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09.09.2019 Feature Article

The America That Is Not For Me: Part 35

The America That Is Not For Me: Part 35

Carter Woodson noted in his book The Miseducation of the Negro:

"If you can control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one."

This bold statement of enormous fatidic value defines the national psychology of modern Africa, of the post-colonial, neocolonial state. In fact, the epistemological reach of The Miseducation of the Negro in the collective psychology of the African is beyond gaugeable. In other words despite the fact that the modern African state displays a grin-like countenance of freedom and independence, the intrinsic personality of the modern African state is a veneer of freedom and independence.

European powers, the metropole, thus created the modern African state largely to serve its interests, to exploit the vast wealth of the neocolonial state via the managed instrumentality of the Western-educated African, a fawning automaton of the state of capitalist imperium. The neocolonial African technocrat and politician are therefore an artificial creation of Western politico-economic interest, no less. These are the kinds of unscrupulous leaders who are most likely to do the exploitative biddings of Western and Asian interests at the expense of their own national interests and development priorities, to grossly mismanage national economies entrusted them by voters, and to embezzle funds meant for national development and poverty eradication―while lumps sum embezzlements are secreted away in Western banks and offshore accounts.

This is why I sometimes nurse a nasty, eerie feeling that we, Africans, our neocolonial leaders especially, are our worst enemies.

Why Africa still relies on foreign aid from the West for survival in spite of the continent’s vast wealth is difficult to understand, all the more reason why I subscribe to Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa. It looks as though these clueless leaders are still in a negro-mode of thinking.

Or of unkinking.
This is a sad fate foisted on the soul of the modern African state. On the other hand thinkers, philosophers, political theorists, and sociologists such as Kwame Nkrumah and Amilcar Cabral who initiated a series of bold efforts to neutralize this scheming, tendentious manipulation of the national psychology of continental Africa on the part of the West suffered brutal putschism and assassinations. These are usually carried out with the active knowledge and participation of native elements. J.E. Casely Hayford’s Ethiopian Unbound speaks loudly to this nationalist Nkrumhaist line of thinking.

The insatiable appetite and supremacist inclinations of the West continue to underwrite these sad, unfortunate, and facinorous events in the affairs of the African world. Dora Taylor, who authored The Role of the Missionary in Conquest under a pen name Nosipho Majeke, said of the British Empire, its influences in colonial South Africa: “their dependence upon the colony is increased by the creation of artificial wants.” The creation of artificial wants in the African character and culture reoriented the organic character of African psychology toward the imported character of Eurocentric expectations. At times, enforcement of these artificial wants was accomplished through the barrel of the gun.

This reorganization of African psychology goes beyond the complex imperatives of taste―food, clothing, alcoholic beverages. The colonizing European tied the entire being of the African, his worldview, personality, culture, religious beliefs, indigenous economy, traditional organizational politics, and relationships to the unquestioned demands of Western standards.

European fashion psychology, for instance, turned the subject of colonialism and Christological indoctrination into a servile caricature on the outskirts of Western imagination. But unlike the European, the acquired mannerisms of this exquisitely attired mannequin of a neocolonial African did not bother to consider the vicissitudinous weather while deeply burying himself in the fashion psychology of Eurocentrism. The gross miseducation of this non-weather conscious “negro” and cultural tyrannizing of this “negro” were cut from the same cloth of cultural imperialism―white supremacy.

This instilled a demoralizing thermometer of confusion in the collective psychology of the African world, this African who could not bring himself to see his world beyond the attachment theory of colonialism, slavery, and neocolonialism. Inferiority complex became part of his cultural, epistemological, and intellectual DNA.

Kobina Sekyi’s satirical depiction of the colonizer’s aping of the behavioral slants of the colonizer in The Blinkards speaks, among other critical characterizations, to the slavish psychology of the colonized as part of the classic symptomatology of his acceptance into alien culture.

The colonized African was merely happy to see himself as an honorary member of this suffocating alien culture transplanted into the precolonial landscape of cultural Africa, the same alien culture that excludes him from the commonweal of humanity―defined by the race of the colonist. As Ashley Montagu points out in Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race:

"The gallery of 'race' concepts are set out above has no basis in scientific fact or in any other kind of demonstrable fact. These conceptions of 'race' are compounded of impure wishful thinking and represent naught but muddled myth―the tragic myth of our tragic era. Tragic, because it is believed and made the basis for action, in one way or another, by many people in our time…

"The modern conception of 'race' owes its widespread diffusion to the white man. Wherever he has gone he has carried it with him. The growth of racism is associated with slavery and imperialism in its various forms, so that it is not until the second half of the eighteenth century that one begins to encounter its expression."

