A folly of amusements: A short reflection on the politics of anti-African rhetoric

If things African are deemed worthy of contempt and ridicule, where does such a political orientation point those ill-equipped to see through such a campaign? That is, if our culture is an object for amusement, then whose do we regard with seriousness, as being worthy of respect?

Recall that African culture and people have been objects of derision since the inception of enslavement. This campaign was not without purpose. The savage exploitation that our ancestors were subjected to was seen as being fit only for non-human things. Thus, our ancestors were depicted as inhuman and were politically constructed as instruments of capital, as chattel.

In a context where some of us have identified our history and culture as sources of renewal and transformation, it is not surprising that such efforts have also been under consistent assault as characterized by coups, assassinations, and on-going anti-African propaganda. Thus, despite the triviality ascribed to African expressions agency in the impoverished discourses of social media, these actions have been regarded as anything but inconsequential in the broader sphere.

Dr. Anderson Thompson referred to “funny wars”, wars where Africans become proxies of European interests. Some of us have failed to learn the lessons of history and it shows. Today the assault on Africa has been “democratized” as the denizens of social media happily play their part. Dr. Carter G. Woodson noted this sad pattern in his day when he wrote, “The very service which this racial toady renders hardens him to the extent that he loses his soul. He becomes equal to any task the oppressor may impose upon him and at the same time he becomes artful enough to press his case convincingly before the thoughtless multitude. What is right is sacrificed because everything that is right is not expedient; and what is expedient soon becomes unnecessary.”Dr. Thompson reminds us that our actions should be focused on a “grand vision of the future”. In this formulation we can ill afford to be short-term in our planning or superficial in our thinking. Sadly, the impoverished discourse of our day predisposes many of us to just this.

I’ll close with Dr. Marimba Ani’s wisdom. She writes, “Sankofa is the healing ritual which transforms the disharmony, fragmentation, dishonesty, discontinuity, disconnectedness, and chaos of the Maafa, into harmony, wholeness, truth, continuity, connectedness, and order of Maat.” She reminds us that Sankɔfa is a means for us to restore ourselves. Moreover, it is a paradigm that animates our resistance. When we truly understand the power of our culture, we will know that it is not an object of amusement, but a matter of our very survival as a people.


On the abuse and misuse of Htp (hotep)

I recently learned of a t-shirt that shows a derivation of the word Htp and precedes to link the term with a range of problematic behaviors which are counter-productive to the interests of the Black community. I wonder how many people will wear the shirt, but can’t read this text below:
Htp001. This is the word Htp. It is a noun, and is defined by Dr. Rkhty Amen in her book Mejat Wefa as “Offerings, satisfaction, peace, greetings.”

I’m all for critiquing shallow and superficial thinking, but the term Htp (some pronounce it hotep or hetep) emerged out of one of the most vibrant Black intellectual movements of the late 20th Century. It was but one of a host of concepts borrowed from Nile Valley Culture and Civilization that was used in an attempt to understand more deeply the grand historical and cultural arc of African people as captured in the works of Cheikh Anta Diop and others. It was utilized as one small means of reviving the language of kmt or ancient Egypt, a language which Diop and Theophile Obenga shows exhibits strong connections with extant African languages. Diop’s research noted the same thing with regards to the culture of kmt and corresponding practices in pre-colonial and modern African cultures. In this way, ancient Egypt can be viewed as a vital component in the historical chain of events linking people of African descent today to their ancient past.

That this term is also used by some people who may be limited in their understanding or commitment to broader visions of social transformation does not invalidate the original thrust that gave rise to the invocation of terms such as Htp in the 1970s and 1980s from scholars such as Jacob H. Carruthers, Rkhty Amen, and so many others. Nor does it make these specious derivations (hotepping, hoteps, etc.) the most logical, appropriate, or intelligent terms to critique contradictory behaviors born of our shared oppression. Decolonizing one’s consciousness requires a new language, and can be achieved without a visceral and ahistorical rejection of one’s past.