As I’ve blogged often, the intellectual collapse of the left in recent decades has left me bereft of a political home, forced to re-evaluate my beliefs in the absence of a tribe I can belong to. The idiot new left, having noticed that brown people are less wealthy than white people (on average), has made that most basic of all mistakes: confusing correlation with causation, and has decided that the economic dominance of Europeans in recent centuries is all about racism.
The progressive anti-colonial and civil rights movements of the 1950s-70s have, slowly but surely, morphed into reactionary, bigoted, conservative special interest groups, guilty of rewriting history on a grand scale to fit the new identity politics. Thus, colonialism is no longer about economics and the projection of power, but now a fairytale of bad white people vs good brown people. The huge role played by many Africans in creating and profiting from the slave trade is downplayed or simply denied. Generations of African leaders blame their own incompetence and corruption on colonialism; an excuse that African populations increasingly reject, but many Western liberals and afrocentrics still accept at face value. Two decades after democratic rule was introduced to South Africa, President Zuma increasingly blames the ANC’s failings on Apartheid – again, to the bemusement of many South Africans.
African history is largely ignored, and replaced instead with Black History, a field that has virtually nothing to do with history, and everything to do with creating a new set of “facts” that suit certain interests.
Blacks are projected as eternal victims. Equality, the goal of the 1960s generation of liberals, is no longer the goal: instead, black people must be given special privileges to compensate for their eternally-oppressed status; and the new left is all too willing to step in and support what is essential a far-right, racist set of ideologies. The greatest, and most racist, of the Black History myths is the idea that all Africa is black, has always been black, and thus everyone else on the continent is an invader, and not a “true African”; this lays the ground for ethnic cleansing in Africa, and yet is applauded by many on the left. Some extremists, determined to write black people into the Bible, have even extended Black History into south-west Asia, and decided that the Middle East is also historical black territory.
These attitudes flare up regularly on my personal Facebook timeline. During the Egyptian Spring, one black friend noted that the crowds of Egyptians on TV were all white, and wondered where the “real”, black Egyptians were. The answer is that the vast majority of Egyptians are not black, and never have been. But Egypt’s illustrious history, so tempting to Black History story-tellers, has been appropriated and blackwashed. Thus, a new set of theories arises… vague tales of a massive genocide of the “original black Egyptians” by Arabs, or perhaps Turks, Persians or Greeks. The recent release of the Exodus movie prompted another upsurge of righteous black anger, insisting that the depiction of the ancient Egyptians and Israelites as white people (as indeed, they were) was in fact a racist attack on blacks.
Whatever subjects are covered by Black History, more interesting is what is left out: the definition of “blackness”, and the true history of the origins of black people. This is not accidental: an understanding of the origins of black people blows away the black claim to exclusive rights over the African continent. The myth of eternal black victimhood also vanishes: the story of black people is in large part one of conquest.
Who are Black People?
Unfortunately, the term “black” has taken on political connotataions in the US, but in terms of human history, black refers to a branch of the human family tree that anthropologists often refer to more specifically as the Bantu people.
The Bantu people originate in West Africa, around today’s Cameroon/Nigeria border. If we take a snapshot at – say – 4,500 years ago, when the first pyramids were being constructed in Egypt, most of Africa was dominated by three other racial groups: much of sub-equatorial Africa was sparsely occupied by Pygmies; Eastern and Southern Africa by Khoi and San (“Khoisan”) people; and north/north-east Africa by “white” people who had migrated back into Africa from the Middle East in prehistoric times. This fact is inconvenient for racist Afrocentric commentators who claim ancient Egypt was black: in reality, it’s highly unlikely there was a Bantu person within a thousand miles of Egypt during the rise of its early civilisation.
The change to this African landscape came with the rise of Bantu farming. Having domesticated crops, the Bantu began to expand out from West Africa about 3,500 years ago, and by 1,000 years ago, were the dominant race throughout tropical Africa: Africa had become black. The main losers were the Pygmies, who lost territory and found themselves enslaved by Bantu people – a status they often retain today. Needless to say, this conquering, genocide and enslavement of Pygmies by blacks does not feature in Black History lessons.
Bantu crops, suited to equatorial conditions, would not grow in north Africa – where whites were already farming Middle Eastern crops – or south Africa, where Khoisan cattle herders were predominant. Only with the relatively recent arrival in southern Africa of Europeans, possessing wheat and other crops that could grow in the Cape, did black people begin to migrate further south to work for white farmers. Now, the Khoisan natives came under pressure from growing numbers of black migrants, who came to far outnumber them.
With black majority rule in South Africa arriving in 1994, the black conquest of sub-Saharan Africa was complete – and the oppression of the Khoisan people continued. Today, the Khoisan (including groups like the bushmen of the Kalahari) are marginalised and persecuted in South and east Africa. This racist oppression, by blacks against African minority racial groups, does not feature in Black History books.
The conquest of sub-Saharan Africa by Bantu people bears some resemblance to the later conquest of the Americas by whites, yet is far less well known, for a few reasons: firstly, writing had not yet reached the Bantu, so the conquest was not documented at the time; second, much of the story of black people to date has been written by black Americans rather than Africans, from whose perspective blacks are an oppressed minority; and third, Europeans have a deep sense of their own superiority as global conquerors, and have trouble conceiving that “inferior” blacks were just as capable of colonising continents.
Numerically and economically, there are three victorious racial groups today: “whites”, who dominate Europe, north Africa, the Middle East, central and south Asia, as well as the Americas; Mongolians, who conquered China, east and south-east Asia; and “blacks”, who now overwhelmingly dominate sub-Saharan Africa. Other racial groups have been marginalised: the original inhabitants of east Asia (now remaining as the natives of Australia and Papua New Guinea), as well as the Pygmies and Khoisan, and other African racial groups like the Hadza.
The oppression of African natives by invading Bantu people is ignored by Black History, because it undermines the story of black people as perpetual victims, and gives the lie to the claim that black people are the only true Africans. This was clearly seen last year, when the black-dominated Tanzanian government tried to turn (Khoisan) Masai land into a hunting reserve for wealthy Arabs. My Afrocentric friends tried to depict this as Arab oppression of blacks, but in fact, it continues a long history of Khoisan oppression by blacks, who are relatively new arrivals in Tanzania. The power of the “black oppression” narrative, created in 20th century America and amplified by confused “liberals” means that the African victims of black colonial oppression are ignored, or misrepresented as “oppressed blacks” themselves.
In today’s identity politics, the polarity is reversed: nobody wants to be the oppressor, and everybody wants to be the oppressed. With “oppression” comes the power to rewrite history.