Inoculation against mis-orientation

At the heart of the problem is our fractured sense of cultural identity. Many of us see ourselves as Black, unmoored from any kind of ancestral foundation.

Afro-Brazilians emphasize their ancestral inheritance from the Kongo, Yorùbá, and to a lesser extent Gbe-speaking peoples. Haitians note their connection to Kongo and, again, Gbe-speaking peoples. Even in this country, there were times where our connections to Kongo, Igbo, and Mande-speaking peoples were quite salient.

I think that such a sense of ancestral identity is quite valuable as a means of anchoring oneself. It enables us to see ourselves as (A) Africans/Blacks in the US, (B) whose culture and traditions rests upon the foundation of many African ethnicities, (C) which are themselves emergent from a continuum of African historicity stretching back millennia. Such a grounding should be sufficient to inoculate us against the kind of cultural and historical mis-orientaiton which is ever-fashionable amongst some of us.

W.E.B. Du Bois on war and empire

One of the things that I noticed as I was writing my dissertation about Du Bois was his participation in the peace movement. In fact, when I was at Fisk doing research, his opposition to militarism was indelible. To be sure, he viewed war as an instrument of empire, one ultimately incapable of securing the surety of peace and human well-being. Further, war and militarism were linked to capitalism. Hence, for all its horror, warfare is exceedingly profitable.

At any rate, he might say of our present moment that humanity stands at the precipice. I agree. Militarism is increasingly the preserve of dying empires. Moribund powers whose folly will result, not only in their annihilation, but ours with it.

Read “There Is No Such Thing as a Small Nuclear War” by Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research:

Jacob H. Carruthers and the Restoration of an African Worldview: Finding Our Way through the Desert

Finding Our Way Through the Desert: Jacob H. Carruthers and the Restoration of an African Worldview offers a critical examination of the ideas and work of Carruthers, a key architect of the African-centered paradigm and a major contributor to its application to the study of Nile Valley culture and civilization. Herein, Kamau Rashid explicates some of Carruthers’s principal contributions, the theoretical and practical implications of his work, and how Carruthers’s work is situated in the stream of Black intellectual genealogy. Essential to this book are Carruthers’s concerns about the vital importance of Black intellectuals in the illumination of new visions of future possibility for African people. The centrality of African history and culture as resources in the transformation of consciousness and ultimately the revitalization of an African worldview were key elements in Carruthers’s conceptualization of two interrelated imperatives—the re-Africanization of Black consciousness and the transformation of reality. Composed of three parts, this book discusses various themes including Black education, disciplinary knowledge and knowledge construction, indigenous African cosmologies, African deep thought, institutional formation, revolutionary struggle, history and historiography to explore the implications of Carruthers’s thinking to the ongoing malaise of African people globally.

Order here:

On denialists’ folly

I recently watched an interesting video on YouTube titled, “Why flat earthers scare me,” which offered an analysis of the recent history and pervasiveness of this perspective. I agree with many points raised in this video. There are two points that are made that were valuable to me. First, the commentator cites a study that states that people who believe that the Earth is flat have a lower than average level of scientific literacy, but a higher than average degree in confidence in the veracity of their beliefs. Second, she notes that at some point in the mid-20th Century, science, reached a level of complexity beyond the comprehension of the average person—which poses important challenges in terms of scientific literacy more broadly.

This is all very consistent with my experience with individuals who claim that the transatlantic slave trade never happened. I have observed and interacted with individuals who seemed to know very little about history, cultural anthropology, or biology, whose ignorance limited both what they knew, but also what they were capable of understanding. These same individuals were also quite dogmatic in their views, insisting that those who knew far more than them were in fact ignorant of the truth.

Additionally, I see the basis of this ignorance as primarily social—that is, that it is a product of pervasive and intergenerational anti-African propaganda in the US, coupled with the suppression of information regarding African and African Diaspora history and culture in schooling system. 

