Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Of ‘Black’ and ‘Negro’

Of ‘Black’ and ‘Negro’

On Monday night (Feb. 16), during an interview with me on Drive Time Live (HOT 102 FM in Jamaica) about my new book Revelations on Ras Tafari, host June Hines joined Rasta poet Mutabaruka in expressing mild disgust with my use of Negro as a synonym for Black in the context of the discussion and more so my use of certain craniofacial features to describe who a Black person is.

Let Muta and June ponder the words of two celebrated Afrocentrists, Cheik Anta Diop and Chinweizu and get over themselves.

Diop says, “Anticipating the agreement of all logical minds, I call Negro a human being whose skin is black; especially when he has frizzy hair…”[ The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality? 1974, 136].  In a footnote (n. 2, 288) to this use of the term Negro, Diop says, “The probability of encountering men with black skin and woolly hair, without any other ethnic feature common to Negroes, is scientifically nil…[my emphasis]”

The celebrated Nigerian polymath Chinweizu, in his 1987 book Decolonising the African Mind, contends on page 83,

Herodotus, “father of history” among the Greeks, not only acknowledged the antiquity of Egyptian civilization, and its having served as the civiliser of the Greeks; he also gave his eye-witness testimony that the ancient Egyptians were black skinned and wooly [sic] haired.  Aristotle, though in an insulting vein, supports Herodotus on the race of the Egyptians when he remarked that the Egyptians and Ethiopians were cowards because of their “excessively black colour”. All of which, would make the Egyptians blacks/negroes.

Chinweizu continues later in his book to say with unintended application to Muta and June, “Those who are squeamish about being called black or negro are free to substitute the term African, provided they recognise the equivalence of the terms, and use them correctly.  After all, an African is defined as a negro, a member of the black race, a native of Africa.  Thus, a white African is a contradiction in terms. In particular, Arabs, being whites native to Asia; and Anglo/Boers, being whites native to Europe, are not Africans, whatever their pretensions, and they cannot legitimately be included in an African or Pan-African organisation.” [p.169]

Those who wish to see my comments on these quotations should consult Appendix I (pages 64-87) of my new book,  Revelations on Ras Tafari





by Rev. Clinton Chisholm





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