Monday, February 1, 2010

Insha'allah... (Happy Black History Month)

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I met a young black undergrad from Emory at the airport when I first arrived. This was her second time studying in Egypt. I asked her about her experience and she said it wasn't what she'd expected. She was surprised at how much Egypt dis-associated itself with everything "African". Other African Americans here made similar comments. I find it interesting that a lot of the African diaspora- the large African population outside of the continent created by the forceful and permanent displacement and disbursement of African slaves in the 'New World'- claim ties to Egypt or Nubian's when our true ancestors came from the other side of the continent of Africa.

This need to identify with a culture that is not our own is telling of the effects of slavery/colonialism. The physical and mental enslavement of Africans was accomplished by removing any sense of self worth through culture, language, and history in order to create a people with no hopes for the future because they had no past. When the descendants of those slaves sought to find any mention of themselves as people in their Western history books, Egypt shined through like a beacon. After all, what positive things have you learned in school about Ghana, Nigeria, Congo, and all the other countries where the slaves actually originated?...go ahead and think about it, I'll wait...Instead of associating w/ the negative images of Africa we are shown, people prefer the myth of Egyptian royalty.

Instead of exploring our true history,blacks outside of Africa (for example the rapper Nas) embrace and champion a culture that is foreign to that of our ancestors so I can understand why Egypt is a shock to someone who expected to be welcomed home. While Egypt has had black kingdoms and the indigenous black/Nubian population remains today, there is nothing "African" about Egypt in relation to Sub-Saharan Africa. Even the darkest/blackest of Egyptians wouldn't call themselves black or African. The cultivation of nationalism here has been strategic so that all Egyptians will refer to themselves as Egyptian first, as if that is their race, ethnicity, culture et al.Also, there is a color complex here similar to that of many post-colonial developing nations, "light is right" and "if your black get back". The media is filled with only the fairest images of Egyptians.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Although the Egyptian kingdoms that rapper Nas and other informed individuals refer to may actually be referencing the fact that Egyptian kingdoms and Nubian kingdoms were indeed black civilizations. The conquest of Egypt by Arabs didn't occur until the 1st century AD. Furthermore, there was a systematic and successful attempt to paint these civilizations as more in line with European and/or Mediterranean aesthetics much later on in history, around the time of slavery and colonialism. As of late, although it may be true that Egypt disassociates itself with Africa, it is important that we as black people remember and perpetuate the truth that Egyptian civilizations were indeed black and it is not so blasphemous that we include them in our history as long as we also champion our other kingdoms in the lower regions of Africa as you mentioned.

Frenchie said...

I acknowledge that past Egyptian kingdoms were black, and many Egyptians here are very dark/black. The Nubians, the traditional black race in Egypt, are still alive and well as are other black Egyptian ethnic groups. However, my point was that the African diaspora does not originate from these people. While there is nothing wrong with promoting the African heritage of Egypt, we must acknowledge that our real ancestors weren't Egyptians or Nubians, or Ethiopians. They came from the other side of the continent and that is where our history begins

Kedenard said...

I agree with anonymous. It is too absolutist to say "this is where our history begins." We definitely should herald the Fulani and Dahomey, etc for their great civilizations pre-slave trade, but we all know that these civilizations actually sold into war the war captives and indentured servants that they obtained from their battles. This included East Africans, Sudanese and Nubians.

Also, you have made poignant and shrewd observations, but I wouldn't be so quick to generalize what Egypt is after a couple of days in the country. "There is nothing "African" about Egypt in relation to black-Sub-Saharan Africa. Even the darkest/blackest of Egyptians wouldn't call themselves black or African. There is a color complex here similar to that of many post-colonial developing nations."

This is a generalization that I know to be true in some cases, untrue in others. While many Arabs wouldn't call themselves African, if you travel down to Luxor and Aswan you will soon find Egyptians who do.

Frenchie said...

My roommates old landlord was from Aswan lol

Frenchie said...

i dont think that's a generalization but it is simply my opinion gathered from observations and conversations w/ Egyptians and non-Egyptians. As for as opinions go, it may or may not change (Also, I would not say it is the same for all Arabs b/c I've met Algerians who are very quick to call me their "African" sister, for example). frankly,I dont even think there is something wrong with Egyptians not calling themselves African in the sense of what we think of as Africans. Nationalism is very strong here for many reasons and the concept and image of being "Egyptian" has been carefully cultivated throughout many years, many dynasties, many dictators. Even the black Egyptians I've met consider themselves Egyptian first.