Further, I think that this kind of ignorance is not only foolish, but that it has significant negative political implications for our community. Their view (that we are, in fact, native to the Americas) consigns historians, linguists, cultural anthropologists, archaeologists, and certainly geneticists to being a part of some vast conspiracy against an implausible belief. Further, they must ignore the preponderance of African cultural retentions in the Americas, accounts by African Diasporans in the 18th and 19th Centuries, as well as actual slave narratives to sustain such flawed premises. Lastly, our historical, cultural, and political connections to the rest of the African world have been and are a vital tool in our struggle for freedom. Such denialism undermines these connections and the potential that they possess.

Finally, these denialists demonstrate a political myopia—that is, not only is their idea historically and scientifically fallacious, it is also politically impotent. They have exchanged our actual ancestral legacy for one whose veracity is non-existent and whose legitimacy will always be contested. They reflect the Yoruba proverb that states, “Ibi tí a ti ńpìtàn ká tó jogún, ká mọ̀ pé ogún ibẹ̀ ò kanni,” which translates as “Where one must recite genealogies in order to establish one’s claim to inheritance, one should know that one really has no claim to patrimony there.” This means that  legitimate claims seldom require such elaborate performance. They do not require the suppression of evidence or its fabrication. They stand on their own merits.

Information Asymmetry

“Information asymmetry” is a term that I learned from Ndugu Omowale Afrika. It refers to a situation where between two more more people, one party possesses greater information and understanding of some topic than another. Consider, for instance, what a trained scholar of 19th Century African American history knows about such a topic, compared to an individual who has never bothered to investigate it, whose knowledge is limited to popular discourse pertaining to the subject or popular depictions of this subject in film and television. We can imagine the same kind of asymmetry occurring between individuals who possess a depth of scientific knowledge, compared to others with a paucity of such knowlege.

Sadly, often those who possess limited knowledge of things assume that they know far more than they actually do, resulting in their coming to illogical and misinformed conclusions while being resistant to any modification of their premises. Thus, when they are presented with information that contradicts what they know or demonstrates the limitations of their understanding, they often disregard this new information largely because it does not confirm their beliefs, but possibly also because it is beyond their comprehension.

It should be stated that a certain knowledge base is needed to both meaningfully understand anything. Further, a fairly robust knowledge base is needed to possess a critically informed view of a thing. I can, for instance, understand how evolutionary biology works after having learned something of the subject. This would be a basic level of understanding. However, for me to competently critique a particularly theory of evolutionary biology requires a far higher degree of knowledge than what could be considered basic. This would require an advanced level of understanding. I have often seen individuals who demonstrate a nonexistent or a rudimentary level of understanding of various subjects attempting to offer criticisms of fairly well-established bodies of knowledge. The result is, for the informed viewer, rather nonsensical.

As a matter of course, I try to minimize my engagements with people on topics where information asymmetry is evident. I will share information, but will not debate these individuals. It is not a good use of time, and as we all know, our time on this planet is finite. Use yours to grow and better yourself, as well as to improve the world around you, rather than to drag those for whom their ignorance is a kind of refuge and armor towards some kind of enlightened understanding.

The lamp of ignorance misleads in the night

Too many African/Black people have a love affair with pseudo-consciousness. Perhaps false ideas and contrived identities have an emotional resonance that more valid and historically grounded notions lack. Perhaps the false ideas are more immediately intelligible, requiring no real work to understand and internalize. Or could it be that such ideas make little demand of their adherents, enabling them to continue in the world as they always have? Perhaps reality is too complex, too complicated, and nonsense becomes a filtration device, rejecting information that is incongruent with one’s preferred mythology. After all, one of the advantages of ideology is that it provides a system of thinking, a way of seeing the world. Whether such a system is grounded in logic and facts is inconsequential to its functioning.

Whatever it is, whatever its causes, I am reminded of three African proverbs. A Yorùbá proverb states, “Ọgbọ́n ní ńpẹ́ kó tó ran ẹni; wèrè kì í gbèé ran èèyàn; wèrè Ìbàdàn ló ran ará Ògbómọ̀ṣọ́,” which translates as, “Only wisdom takes a long time to rub off on others; imbecility does not take long to affect others; it is the imbecility plaguing Ibadan people that rubbed off on the people of Ògbómọ̀ṣọ́.” This means that folly is a contagion, easily transmitted. Enlightenment, by contrast, is much more difficult to establish among the people.

