On Afrocentricity, Diop, Egypt, & Scholarship



A close friend of mine shared with me some of his thoughts on the recent post "The Fallacies Of Afrocentrism" and the response post from Kintespace, "Flippant Remarks about 'The fallacies of Afrocentrism'". His insight is both profound and invaluable. Hopefully we can encourage him to expand these thoughts into an article for the magazine. For me this conversation is important because identity is vital. I know and love too many folks who struggle with finding theirs and often get muddled in pseudo-science in trying to find themselves. We have a responsibility to make things clear. His thoughts gave me a greater understanding of my own identity in the context of ancient African civilization and reminded me that scholarship is a process to be engaged and built upon, not a dogma:

On Diop, his imperfections and continuing his work:
My opinion (w/ some disclaimers) is this:
1) I've not honestly read Asante or Karenga yet and,
2) Diop was Diop. He did his own research and worked and challenged scholars in the field during that day. Fact of the matter is though is that M. Diop made his transition in 1986. His students are Theophile Obenga (Congo), Aboubacry Moussa Lam and Babacar Sall (both Senegal). Obenga was with him in Cairo in 1974 (UNESCO "Peopling..."), and Lam wrote his dissertation on the migrations of the Peul from Kmt [Kemet/Egypt]. Also, Cameroon has an Egyptology program at the University out there at Yaoude.

His work was profound, largely true (though he made some mistakes) and seminal; but not expert. Diop had the equivalent of 2 PhD's (one in physics and one is history). He was an eclectic scholar. But, to my knowledge, he didn't start learning glyphs until the 1970s and there is never one instance in which he cites a text which he himself translated.

Diop's work (and he hinted at this by telling Obenga that he'd never write again the topic of Egypt as an African civilization if he felt he'd "won" in Cairo) was meant as a springboard. That's exactly what folk on the continent are starting to do now. It's exactly what we need. It's easy to take shots at Diop's work 50/60 years later when 1) That's not even the whole of his first work folk are reading in English and 2) It's his first work.

On Afrocentricity as "fallacy", ancient Egypt, humanity + scholarship:
Molefi Asante and others are irrelevant. If you're not doing research with primary sources, no right to speak. Of course, Africa is characterized by much, much more than Kmt, but Kmt was a part of it: and whether black folk came from there or not -- and there's not reason why African's on the continent would, as Ann Macy Roth states look to Kmt, because it's respected by the West, when they have little to no contact with the West (i.e. It shouldn't be in their oral histories, see Peul, Songhay, Baasaa, Wolof) -- we're still who we are (that is, human).

The point of reclaiming history is to know who we are and frame our existence (Furr's point about not taking pride in our ancestors was obviously asinine). If we don't expand the discourse about African history in a meaningful way; that is learning Arabic, saving those documents and researching Kmt, oral histories, meanings behind symbols, anthropological work on pre-colonial religious practices, etc, then we've missed the boat. The truth is always better than any fantasy we could ever kick up: we owe it to our children, ourselves and our ancestors to get it right.

Romanticizing about anything is backwards. Too many of us get caught up in focusing on white folk to the point that we lose ourselves and feel that we have to evoke civilization in order to feel human. White folk ain't that important; our children are. Asante needs to feel himself relevant, so he writes his own holiday into the historical narrative. Where's the scholarship in that?

Fact is though, if we don't do the work, then cats like him get to speak 1) because he is speaking, 2) because white folk like seeing it and, 3) because it's easy for white folk to beat down. Hence we get the short end of the stick by not hittin' these cats up -- intellectually. Just prove his points wrong and move on. Or don't bother and move on anyway. Asante will always find an audience though, even among black folks because there are people who need to feel -- there's a void there. Our responsibility is to take care of that -- it's what we've been trained to do.

We have to move beyond the discourse on Afrocentrism in our work. We can point it out as fallacious, but the work has to be geared to another frontier. Otherwise folks are speaking for "us" who are really in the end only speaking for themselves. It also gives white folk the tools to beat down our self concept in front of those among us who don't have the acumen to know better, which is the true shame in all of this.

On rural living and the need for direct identity:
As Diop continually reiterates, the point of historical research is the reconstruction of historical consciousness. Example: my most profound experiences in Senegal were in the village. If anyone wants to know how African we are, just talk so someone rural. It's seriously eery to hear something and literally feel like you're amongst family members. I can't explain it. My friend just got back from Guinea and was mentioning to me how folks there did the same song and dance (i.e. catch the spirit, fall out and be covered with cloths) rituals there as black folks here do in church. I think the ultimate point of understanding where you come from is to be, historically, but really through that, spiritually grounded. Not knowing where we're from creates a serious void. Folk can chose their own paths as they please, but it's the feeling connected to something that's key. Right now we're connected to a thing we don't want to be associated with, and that's a dangerous/suicidal combination.