The concept of race, the foundation of modern civilization, has corrupted the post-colonial dispensation. Race has since become a universal language, the ultimate, supreme law of human relations. It determines the nature of my place in my relationship with law enforcement officers via racial profiling, whether I deserve to be in the Bible or to be part of God’s creation, whether I am an organism that belongs with primates or human beings on the basis of phylogenesis, where I live in the United States, whether I am the dregs of humanity, and whether I am genetically predisposed to violent criminality. Race appears to be all there is! I nonetheless see myself embodying the epistemological and philosophical integration of continental and diasporic Pan-Africanism.

Even so it was actually not the intention of the colonist to put the colonized on the same summit of racial parity as the colonist in a land belonging to the colonized, a land the colonist successfully managed to steal through fraudulent means. The violent intimidation and massacring of the colonized eased the passage of land from the colonized to the colonist. The colonized therefore became a slave in his own land. The British and Boers set out to rob lands and steal herds of cattle belonging to native South Africans. One of the main driving forces for this brazen act of violent debaucheries was to starve the natives, to render them landless, and to make them jobless, the latter of which drove the natives to sell their labor on the cheap to white farmers since the land on which they lived and their herds of cattle grazed had been stolen in broad daylight.

This artificially created pool of labor was fed into the budding industries of White South Africa. However, many of those natives who decided not to labor or slave for the white man and went back to retrieve his stolen herds of cattle from whites were violently shot to death, seriously wounded via gun shots, or imprisoned. The white authorities ironically called these victims cattle-thieves.

Capitalist exploitation of the natives would repeat itself in a most dramatic articulation of human greed in post-Apartheid South Africa when, for instance, a police force of mostly black women and men fired upon a defenseless group of mining employees that had gone to present a list of legitimate demands for fair treatment to their employer, in the process maiming and even killing some. As Majeke reminds us quoting a missionary colonist Dr. John Philip, Superintendent of the London Missionary Society, who once wrote to the British authorities in colonial South Africa:

"We must be the masters, but rule as we do in India."

And ruling over the natives as masters they sure did! Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden” at full play, no doubt.

Yet this master-slave relationship in the heart of Africa constitutes the primary source of South Africa’s protracted internal anarchy. The shadowy puppeteer behind this cauldron of internal tensions is the invisible hand of the same colonist who controls South Africa’s economy, thus bleeding Black South Africa. The scheming doppelganger of Adam Smith’s invisible hand throttles the hyoid of Black South Africa. Further, Nelson Mandela’s failure to nationalize the country’s industries particularly the mining industry, not to speak of resorting to land redistribution as a bold statement on economic justice, something denied to Black South Africa for so long, simultaneously sustains and deepens the economic and social gulf between the two communities.

The ensuing tensions between the two communities took on the acerb tone, character, and internecine contradictions of the relationship between Baasie (Zwelinzima Vulindlela) and Rosa (Rosa Burger), two interesting characters in late Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer’s classic novel Burger’s Daughter. Today Black South Africa has systematically grafted these age-old pathological, ghoulish tensions onto other black communities from other parts of the African continent. What does this say about the painful struggles of Mandela, Biko, and others to dismantle Apartheid South Africa? For sure, Biko must be turning in his grave by now and trying so hard to figure out what actually he stood for, what actually he died for.

Mandela’s lack of political action in this area of economic socialization between blacks and whites gives a causational impetus to the political instability that flares up sporadically in South Africa. The capitalist exploitation of Black South Africa via this Orwellian act of political inaction gives meaning to Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. The reality of White South Africa maintaining a firm purchase on the major economic resources of the country, Nelson Mandela’s South Africa, means that the egalitarian imperatives of social justice are placed beyond the reach of Black South Africa. For this painful legacy and betrayal of the ideals of African egalitarianism Mandela receives two statues, one at the United Nations, the other on London’s Parliament Square.

Perhaps Ntokozo Qwabe, one of the founding leaders of the Rhodes Must Fall Movement (RMFM), Steve Biko, the celebrated mind behind I Write What I Like, and Julius Malema, a founding leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), would have taken a contrarian stance on the question of structural inequalities in South Africa. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) failed to address this very question even though the TRC was not set up to look into the country’s structural inequalities. The Commission was fundamentally constituted to look into Apartheid-era atrocities and to chart a way forward a peaceful existence of co-habitation in the new South Africa. This was a step in the right direction.

