Go Back to Africa:
Hatin' on Black History
"Go back to Africa!"
Back when I was in elementary school that statement would either lead to fist fights or tears, depending on the the temperament of the target of the diss. Although many black folks can recall, in vivid detail, the first time they were called the "N word," and how they eventually got over it, for me, "go back to Africa" has not been easy to shake.
See, for black kids like me, being told to take a trip back across the Atlantic was the ultimate insult as it meant being exiled to a place where cannibals with bones in their noses ran around with spears, just waiting to catch some unsuspecting, stiff slippin' so that he could be Sunday evening supper.
After all, this is the image of Africa that black kids were given courtesy of those old Looney Tune cartoons and Tarzan movies.
Unfortunately, the educational system back then did nothing to counter this negative depiction of Africa. The textbooks only reinforced the idea of "the Dark Continent" as a god forsaken place that made no contribution to civilization besides slave labor.
In the early texts , Africa was divided into "white" Africa (Northern Africa) and "black" Africa (Sub Saharan Africa) . So the achievements of the ancient Egyptians were credited to Greek invaders and the empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai were written out of history, altogether.
Things have not changed much since I was young. An unbiased view of African world history is still sadly missing from most school systems to the detriment of thousands of black children every school year.
While it is widely accepted that Afrocentricity was a product of the Black Power Movement of the late 60's , it actually started more than a hundred years earlier.
According to Dr. Mia Bay in her book "The White Image in the Black Mind" as early as the 1830's scholars such as John Russwurm and David Walker were championing the idea of the African American connection to the great ancient civilizations of Egypt.
In his 1920 essay, "The Souls of White Folks," Dr. WEB Du Bois proudly proclaimed, "Europe has never produced and never will ,in our day, bring forth a single human soul who cannot be matched and over matched in every line of human endeavor by Asia and Africa."
In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded Black History Week (later Black History Month). However, as he wrote in his book "The Miseducation of the Negro " in 1933, teaching African Americans that they had accomplished just as much as any other race would "upset the program of the oppressor in Africa and America." Therefore, there has been a concerted effort to confine all talk of black history to the period after the 18th century.
The modern concept of Afrocentricity can be attributed to professors such as Dr Molefi Asante, Dr. John Henrik Clark and Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan, as their works created a series of arguments and counterarguments over the validity of Afrocentric scholarship in the mid 90's.
Although many bemoan the educational gap between African American children (especially males) and their peers, the suggestion of Afrocentric studies as a viable solution to the problem more times than not falls on deaf ears. Despite the fact that many members of my generation who developed a zeal for reading were inspired by a single book dealing with the African experience whether it be "Stolen Legacy" by Dr.George GM James or "Nile Valley Contributions to Civilization" by Dr. Anthony Browder, many do not believe that books dealing with the African experience could have the same effect on this so called Hip Hop generation.
There are several factors which have served as stumbling blocks to Afrocentricity being included in school curriculum, despite years of prodding by grassroots activists concerned about the welfare of black children.
First, it must be understood that while Afrocentricity is an academic construct, for many, the idea is politically charged. Any call for the affirmation of one's "blackness" is usually drowned out by cries of reverse racism and divisiveness
Secondly, Afrocentricity challenges the very foundation of western thought. Many will shudder at the mere fact of their adoration of Greek culture being challenged by pre 19th Dynasty Egypt.
Finally, the resistance that comes from school administrators and educators who have a vested professional interest in preserving the status quo is perhaps the main obstacle . Either they do not have sufficient knowledge of black history, themselves or do not have the courage to challenge the false doctrine of educational white supremacy. As James Lowen wrote in his book, "Lies my Teacher Told Me," "perhaps the most pervasive theme in our history is the domination of black America by white America."
So they are more comfortable allowing our children to become indoctrinated with Hip Hop lyrics and gang rituals instead of inspirational messages of self empowerment.
As we approach this year's Black History Month observation, parents, activists and concerned citizens must demand not only that the concept of black history be expanded to include the entire scope of the African experience but that it be incorporated year round into the curriculum.
One can only guess how much further along, socially, politically and economically my generation would have been if we had only been exposed to the greatness of African cultural history at an early age.
Sadly, 30 years after the fact , I am still angered by the "Go Back to Africa" comments not so much, now, by the ignorance of my white classmates but by my own ignorance that allowed me to take it as an insult in the first place.
Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots Fired.com. He can be reached at (919) 451-8283 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Coming in February, the Intelligence Over Ignorance "Take Back Black History" lecture tour.