I am also reminded of a Swahili proverb which states, “Jinga likikwerevuka akili hakuna tena,” which translates as, “When a fool is believed to be intelligent then there is no more intelligence.” Consider the unfortunate lack of discernment among those taken in by false ideas. For them, the intelligence of someone who has a great deal of valuable expertise and knowledge and someone who is ignorant (or deceptive) are equal.

I close with an Ewe proverb which, like these others, reflects the times in which we live. It states, “Nu manyamanya fe akadi tra ame za,” which translates as, “The lamp of ignorance misleads in the night.” While some of us are making deep investments in falsehood, we will find that misinformation is insufficient to both transform our lives individually or our condition collectively. In fact, such ignorance, as misinformation induces, makes us more useful subjects of misdirection, division, and control by powerful interests. As Thomas Sankara said, “The enemies of a people are those who keep them in ignorance.”

On the African origins of African Diasporans (including Africans/Blacks in the United States)

To whom it may concern (including those who are in denial of this): Our food, language, music, dance, historical narratives from the antebellum period, combat arts, spiritual traditions, healing modalities, DNA, and so on are clearly African derived. These are not matters of opinion, but reflect the empirical reality.

On the Consequences of Silent/silenced Men

For example, one recent study found connections between stress and prostate cancer. They report:” Researchers at Loma Linda University Health contend that the disproportionate amount of chronic stress African Americans face is partly responsible for the alarmingly high incidence and mortality rates from prostate cancer observed in African American men.”

Of course, we also know that stress, as a long-term experience can greatly erode one’s quality-of-life, resulting in a shortened life-expectancy. A Pro-Publica article reports that: “Sherman James is a social epidemiologist who has spent the past four decades exploring why Black men have higher rates of diseases that lead to shorter lifespans than all other Americans.” The article continues, “His conclusion is that the constant stress of striving to succeed in the face of social inequality and structural racism can cause lasting physical damage.”

Furthermore, mental health challenges have particularly adverse impacts on Black men and boys. Citing a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, an article from Forbes states, “A 2021 JAMA study revealed that Black men had a larger increase in suicide attempts than any other racial group. It also found that suicide rates in Black male adolescents increased by 47% from 2013 to 2019. Black suicidologists say it’s partially due to racism.”

Returning to my initial point, I cannot fathom how a silent (or silenced) group can help themselves, help others, seek help, or meaningfully exist in community. I may be mistaken, but I believe that for Black men, such silence could be deadly. Suffering in silence is a sure fire way to expedite a decline in one’s mental and physical health. I think that rather than men, specifically Black men, being silent, we should be actively engaged with people that care about our health and well-being. Being silent, particularly given the many challenges that we face could be fatal, as, like the African American proverb says, “Closed mouths don’t get fed.”

Black Male Suicide: A Silent Epidemic

Black Men Have the Shortest Lifespans of Any Americans. This Theory Helps Explain Why.

Cumulative stress in African American men may contribute to prostate cancer health disparity

Capoeira to Cultivate the Body, Mind, and Spirit

I taught Capoeira this morning. I gave each student a homework assignment based on things that they did during class. The homework assignments related to movement skills, coordination, or motor control.

I maintain that many of the things that we do within Capoeira actually impacts our lives outside of Capoeira. That is, the comportment (i.e., the embodiment) of the Capoeirista occasions changes in how our minds and bodies relate to movement. Capoeira teaches proprioception (i.e., bodily awareness) laying a basis for improving our coordination and control. The skills that Capoeira teaches are transferable to things both mental and physical. The assignments that I gave, while on the surface pertain to the use of the body, also, necessarily relate to the cultivation of the mind and spirit. I feel that such holistic cultivation is a uniquely powerful aspect of this art.