I have read snippets of the report of Commission proceedings and Wole Soyinka’s scathing critique of the TRC in The Burden of Memory, the Muse of Forgiveness to understand the shortcomings of the Commission’s mandate. To a certain extent therefore, the TRC delegitimized punishment both as a powerful instrument for protecting society and as a corrective tool for a socially agreed-upon set of unacceptable behaviors. The idea of punishment as a major tool of deterrence lost some of its moral shine and institutional redoubtableness under the TRC.

This has bred impunity and made criminal behavior seem somewhat acceptable. The foundation of South African democracy is fragile on the basis of the fact that unpunished crimes committed during the Apartheid era has still made it possible for political crimes committed in the present dispensation to largely go unpunished, especially those crimes committed by the new political elite. I am talking about the level of impunity associated with the high crime of political corruption.

Political corruption kills.
And Political corruption destroys.
Thus White South Africa’s brutalizing of, in addition to inculcating its deployment of the weapon of fear, of shock and awe, against, Black South Africa during the pre-Apartheid and Apartheid days as well as the painful experiences from the continuing legacy of Apartheid has meant that, given the fact of black South Africans’ morbid and paralyzing fear of white citizens, the former can only externalize their bottled-up fury borne out of racial and economic inequality where vulnerable “foreigners,” their fellow African brothers and sisters whose forbears did so much to destroy Apartheid and brought about a new South Africa, are the ones who bear the brunt of this hugely misplaced fury.

The true provenance of their legitimate fury, White South Africa, which controls access to the heart of South Africa’s economy, is left off the hook in spite of its malevolent autocracy. In spite of these lapses in the moral character of the body politic of South Africa resulting from the philosophic and moral mandates of the TRC, the fact clearly remains that Black South Africa has been the moral conscience and voice of a geopolitical organization that was―and still is―in many a situation a useful member of the international mainstream of white privilege and white supremacy, a nation that for far too long denied a section of its citizens a claim to a legitimate humanity of blackness.This blatant and consistent repudiating of Africa’s humanity, as is the case in the African diaspora also, erodes any sense of Pan-African solidarity and Mandela’s ubuntu. What others call “the African Personality” and “the African Genius” suffer from the actuality of institutional implementation as well (Nkrumah, 1963).

Therefore overthrowing colonial education, what Woodson correctly identified as “the miseducation of the negro,” across the African world is required to bring about that revolutionary thinking which the African world needs to in order to radically transform its larger society for the common good, for colonial education impoverishes the African mind and distorts the reality of a mind that should otherwise have been conscientized enough to resist all forms of oppression, neocolonialism, inferiority complex, white supremacy, continental disintegration, and cultural genocide. Colonial education makes it possible for France’s former African colonies to remain economic slaves in the French Empire via its membership in the CFA club. An Italian politician Luigi di Maio, without mincing words, said the following about the relationship between France and her former colonies (BBC, 2019):

"The EU should impose sanctions on France and all countries like France that impoverish Africa and make these people leave, because Africans should be in Africa, not at the bottom of the Mediterranean…

"If people are leaving today it's because European countries, France above all, have never stopped colonising dozens of African countries.

"‘He said if it wasn't for Africa, France would rank 15th among world economies, not in the top six.’

"France is one of those countries that by printing money for 14 African states prevents their economic development and contributes to the fact that the refugees leave and then die in the sea or arrive on our coasts.

"If Europe wants to be brave, it must have the courage to confront the issue of decolonisation in Africa."

In one broad sense the epistemological foundations of Afrocentric education, victorious consciousness, and Afrocentric consciousness are worth marshalling against the negative forces of colonial, Eurocentric education which tend to mediocritize African psychology.

Ama Mazama’s edited volume Africa in the 21st Century; Kofi Kissi Dompere’s African Union: Pan African Foundations, The Theory of Categorial Conversion, and The Theory of Philosophical Consciencism; Cheikh Anta Diop’s African Origin of Civilization and Black Africa: The Economic and Cultural Basis for a Federated State; Molefi Kete Asante’s Revolutionary Pedagogy; Josef Ben-Jochannan’s Cultural Genocide in the Black and African Studies Curriculum; Amos Wilson’s Blueprint for Black Power: A Moral, Political and Economic Imperative for the Twenty-First Century, The Developmental Psychology of the Black Child, and Awakening the Natural Genius of Black Children; Ngugu wa Thiong’o’s Decolonizing the Mind and Something Torn and New; Kwame Nkrumah’s Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism and Africa Must Unite; and George S. Dei’s Teaching Africa: Towards a Transgressive Pedagogy provide great insights into what we can do as a people to transform the thinking of the global community of Africans as well as the image of the continent and its people.