Furthermore, even taking into consideration African slavery and the spread of Islam on the continent, the majority of slaves were still not of East African descent.By no means should we forget about Egypt, its contributions to our history, and the black kingdoms and people that ruled it but, we should not treat it as a the definitive point of historical reference when we know most slaves didn't come from here. I agree w/ Anonymous that it's up to us to ensure that the stories of Egypts past are told. however,the other side of the continent is far more relevant to our ancestors.we shouldn't "choose" Egypt as our starting point when our ancestors came from elsewhere and those kingdoms have rich, proud histories as well

Matt said...

This is why we are friends France. You have been in the country for like 48 hours and are already writing scathing rebukes of the country. Keep it up my friend, you know I will be checking your blog quite often. See if you can't find something positive to write about tomorrow. ;-)

Frenchie said...

LOL, I'll get some free time to do tourist things this weekend! I'm looking forward to it!

Kedenard said...

But if Egyptian civilizations existed millenia before most civilizations. That IS the starting point, not an arbitrarily "chosen" one. Furthermore, if you travel to West African countries now, the majesty of their kingdoms are by no means forgotten. What is forgotten among us is that Cleopatra didnt resemble Elizabeth Taylor. Maybe you know other people that are hung up on claiming Egypt for the pyramids, but I am just defending my man Nas who referenced Timbuktu, Kush and the original upper Nile Egyptian civilizations for what they were. And I accidentally clicked Anonymous when I posted earlier. I thought that as the blog owner you would see my real identity. Guess not lol.

Frenchie said...

oh, I didn't know that was you as well. I'm not trying to refute the fact that Egypt has a long and strong history of black civilizations but so does South Africa, DRC, Senegal, Angola,and Ghana for example. Why can't those kingdoms be rapped about and celebrated too when that's where we originated from? In trying to preserve one set of history and culture we should not forget about another. What good does it do us to remember that Cleopatra was black but we forget that King Ansah of Ghana had the Fante people watch for European ships, and prevented them from coming ashore for years? Or that Queen Nzingha of Angola fought a successful 30-year war against the slave traders of Portugal until the Portuguese negotiated a treaty with her in 1656?

Kedenard said...

Nor am I trying to negate the importance of other black civilizations. My point was that just because Nas mentioned Egypt in a song or because black women want to call themselves Nubian queens, doesn't mean they have a "need to identify with a culture that is not their own" or that they are wrong to think those are their true ancestors because they very well may be.

Frenchie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frenchie said...

They are not our direct ancestors. No need for history revisionism, the Europeans kept meticulous records of where they were stealing slaves from. Also,to be certain about whether or not you're a "Nubian Queen", there are plenty of genealogy tests to take that have largely placed our African lineage in Sub-Saharan Africa not East Africa and, thus, refute that terminology.

Kedenard said...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2909803.stm

http://www.culturekiosque.com/art/exhibiti/rhesouda.htm

-Nubian queen

Frenchie said...

yes, Africa is where all of man originated (Tanzania and Ethiopia are still not Egypt though which still makes any claims of "Egyptians" in the diaspora arbitrary and ridiculous). My focus is on where the ancestors of slaves came from not the first man. Yes, Egypt has always had a significant black population-so does Yemen, Iraq, Australia and Saudi Arabia. That doesn't make the slaves or their direct descendants of Egyptian/ Nubian descent or Aborigine for that matter...

Kedenard said...

"I find it interesting that a lot of the African diaspora claim ties to Egypt or Nubian's when our true ancestors came from the other side of the continent of Africa."

I guess this was the hole in your argument that I found "arbitrary and ridiculous", and was subsequently my focus. Since Tanzania and/or Ethiopia are indeed in East Africa where man originated, our "true ancestors" did indeed come from "that side of the continent" and people who "claim" it just want to go back a little further in history than you "choose" to.

Frenchie said...

...So you decided to go back to the dawn of time instead of what the post is directly about which is Egypt and the African Diasporas ties to it? Yup, seems a bit arbitrary to me. If I'd argued that we have NO ties to Africa, then your comments would be warranted. Instead the secondary point I made was that the diaspora was clearly created by the removal of Africans from West Africa and that region should be a larger focus amongst us. You've spent countless posts expounding on the merits of a culture that is not our own or that of your ancestors and a society that routinely tries to distance itself from you.
Regardless, the main point that sparked this post was Egypt's treatment of black Africans which, a "Nubian princess" as yourself didn't even bat an eyelash at...I think that is far more relevant

Anonymous said...

We'll have to talk about this.
-wendell

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