Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas, Kwanzaa and Obama

Christmas, Kwanzaa and Obama:
Cultural Diversity or Religious Division

Paul Scott

Twas the night before Kwanzaa and all through the White House, staffers gathered to watch President Barack Obama, decked out in a red, black and green dashiki, deliver his first annual Kwanzaa address, urging Americans to practice the Nguzo Saba (the seven principals of Kwanzaa.) He ended his 45 minute speech with seven extremely loud shouts of "Harambe!" which scared the heck out of Conservatives and had Birthers across the country engaging in frantic Google searches , confident that they had finally come up with, indisputable, proof that Obama is part of some radical, militant foreign nationalist organization, deserving immediate deportation....

'Tis the season to be jolly; a time of gifts, celebrations and endless debates over whether black folks should celebrate Christmas or Kwanzaa. This is an especially touchy subject in the era of America's first black president , when any outward expression of "blackness" is subject to a vicious attack by Fox News for being separatist, divisive or just out of sync with the times.

While many African Americans will spend sleepless nights agonizing over whether they should hang stockings over fireplaces or place kinaras on coffee tables, the real topic of discussion should be the need for mutual respect for religious and cultural expression.

Historically, organized religion has had more to do with politics, economics and cultural hegemony than establishing a spiritual relationship with a Divine Being. This is clearly seen if one looks at the religious history of the descendants of those who have suffered under slavery and colonialism.

We must first start with the Portuguese missionaries who sought to "civilize the savage Africans." It is not the point here to question the religious zeal of the early Christian missionaries but to point out how they laid the foundation for slavery and economic exploitation in areas such as the Congo.

In his book, "Africans in History," Basil Davidson points out that Christian missionaries arrived at the same time as the exploiters in the Congo as early as 1483. This exploitation continued throughout the 20th century. As WEB Du bois wrote in his essay "The Rape of Africa, "the missionaries ,still believing in the expanding trade of the 18th century, coupled commerce with missionary effort and did not see the inherent contradiction between them.

Du bois further wrote "the result was that the missionary and the merchant worked side by side and hand in hand."

In America, it must be remembered that the enslaved Africans were not allowed to read the Bible and had to accept the interpretation of the scriptures by their oppressors as the Gospel, most of it resting on the false ideology of "the Curse of Ham" that forever condemned the sons and daughters of Africa to servitude.

This history led to the formation of various African American religious movements over the last 150 years that have tried to retrieve a sense of spiritual identity that was left on the shores of West Africa.

Out of this context, Kwanzaa was born. Although the celebration was first celebrated by Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga in 1966, Dr. Ishakumusa Barashango wrote in "Afrikan People and European Holidays: a Mental Genocide" that " Kwanzaa was the kind of celebration that was common to most African societies, though the name would be as varied as the many languages that are spoken on the continent."

Unfortunately, just like Christmas with it's commercialization, Kwanzaa has lost some of its meaning in recent years, prompting some to parrot the false pronouncement that Kwanzaa is not a "black holiday" in an effort to get corporate sponsorship dollars and advertisements from those who would frown on bankrolling a "separatist holiday." However, it cannot be overstated that Kwanzaa is just as African as St. Patrick's Day is Irish.

Also, some have mistaken the "nonreligious" Kwanzaa as an Afrocentric alternative to Christmas. This idea is false both geographically and theologically. From a geographic standpoint it would be impossible to deny the Afro-Asiatic origin of Judeo-Christianity as recorded by Afrocentric scholars such as Dr. Yosef ben Jochannan, John G. Jackson and Rudolph Windsor.

Theologically speaking, the principals celebrated in Kwanzaa and Christianity, as well, existed in Africa thousands of years before the first church was built. So, the idea that Kwanzaa is just a cheap substitute for Christmas is just a cover for those who do not have the courage to challenge traditional western, Euro-Christian thought.

The question facing us this year is can we put aside political and religious dogmatism and accept the beauty of cultural diversity? This is the only way that we will be able to achieve the proverbial "peace on Earth and goodwill towards men."

So, to my open minded liberal peeps sippin' egg nog while reading this article, I wish you the universal season's greetings of Peace, Love and Happiness.

And to the ultra conservative, closed minded bigots who, by now, are yellin' "Bah Humbug" at their computer screens.

"Habari gani, haters !"

Paul Scott is a self-syndicated columnist and author of the blog, No Warning Shots He can be reached at (919) 451-8283 or For information about the Intelligence Over Ignorance Campaign lecture tours visit