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September 5, 2008

Sub-Saharan Africa is a Racist Construction

The notion of some invisible border, which divides the North of African from the South, is rooted in racism, which in part assumes that sand is an obstacle for African people.

Linguistically Africa cannot be divided into North and South.

This barrier of sand hence confines Africans to the bottom of this make-believe location, which exists neither linguistically, ethnically, politically or physically. The Sahara is a broad desert belt, which encompasses countries like Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan, and Mauritania, and hence are neither “sub” nor “North Africa.” In addition, many African communities historically have traveled freely across this European barrier set for Africans. Moreover millions of indigenous Africans are ethnic natives in Morocco, Libya, Algeria, and Egypt, so even ethnically North Africa is not a non-African territory and testimony to this is the rock art found in this region showing native Africans hunting there 10,000 years ago.

Mansa Musa famous Hajj traveled through North Africa in the 13th century so why assume Africans would be confined to this nonsensical designation called sub-Saharan Africa?. Again, Eurocentric dialectics is at play in the insatiable need to categorize and define things solely on superficial limited physical observation. Hence, sharp definitions, physical quantities are pre-emphasized in Eurocentric mental navigation of the world around.

Sub-Saharan Africa sets-up the premises for the confiscation of any “civilization” which happen to occur in African territory. These malicious definitions have been inherited by the victims of European imperialism and normalize into African language and reality. Sub-Saharan Africa is a racist byword for "primitive," a place, which has escaped advancement. Hence, we see statements like “no written languages exist in Sub-Saharan Africa.” “Ancient Egypt was not a Sub-Saharan African civilization.” Sub-Sahara serves as an exclusion, which moves, jumps and slides around to suit negative generalization of Africa .

Europeans place an emphasis on written script, and subsequent definitions of “advance” and “primitive” are rooted in this pre-concept. It can be said however that most of the world has, historically an oral tradition. However, both formulas for preserving history can be found in Africa : oral and written. However, attempts to exclude Africa from civilization have hit upon an obstacle when the Ge'ez script exists in Ethiopia . To solve this apparent contradiction the argument moves to, “it was introduced from another people,” and the new claim "they were a half-Arab people." At no point in time can Africans be allowed to be seen to have fostered anything, which Europe labels as artifacts of civilization. So either the invisible borders comes into play and civilizations are assigned to North Africa (“non-Black”) or gifts given to Africans from external non-African sources via miscegenation and conquest.

It is said that natural barriers justify the separation of North and Southern Africa, but the Sahara is only one such barrier in Africa. Ethiopia is more "cut-off" from the rest of Africa due to its mountain ranges. There are barriers due to the impassible forest of central Africa. There are also the great Southern desert belts; interestingly enough Africans have been occupying these deserts from the beginning of human history. There is no climate change when we enter Libya, there is no religious change, and we can argue there is no profound cultural changes which wouldn’t be witness moving from Ethiopia to Southern Sudan. Arabic is spoken in Djibouti just as in Sudan; all of these are South of the make-believe line. Somalia and Djibouti are part of the same political Islamic alignment (Arab League) just like many so-called Arab countries. Thus the legitimacy of Sub-Saharan Africa seems to be rooted in some more mischievous foundation.

Viewing culture from these limiting vantages-points poisons the flexibility and deeper appreciate of subtle complexities shared by these unique cultures. In a nutshell it is more obstructive, outside of science and rooted in extreme racist politics. There is more similarity between Mali culture and the culture of the nomadic Berber people than Bantu groups in the Congo . Amhara culture is radically different from say Ghana, and it can be argued to have a deeper relationship with Yemen (which it annexed in antiquity).

So a black and white view of African culture only serves racist generalizations. Historians would like to point to the unilateral influence on African culture by non-African people, never is Africa seen to be the givers of cultural influence outside of its locality. This was extended to the extreme to say Nubians offered nothing to a supposed Caucasoid Egypt. This impossible assertion means that for thousands of years there was only a unilateral cultural and technological exchange. No culture in history shows a unilateral exchange, not even the "Great British Empire," which dietary culture has been completely altered in a mere 20 years by Asian and Caribbean immigration. There is also the notion of "other" suggested in Ancient Egyptian writings, which is now being used to suggest they were of a different race to the nubians. Lopsided scholarship will always try to work outside of established human behavior. When Ethiopian art depicts the people of Southern Sudan there is an artistic difference between how Ethiopians paint themselves and how they paint "other" Africans: This doesn’t mean Ethiopians are not African. Ghanaians do the same thing. Ethnic differences do not mean racial differences. Source


sable said...

I completely agree with you here. The word "Sub-Saharan" is indeed a racist term and I refuse to use it. What I also can't stand is the term "Black African." I notice many Africans are now hyphenating themselves as if African doesn't in itself mean black. When it does.

sable said...

I completely agree with you here. The word "Sub-Saharan" is indeed a racist term and I refuse to use it. What I also can't stand is the term "Black African." I notice many Africans are now hyphenating themselves as if African doesn't in itself mean black. When it does.


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