civilisations have suffered over the centuries, far more than any other ethnic group. Yet much Afrocentric scholarship is based on the severely dated writings of 19th and early 20th century European colonial officials and anthropologists, as well as other White writers, who definitely believed that Blacks were inferior. For example, Afrocentric scholars assert that, while Whites and Europeans are logical and rational, Blacks are emotional and intuitive. Which is very much like the old imperialist claim that Blacks were inferior because they weren’t rational and logical. The claim that ancient Egyptians were responsible for the colonisation of Africa and every advance made by the peoples of the continent also derives from 19th and early 20th century White sources. The only difference is that those writers believed that the Egyptians were part of a superior, ‘Hamitic’, White civilisation. And also mixed up with it are various occult, Masonic and New Age ideas. Some of these derive from Albert Churchward, a freemason, who believed that there was a war going on between freemasonry and socialism, and only the former could defend civilisation from the Red Menace. Other figures in the New Age part of the Afrocentric movement include Credo Mutwa, a genuine Zulu shaman, honest guv, and apologist for the South African apartheid state.

Howe’s book traces the history of these ideas, some of which have been around for longer than I thought. I was aware that the claim that the ancient Egyptians were Black and therefore equal to or superior to White civilisation began in the 19th century. I was surprised, however, to find that Black Americans, largely clergymen, were making the claims as early as the 1820s. He carefully distinguishes between those writers, like the Senegalese mathematician and nuclear physicist Cheikh Anta Diop, who, while wrong, nevertheless were diligent researchers and produced significant insights, and others who were far less impressive. Some of the latter can only be described as cranks, like the female Afrocentrist who claims that nearly everything, including Christmas trees, are representations of the Black male genitals. Some of the most virulently anti-White racist material comes from White writers, such as the assertion that Whites are inferior because we’re all descended from the Neanderthals, who are given a whole series of unpleasant traits. Some Afrocentrists seem to have set up their own Stalinist ‘cult of personality’. Molefi Asante, for example, has his own academic department and institute, who members and scholars always pay generous tribute to him for guiding them on their intellectual quest, and largely don’t say anything that wasn’t already said by the master. Quite a number give themselves impressive African names, meaning things like ‘Bearer of Enlightenment’, and a number have also claimed to have been African princes or holy men. Their real identities and backgrounds, however, tend to be much more prosaic. He also notes the connection and major differences with other major figures in Black scholarship and anti-racist campaigning, like Franz Fanon and W.E.B. DuBois, and the French Caribbean Negritude movement.

There are some significant difference between the scholars discussed here. Cheikh Anta Diop believed that ancient Egypt was the source of western culture and I think he wanted Greek and Latin replaced as languages by ancient Egyptian. But while his thinking was highly racialised, he wasn’t a racist. He wanted Blacks to join the global community of peoples as equals. He also believed that civilisation was cyclical, and that as Europeans supposedly took their ideas from Africa, so Africans should now learn from Europeans. Others were definitely racist, such as the speaker at the first Black History Month in 1986 who seemed to advocate shooting Whites, although he couldn’t tell his audience when, where and whom. In the case of Marcus Garvey’s son, this went into pure Black Nazism. When Jamaica celebrated Garvey’s birth in the 1970s, his son called for Garvey’s movement to become a Black National Socialism, because Africa also needs its lebensraum.

Among the researchers and writers examined and critiqued is Martin Bernal, the White author of Black Athena. This caused a major stir when it was published in the 1980s, possibly because, as Bernal himself suggested, he was White. Bernal was able to assemble a massive amount of information and was extensively criticised at the time. But he was also controversial because he believed that ancient Greece was also strongly influenced by the Semitic peoples, specifically the Phoenicians and the Jews. This was in fact based on contemporary Israeli scholarship, and was itself highly controversial. As a result, some of the criticisms of him and his work have a very nasty element of anti-Semitism.

The book is a thorough examination and demolition of Afrocentric scholarship with considerable sympathy for the genuine achievements of Black scholars, some of whom have made very trenchant criticisms. One Ghanaian or Nigerian philosopher lampooned the claim that there is a single, African philosophy based around a transcendent life force. In a spoof article he argued that the English, and therefore all westerners, venerated the mystic force ING, because English verbs often ended in ‘ing’, like ‘doing’ or ‘being’. In fact the claim that there is a single African philosophy comes from Tempels, a Belgian Roman Catholic priest, who only researched a single Bantu tribe, and the anthropologist Griaule and his Dogon informant, Ogotommeli. The latter two have become notorious because of their books’ claim that the Dogon had an advanced knowledge of astronomy. They knew that the planets circled the Sun in ellipses, and that Sirius had an invisible companion star. For R.K.G. Temple in the 1970s, it was because they’d been visited by aliens. For the Melanists, it was because they had intuitive knowledge of it through their pineal gland. Howe suggests that Ogotommeli probably knew about it from visiting colonial officials with an interest in the subject, and made the claim that all this was known to the Dogon as a way of pulling this arrogant colonial anthropologist’s leg.

