Hama Tuma, Ethiopian author, poet and journalist, has been active in the political and human rights struggle in Ethiopia and Africa since the sixties. His satirical essays under the general title of African Absurdities have gained support from many quarters. Some of his books (English and Amharic) have been translated to French, Italian and Hebrew.
The Other Afrik - East Africa - Ethiopia - France - Kenya - Panafrica - United States - Racism
The tragedy of remaining a slave: The art of Black on Black hatred
Diatribe it is not. Certainly not vitriolic. Anger at a sad situation? Maybe. Fury at our inability to be free? Perhaps. Here I am, lost for words, in a cold neon-lit Parisian supermarket looking into the face of a Black security guard sticking a lugubrious finger into another Blackman’s bag asking him to produce a receipt for what is in his shopping bag. Every word is meticulously uttered in a loud voice that only fuels the prejudice that is driving Black people, Michael Jackson per excellence, into bleaching off their dark skin color and gluing European hair to their scalp.
And notwithstanding the French capital’s bizarre mixture of two unethical characteristics: ’each one for himself’ and racial prejudice, which has taught us to shut our mouths and paddle our own canoes, I can almost not contain myself over such foul smelling idiocy from this Black security guard!
Africans who live in Paris know a particular African species, Black of course, often bald, tall and muscular, very muscular, and still managing to look anything but menacing. Costumed in cheap black suits and, sometimes, dark sunglasses, they prowl the entrances and exits of supermarkets and department stores in search of the Black devil. It should be noted that this is no African to be categorized as a paperless émigré, a street cleaner, a frightened unemployed soul in the increasingly unwelcoming capital that Paris has become.
The security guard, the keeper of the Master’s gates, the trusted mastiff, underpaid but still proud, shares the same phobia with elderly White women: A frantic fear of the African. In the Metro or on the bus, the elderly White woman clutches her purse tightly and casts a fearful glance at the Blackman who stands beside her, although his side could be the safest place in a hostile city.
The Black security guard, often African, will also stare at the African entering the supermarket or the department store with a determined gaze and more often than not accost him as he leaves and order him to open and show the contents of his bag while the Whites, some of whom may have indulged in shoplifting away from the prying eyes of the camera, calmly walk out.
"Good day Bwana, Have a nice day Sir, Please open the bag!" This last one addressed to the African, of course. At the airport, the Black policeman or woman would often stop the Black person and rarely dare to do the same with the White ones.
Colonization of the mind
It is all connected to the colonization of the mind, an inculcated self hatred and a crippling inferiority complex. There is no denying that the slave trade and colonialism ruined Africa to no end, and that the wounds still remain a feasting ground for parasites whilst debilitating Africa’s search for development and overall progress.
That said, it is equally true that all of Africa’s woes cannot be traced back to those two evils even though 50 years after the so-called independence from colonialism, the enslaved African bourgeoisie owes its rottenness and lack of nationalism to the colonial (mis)— education and formation. Colonialism was not just wanton murder. It was worse.
Before their attempt to annihilate all Jews, Germans almost wiped out the Herero in Namibia in a trial officially condoned genocide. The French killed thousands over thousands in the Maghreb. The British committed heinous crimes in Kenya and across their colonies. The Belgians slaughtered 15 million Congolese. Mussolini killed at least one million Ethiopians as he attempted to colonize Ethiopia... But, all this and other crimes pale when it comes to the crime known as the colonization of the mind.
Seasoning, a deculturization process
The former passed, the latter crime still persists. Slave owners of America called it seasoning; a deculturization process that knows no end nor bounds, leading to total a subservience of the mind and the acceptance of the slave holder’s beliefs. The slave’s self esteem is led to the slaughter, from where he/she emerges with vile self hatred and profound distaste for his culture, his Blackness, his chocolateness, his caramelness, his name, his bouncy and curly woolen hair, his full lips... his very being.
This variety of "epistemic violence", as some call it, afflicted many colonized Africans and Indians too. Structurally, British colonial control over India ended a longtime ago but the British left "persons, Indian in blood and color, but British in taste, in opinions, morals and in intellect". Indian society worships the white skin, hates black and millions of the untouchables are, yes, quite dark in complexion.
Kenya’s one time Attorney General Charles Njonjo personifies the typical colonized mind. Charles Njonjo assumed he was British and refused to shake hands with ordinary Kenyans and provoked the ire of Kenyan students who, during demonstrations, often held placards calling on Njonjo to "Go Home to England!". This was no joking matter.
