Wednesday, January 13, 2010

TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Martin Bernal on African Egypt



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For almost two hundred years, imperial Europe and America has systematically preached to the world that the Egyptians were pink-skinned Europeans, a depiction no ancient Egyptian painter or sculptor ever created.

To re-establish Ancient Egypt as an African civilisation is a complex task due to the awesome weight of two centuries of European racial brainwashing. That task requires a multidisciplinary approach engaging archeo-linguistics, philosophy, comparative religion, physical and cultural anthropology, and blood-type analysis.

Few scholars are better suited to such a daunting task than Dr. Martin Bernal, author of the monumental series Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilisation.

A maverick academic and historical investigator, Dr. Bernal has employed thousands of modern and ancient documents, and addressed innumerable cultural, philosophical, scholarly and scientific issues, in order to set the historical record straight, to revise what he called the Ancient Model of Egypt held by the Greeks and other ancient Europeans: that the Egyptians were Africans whose vast genius formed the basis of much of Greek religion, philosophy, art, architecture, mathematics, science and civilisation, with the West Asian Phoenicians supplying a great deal as well.

As Bernal points out elsewhere while discussing what he calls the “Semitic hypothesis,” linguists consider Phoenician and Hebrew as dialects of the same Canaanite language.
That’s relevant because a century ago, European bigots were even more upset about the reality that Semitic peoples influenced Ancient Greeks than they were about African influence.
Today, the antagonism has switched, with a far greater rejectionism of Egypt’s Africanity and influence on the Greeks.

We touched on many topics in our conversation, including:

• an alternate title for the series, African Athena
• the fate of Bernal’s relationship with his foes such as Mary Lefkowitz, author of Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History, and Tony Martin, author of The Progress of the African Race Since Emancipation and Prospects for the Future
• how National Geographic routinely attempts to discredit the reality of African Egypt,
• whether writing began first in Africa, or in West Asia, and
• whether the linguistic evidence proves that Egypt’s original name, Kemet, means “the Black Land,” or “Land of the Blacks.”

We also discussed the African-American scholar Molefi Kete Asante, one of the most influential academics on African issues in the world, and WEB DuBois, the pioneering African-American scholar from a century ago.

Dr. Bernal spoke with me by telephone from his home in Ithaca, New York, on April 20, 2008.

3 comments:

San said...

The silly idea that Ancient Egyptians were white was discredited and abandoned a long time ago. But we should not replace one wrong hypothesis with another one. The truth is that Africa is not a continent with one "race" even if you use the crude racial categories. There are North Africans who look as white as a lot of Europeans but they are not Europeans or of European origin but Berbers who speak an Afro-Asiatic language.

In fact North Africa and West Asia could be considered part of one region, even the linguistic group Afro-Asiatic suggests this. The concept of Africa as a totally separate place was never really true, and was only introduced by colonial European powers. The dividing line of the mighty Sahara desert is a lot more real than the Suez canal (or Sinai before the canal was there). And let's not forget the interesting case of Madagascar where a lot of the ancestors of people there are southeast Asians.

One can see here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Gates how Ancient Egyptians saw themselves with respect to their neighbours. And there is plenty of evidence from drawings and statutes that ancient Egyptians were not "black" (as defined in North America), but "Mediterranean peoples, neither Sub-Saharan blacks nor Caucasian white but peoples whose skin was adapted for life in a subtropical desert environment." (from wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_race_controversy).
Egypt's own top archaeologist himself shot down the Ancient Egyptian race theory http://touregypt.net/teblog/egyptologynews/?p=2929
and
http://sciencestage.com/v/991/zahi-hawass:-color,-symbolism,-and-race.html

Twentieth century race politics should not be applied to Ancient Egypt, it is wrong and anachronistic, and to me it smacks of ethonationalism. I am surprised someone seemingly as intelligent and well read (judging from your novels) as you would fall for it. Africa today needs people who look to the future not the past.

Minister Faust said...

I'd suggest that you listen to the several hours of radio programming available on the archive which addresses and counters your claims above. (http://www.cjsr.ualberta.ca/news/news.php?s=terrordome)

Shomarka Keita's presentation alone is more than sufficient to overturn your accusations of "Twentieth century race politics", "anachronis[ms]" and "ethonationalism."

Attempting to denounce arguments you haven't yet heard is hardly helpful.

"Africa today needs people who look to the future not the past."

There's not a single group of people who've marshalled resources to command international power who do not attend to their own history: not the USA, not the UK, not China, Germany, Japan, Israel or anyone else.

As is common, either/or formulations miss the point. This is a both/and.

"I am surprised someone seemingly as intelligent and well read (judging from your novels) as you would fall for it."

I'm not the one who's fallen for something.

Minister Faust said...

Also, please don't post anonymously or de facto anonymously. Stand by your words, including with a public profile.