My experiences in America position me to make an impactful contribution to this Pan-Africanist discourse. Of course for me personally the task is enormous, enormous in terms of the complex and radical language of methodology and approach, of the encompassing breadth of topical diversity of pressing questions confronting us as a species―and how, if I may add, these serious questions could be integrated into other elucidating paradigms of thought using the powerful languages of science and the social sciences. What we must do about environment degradation and radically transforming Ghana and Africa through what Nkrumah and Dompere call categorial conversion represent two of these questions. These are not easy questions to deal with.

Yet the science of climate change is impeccable although in places like Africa, to name but one, the imperatives and deadly contagion of neocolonialism, unfettered capitalism, political corruption, deforestation and desertification, colonial education, capitalist exploitation of natural resources, global warming denial, consumerism, globalization, neoliberalism, and urbanization threaten the viable implementation of Nkrumah’s and Dompere’s innovative ideas that call for integrating mathematics, the social sciences, Afrocentric thought and research methodology (Africology), science, philosophy, Egyptology, classical African civilizations, and African Personality into the thinking of Africans, for, after all, just as the market is not neutral, so too is knowledge production.

Though the activation of knowledge production largely constitutes a tendentious functionality of class and social privilege, if I may frame it this way for simplicity of philosophical articulation, our common destiny with regard to the anthropogenic bastardization of and finding effective solutions to our sublunary existence dictates that we abdicate our ideological differences and mount the moral high ground together as a species in forcefully confronting one of the most daunting, politically and emotionally charged challenges of our time. In this connection, Nkrumah (1963) was correct in his assessment that the mental make-up of a people, of any people for that matter, is “largely influenced by their system of education and the facts of their society and environment.”

Political action, consistent non-partisan agitation, and global effort therefore feed the epistemological, moral, and scientific engine of effective response. In spite of my informal familiarization with political activism in the US, I have been far from meaningfully engaging climate change via the moral edifice of political activism. My contribution to the climate change discourse has merely been limited to a smattering of armchair pontifications. I soon realized the perceived abstractness and remoteness of the effects of climate change from the intellectual environment of the grounded physicality of my person squelched my appetite for political activism.

The likes of Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and I have a lot to learn from 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

My position is that neocolonialism is a marriage of convenience and not an imposed arrangement from without and, therefore, for this reason―and this reason alone―we should opt out of this system of artificial marriage via a willed propensity for self-determination and ideological independence. On the basis of this suggestion, we must dispense with the Eurocentric notion that environmental activism and consciousness is the exclusive preserve of the white man. Wangari Maathai embodies this radical antithesis of idolized Eurocentrism, for climate justice has no color and nationality. I should also point out the earth belongs to humanity and protecting it from wanton abuse and degradation is the responsibility of all. Again, this requires re-educating the African to embrace his natural inclusivity in shaping the universal language of environmental consciousness and discourse on climate change.

Like Native Americans and indigenous peoples everywhere, the traditional religion of the African and his traditional modes of behavior and thinking have sustained the pristine character of the natural environment along the long sweeping arc of evolutionary peregrination until the advent of the industrial, capitalist greed and materialism of the West corrupted and then usurped the rationality of African traditionalism. The neocolonial negro-thinking of contemporary African leadership thus needs radical re-orienting.

This is where the theory of Afrocentricity comes in.

To sum it up, those of us who are in the United States studying, working, and accumulating experiences from various fields of academic disciplines need to keep our countries of origin in mind, in focus. This is not about dual loyalty as those of us with a vision of humanism, philanthropy, and globalism hope to see a better world where poverty and economic inequality are eradicated even if this means giving back to our countries of origin.

Nevertheless I still think going by the temperamental rhythm of Mutabaruka’s political, philosophical, and sociological enjoinder, how long one truly stays in a “white man’s land,” like in my particular case and that of several others, should be loosely contingent upon one’s level of preparation or readiness, educational and otherwise, to assume the mantle of leadership where one uses the platform of leadership to effect impactful changes in one’s country of origin.

But I wish Mutabaruka had defines for his listeners what he meant by “too long” with absolute clarity. Of course one can always avoid the pitfalls of spiritual bankruptcy, intellectual contamination, and moral corruption by doing the right things and being true to oneself, rather than by measuring one’s spiritual, intellectual, and moral growth by the sweeping ultimatum of time and the character of a place.