Charles Njonjo had been so brainwashed that his eyes saw only one color. White. Large scale brainwashing, massive brain-bleaching, "menticide" or mental colonialism, as the Iranian Jalal Al-e Almadi argued in his book Occidentosis, has afflicted most colonized peoples.
African Americans have had to struggle against "seasoning" to decolonize their minds, and to finally see that black is also beautiful. But despite the long and organized fight, the battle is still not over. James Baldwin, as Eldridge Cleaver put it in his "Soul on Ice", could himself qualify as a "reluctant black", whilst Malcolm X who violently defended the black cause, among other influential Blackmen, spent hours "conking" their hairs.
Living breathing oreos
The struggle for national liberation in Africa was not accompanied by a cultural struggle that was just as fierce. The African leaders and ruling elite left in power by colonialism were nothing but living breathing oreos, Black in color and White on the inside.
It is no wonder that many Black women and men now want to show what they have so long felt on the inside. the color of their skin! All to the advantage of the callous and highly profitable Western companies that manufacture carcinogenic skin lightening creams and lotions to millions of Africans and Indians in order to appease their feeling of self loathing.
A pale or white skin has become a must if one wants to belong to the collective of God-playing humans. As a result, many colonized people bleach their skins so as to identify themselves with the colonial entity. Their origins are shameful. The French, as it were, refer to light skinned Blacks as the "saved colors" (couleur sauvé); saved by a miracle from a black disaster.
Ethiopians, who never underwent colonialism, talk of color of various hues; differentiating Ethiopians as black, red and brown. Ignorance being bliss, one can only imagine what color is frowned upon.
Seasoning is the most serious colonial crime committed on African and people of African descent — the colonization of our minds, now continued by the West under new forms. Comedian Chris Rock’s film on the hair issue amidst African Americans comes at a critical moment. Wearing wigs to look more White has earned millions for wig makers.
The African yearns to be a caricature of the white, to ape the white man’s culture, to have little or no self respect. We do not even consider ourselves able to express our woes and look up to self appointed stars and foreign self declared do-gooders to voice our plight and find us some solutions. The African was colonized and now he himself, devoid of an independent mind, continues with his own colonization, perpetuates negritude.
I am, however, of the opinion that Afro centrist positions often reflect, albeit in reverse and at times unwittingly, the base inferiority complex that characterizes the colonized mind. We do not have to insist that everything under the sun originated with the Black person or in Africa to be proud of our heritage.
It would be recalled by all and sundry that although Mobutu launched the authenticité campaign and changed his name from Joseph Desiree Mobutu to Mobutu Sese Seko Wazabanga it did little to change his colonized mind or state of servility to the West.
Civilization, what is right, progress and what is or is not modern are all relative and not always White. The concept of the mind as an occupied territory, the virus within the assimilated "natives", filled with self contempt and who imbibe the education of the colonizer in order to become his mobile carbon copies, highlights the confusion and debilitating trauma and tension the colonized have to live under.
Decolonization of the Mind
Ngugi wa Thiongo, in his book "The Decolonization of the Mind", raises the problem as it relates to language and the dominance of English. He argues that writers should write in their native languages as a means of decolonization of the mind.
How far is the relevance and even importance of Western education? Should the African elite feel proud and gloat just because, as one Western African put it, he has "sat at the foot of the white man and drank from the fountain of knowledge" in some Western university and got a degree... and like Mobutu, the so-called traditions they resort to is fraught with deadly mines. Here, automatic deliverance is not offered, and as a matter of fact, this solution may be worse than the problem in many instances.
Harmful traditions are many. The overall rejection of all that is wrongly labeled Western instead of Universal could spell disaster. Contrary to what many think, the Taliban mind is far from decolonized. They and the likes of the Somali Al Shabab rile against music, sports, women rights and decapitate, stone or throw acid at the faces of young girls going to school, and yet are not a better deal over the colonized mind. Choose your poison.
Hence, the Black security guards and policemen in the western world who tend to believe that all Blacks are first class suspects are not to be blamed. Their rabidly colonized minds need buckets of pity. A lot of it. So, from now, always remember to leave those bags open with careless abandon after having stuffed them with books on how to decolonize the mind. It should trigger a positive war in the occupied territories that their minds have become.
It is tragic to stay a slave and not be aware of that fact. Fifty years after mostly fake independence from colonialism, the real liberation of Africa demands an end to servility and to the colonization of our minds.
"Education for colonial people must inevitably mean unrest and revolt; therefore, had to be limited and used to inculcate obedience and servility lest the whole system be overthrown."
"It is the white man who creates the Negro. But it is the Negro who creates negritude."
"White is right... Yellow mellow... Black, get back!"
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