The book also argues that Afrocentric views of Africa are themselves also damaging. They present the continent as a static, unfied culture, which has never suffered war and conflict between its peoples before the advent of Europeans. In fact it’s a continent of many different peoples and cultures. There’s no evidence that it was ever colonised by the ancient Egyptians. Only six ancient Egyptian artefacts have been found outside Egypt and Nubia. And rather than the ancient Egyptians introducing agriculture to the rest of Africa, there is evidence that it was independently discovered in six different places on the continent. As for the assertion that ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs are the source for various African writing systems, such as the Vai of Liberia, some of these are known to have been invented by specific individuals in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some African peoples are happy to promote the idea that they are descendants of the ancient Egyptians, while others very definitely are not. The problem here is that Afrocentrist claims of Egyptian primacy are obscuring the real achievements of Africa and its peoples.

As for the question of the racial origins of the ancient Egyptians, the book notes that this is a subject of near to Zero interest to professional, mainstream Egyptologists. A number of academics books and journals he surveys make no mention of it. When one does, it is simply to say that it is a distraction from the real issues Egyptologists want to examine. Genetic and craniological examination, however, suggest that the ancient Egyptians were racially identical to other peoples in that part of Africa. They show genetic links to the peoples of Neolithic Europe, the Middle East and India, and lesser genetic connections to the peoples further south. The Egyptian scholars themselves, however, see themselves as racially mixed and there was an argument at a conference in Cairo when the Black Americans insisted that they were Black. I also find some of the Afro-centrists’ concern to establish the racial identity of the Nubians rather odd. One Afrocentric writer hoped that one day science would be able to reconstruct the features of the Nubian pharaoh Taharqa from its skull fragments, and that these would show he was Black. I found this quite puzzling, as I’ve always assumed that the Nubians were Black. In fact I’ve never seen anything said to the contrary. When TV documentaries refer to Egypt’s Black pharaohs, they usually refer to the period when the country was conquered and ruled by Nubian kings. I honestly don’t know who these people are that assert that the Nubians were White, unless it’s some of the White writers the Afro-centrists have discovered in their search for suitable sources.

This pseudo-scholarship is spreading massively. The book notes the large number of university departments teaching it, as well as college and private schools and the torrent of books published, some of them also aimed at schools. It’s alarming that such pseudo-scholarship has become so widespread. And rather than liberating, as Afrocentric scholars believe, he makes the point that the subject is deeply racist, drawing on the same sources as White racists.

But rather than be angered by it, he finds it immensely sad.

Medieval Arab Writers on the Effects of the Sun on the Black Temperament

January 26, 2022

I put up a post the other day stating that we need to have more research into extra-European and non-White racial prejudice, as the situation is more complex than simply White hatred of people of colour. I mentioned the fact that 3rd century AD Chinese writers believed that people in the west, with blond hair and green eyes, were descended from monkeys. According to Stephen Howe’s Afrocentrism, they also had similar views about the Japanese. Some of the bigoted writers decided that the Japanese were descended from Chinese criminals who interbred with monkeys. Howe also notes in the above book that medieval Arab writers also had their own prejudices when it came to Black Africans, citing a 1992 article by Aziz al-Azmeh, ‘Barbarians in Arab Eyes’ in Past & Present. These writers believed that there was a distinct Black temperament and personality caused by the heat of the tropical sun. Howe writes

‘As Aziz al-Azmeh shows, numerous medieval Arab writers, drawing on a theory of climatic zones whi8ch seems originally to have been proposed by the Greeks, saw black Africans as suffering from a mental deficiency resulting from life in excessive heat and dryness: ‘Negroes therefore tended to be given to erratic behaviour, to levity, to prodigious sexuality, and to be much disposed to dance and rhythm, all because of the afore-mentioned effects of the sun’.’ (274). He also notes other books which discuss Arab racism, some of which deal with the Arab slave trade. This suggests that the Arab trade in Black slaves also had the effect of promoting ideas of Black inferiority. I can remember coming across a book on Arabic, which informed the reader that the word for ‘Blacks’ literally meant ‘the slaves’, but this was not held to be derogatory. This was in the 1980s, nearly forty years ago. Now in the 21st century real slave markets have opened in Libya, and Arab Sudanese enslaved Blacks during the civil war in the Sudan in the 1990s, that attitude, if it still exists, should be discarded.