This brings to mind “In No Good,” a controversial song by Jamaican dialect poet and roots reggae musician Mutabaruka, on which he sang (Kwarteng, 2013):

“Let me say it without any apology…
“It no good to stay in a white man's country too long…

“I listen to the news and a black man's child gets killed by the Ku Klux Klan…

“If you're white, it's alright…If you're brown, stick around…If you're black, get back…

“Are you (black) better than us?...When you're there, you say “yessir”…When you go there, you say “a cup of tea, please”…

“When you're there, you say ‘yessir’…When you're there, you say “hey mate is getting laid”…Blacks in England, what is your plan?...

“Blacks in England check the time…Blacks in England find your land because it's no good staying in the white man's land too long…

A white man’s country? But there really is no such thing as a “white man’s country” because if this Hogarthian phrase includes America, then, I beg to differ, his position is highly debatable. America, for instance, is not technically a “white man’s country.” America is a country richly composed of a racial, ethnic kaleidoscope of Native Americans, Europeans, Africans, Asians, and everything in between.

America is a shared idea and experience which everyone contributed to―and continues to contribute to. Even if Anglo-Saxon ideas shaped its founding and political characterology, Anglo-Saxons themselves and their ideas and history were in turn influenced by Greco-Roman civilization, the latter itself an extension of ancient and classical African civilizations.

America is therefore a product of an existential civilizational symbiosis, a bold idea borne out of a rich tapestry of eclectic, ecumenical input of manifold experiences and cultures. This is why contrary to the core literary sensibility of Ralph Elison’s Invisible Man, I dare add, the late Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison’s Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination reinforces the central argument that cultural, linguistic, and ideational blackness permeates the bone marrow of white literary culture and sensibilities. Blackness is thus not an invisible, silent, or nonchalant reality in the cultural milieu of White America. In a way, the in-your-face cultural fecundity of blackness is as invasively loud and present as the omnipresent whiteness of America.

In other words the hassles, judicial discrimination, racial profiling, police brutality, and racism which black people encounter on a daily basis does not have to discourage them from continuing to contribute positively to the international community in general and to the American society in particular―as they have always done.

Nevertheless I still think going by the temperamental rhythm of Mutabaruka’s political, philosophical, and sociological enjoinder, how long one truly stays in a “white man’s land,” like in my particular case and that of several others, should be loosely contingent upon one’s level of preparation or readiness, educational and otherwise, to assume the mantle of leadership where one uses the platform of moral leadership to effect impactful changes in one’s country of origin.

But I wish Mutabaruka had defined for his listeners what he meant by “too long” with absolute clarity. My argument is that challenging circumstances and hard luck may delay the means for and strategy of actualizing one’s moral fulfilment and academic, economic expectations. Time as a fixed quantity in the Cartesian consciousness of man constitutes an effective disaffirmance of immortality, of longevity, and hence the need to operationalize one’s life goals with utmost urgency, force of will, or an inflexible sense of operational immediacy is to be expected of the industrious. This is where I find common ground with Mutabaruka’s musical sentimentality. He sees time, namely man's ultimate fate, as an arbiter of material existence.

Of course one can always avoid the pitfalls of spiritual bankruptcy, intellectual contamination, and moral corruption by doing the right things, speaking truth to power, and being true to oneself rather than measuring one’s spiritual and moral growth by the sweeping ultimatum of time and the character of a place.

After all, the concept of a “country,” a “nation,” or a “nation-state” is gradually becoming obsolete as immigration, migration, and globalization virtually dissolve national and language borders.

References
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). (2019, January 22). France Summons Italian Envoy Over Africa. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46955006

Kwarteng, F. (2013).End of Dilemma: The Tower of Babel―Part IV. Retrieved from https://www.modernghana.com/news/496328/end-of-dilemma-the-tower-of-babelpart-lv.html

Nkrumah, K. (1963). The African Genius Speech. Retrieved from http://pages.wustl.edu/afasfoundations/african-genius

Montagu, A. (1964). Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race. Cleveland, Oh: The World Publishing Company.

Rodney, W. (1974). How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Washington, DC: Howard University Press.

Woodson, G.W. (1933). The Miseducation of the Negro. Washington, D.C. Associated Publishers. The Journal of Pan African Studies, 1-94. Retrieved from https://static1.squarespace.com/static/56675bc2b204d55efa34e5c5/t/56aa3e6dfd5d080f6906a9c3/1453997678187/3.4eBookThe+Mis-Education.pdf

Francis Kwarteng
Francis Kwarteng, © 2019

This author has authored 578 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: franciskwarteng

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