The circular logic of conspiracy theories (the bizarre idea that Black people are indigenous to the Americas or our continued flight from being African)

I was attempting to explain to a brother who insists that African Americans are indigenous to the Americas that if this was true, our DNA would as dissimilar to continental Africans as the DNA of Blacks in Asia and Australia. I don’t know if he understood my point, which is that a separation of tens of thousands of years would have occasioned mutations that would have greatly differentiated us from our counterparts in Africa. We wouldn’t take DNA tests and have shared DNA with people from places like Ghana or Nigeria for instance.

Of course there are other elements of these arguments that are deeply flawed, but I found his perspective to be consistent with that of most people who I’ve encountered who believe all manner of conspiracy theories–1) documented evidence is fabricated by some seemingly omnipotent and hidden malevolent force, 2) unreliable and anecdotal sources are regarded as concrete evidence, and 3) a circular logic posits that a lack of evidence in support of the theory is evidence of the existence and scale of the conspiracy.


In this society forgetfulness is encouraged. Forgetting serves several ends such as severing the ties of ancestral remembrance, an erasure of cultural identity, and the disruption of an intergenerational struggle for freedom.

When we forget we are given new memories, histories, and lineages by those who profit from our loss of memory. Some of us, sadly, revel in this erasure, while others seek to ameliorate such loss and its destructive consequences.

On spirituality and alienation

Q: How does the issue of alienation apply to spirituality? There is a noted dialectic between the harmful effects of alien religions and the corresponding rejection of African spiritual systems.

A: I’ve tried to follow in Jacob H. Carruthers’s footsteps by (A) acknowledging the importance of indigenous African spirituality as a necessary component in our re-Africanization and (B) acknowledging the need for a posture of “non-aggression” pertaining to this, lest we descend into the idiocy of Holy Wars. However, I think that we have to consider what is lost when we ground ourselves in alien paradigms, as religion is so central for many African people, who see it as a way of living. The question becomes what ways of living, being, and knowing do these systems propagate and if these are detrimental or advantageous to our community.

There are many aspects of indigenous African spirituality that are valuable on the conceptual, social, and even structural levels. I’ll discuss these in turn. First, is the emphasis on inner “divinity”, that is the mtu (human being) as divine as an alternative to the idea of one being born in sin, which is really just another example of fundamental alienation.

Second, are the ethical values of African cultures, which compel for us to act ethically towards ourselves, community, and nature. There is no African belief that I am aware of wherein watu (humans) have been given dominion over nature. This is a worldview born of a fundamental misunderstanding of the consubstantial nature of life on this planet. In fact, in the African paradigm, one has a moral obligation to safeguard nature for the denizens of the future.

Third, is the value of ancestral veneration, which in reality is a means for keeping people connected to the lineage. This provides a connection that compels the mtu to study, honor, and ground themselves in their traditions–as opposed to eschewing them in preference for venerating someone else’s ancestors.

Fourth, is that African traditions offers a basis of critique for many of the conceptual assumptions of other religions–pacifism and detachment versus the need to act deliberately to actualize one’s destiny, intolerance and forced conversion rather than a perspective that emphasizes commonality across related traditions, resignation to an oppressive and alienating order in contrast to a mandate to actualize Maat or what the Akan call Onyame Nhye-Hyɛe–a conception of divine order, and so on.

Finally is the rejection of the cultural primacy and conceptual hegemony of non-Africans. When we embrace our own traditions, we demonstrate not only their suitability, but the value and relevance of our ancestors and what they bequeathed to us.


Abandoning tradition for alienation

In the Epic of Sundiata we find that Sundiata’s conceptions of reality were not based on any set of ideological premises, but rather were the product of his own ancient Malian tradition. This pattern we see throughout the traditional African society, tradition as one’s grounding.
This is interesting given that today we are compelled to abandon any notions of tradition, to discard them as encumbrances on our individual freedom in order to embrace Western ideologies that are themselves products of fundamental alienation.
Of course tradition is imperfect. This is why it evolves. Our task should not be the wholesale embrace of tradition for tradition’s sake, but a process that synthesizes tradition and reason–that is critical discernment which informs our effective adaptation of traditional practices to present circumstance.
We recognize that African culture must be the basis of our regeneration as a people, if not, then we are merely instruments for the propagation of alien paradigms.