Viewpoint

October 28, 2013

The Devil Was the First Ethnocentric

The Devil Was the First Ethnocentric

ta Benga, a Congolese pygmy, posed at the Bronx zoo in 1906.

By Peregrino Brimah

Passover Haggadah – The Fall Of Satan: Satan, the greatest of the angels in heaven, with twelve wings, instead of six like all the others, refused to pay heed to the behest of God, saying, “Thou didst create us angels from the splendor of the Shekinah, and now Thou dost command us to cast ourselves down before the creature which Thou didst fashion out of the dust of the ground!” God answered, “Yet this dust of the ground has more wisdom and understanding than thou.” Quran – Chapter 7:12: [ Allah ] said, “What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?” [Satan] said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.”

The story goes that man proved himself over “super” Satan by his “wisdom and understanding.” He rose above via an ethos of knowledge, intellect and inspiration, being able to name the animals by God’s guidance which the tribalist Satan couldn’t.

This is the first account in narrated history of discriminatory judgment and a sense of superiority based on racial attributes. The devil was the first racist or ethnocentric. He was the first individual to demand and desire preferential roles simply due to his perceptible nature. And ever since, those who desire, demand and think they deserve some form of unique treatment, opportunities or insulation simply because of the color of their skin, their social class or their hereditary origins, take after Lucifer.

Early evolutionists like Charles Darwin fueled racist ideology. Promoting the multi-origin concept of human beginnings, the evolutionists promulgated the idea that Black and White man had separate origins and development. Darwin really believed Blacks were more primitive than Whites, an Ape-like species en route extinction. His “science” aided much of the colonial conquest and derogatory slavery Africa was subjected to.

Ota Benga, the Congolese Mbuti pygmy who in 1906 was put on display in Bronx zoo alongside apes, reminds us of the reality of racial thinking. The New York Times at the time, stated: “We do not quite understand all the emotion which others are expressing in the matter … It is absurd to make moan over the imagined humiliation and degradation Benga is suffering. The pygmies … are very low in the human scale…” On March 20, 1916, Ota Benga took his life in America.

ta Benga, a Congolese pygmy, posed at the Bronx zoo in 1906.

Ota Benga, a Congolese pygmy, posed at the Bronx zoo in 1906.

Today, science recognizes the recent single-origin hypothesis (RSOH) of man, all having a common ancestor, “Mitochondrial Eve,” with race being no more than skin deep. But irreversible damage has already been done. The fortune of learning about gun powder from the Arabs or Chinese and the infectious, deadly germs they carried helped the White race conquer Africa and embed through colonization and slavery, a rather intractable sense of inferiority in its peoples.

White ladies’ swishing their hair in front of Black slaves is attributed to the desire of slaves for straight hair over their natural nappy curls. Madam CJ Walker developed the hot comb to straighten her hair, later relaxers were developed, and today we have horse tail extensions, synthetic attachments and real hair from shrines in India.

Black women still suffer from the feelings of inferiority based on their nature. Skin bleaching is another consequence of the history of colonial racism. Common in Africa, the Caribbean Islands and Black America is a preference for light skinned males. Many Island women are happy to share a single fair skinned Black male to father their children, rather than to have a dark-skinned good man all to themselves. Many Black men are likewise attracted to the fairer skinned female.

Racism and ethnocentrism is a serious and very dangerous problem. People feeling and portraying difference and superiority based on inherited phenotypes, leaves those who lack these particular phenotypes at their mercy and victims of their torture.

So is it wrong to feel proud of your race or ethnic affiliation?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with ethnic pride; or racial pride. We can be proud of being White, Black, Red or other. We can be proud of being Jewish, Arab, Gao, Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Berber, Ijaw, Hutu or Zulu. The problem arises when we bring down others of other ethnicities as Lucifer did, simply because they are not one of “us.” The problem comes when we feel we merit certain accommodations and opportunities merely because of those phenotypic appearances that others of other groupings are not recognized for. The problem comes when we feel that simply based on our ancestry, we are more worthy. The problem arises when we band behind those who look like us and war against those who do not, not based on their decency, honesty or virtue, but just because. When we oppress others based purely on ethnic origin, we are ethnocentric. We have put our ethnic group at the center and all others are cast out.

There are things we can change and there are things we cannot. Virtue can be learned. Education can be obtained. Even religion can be adopted. But race, ethnic origin, these things are fixed and can never be changed. When we oppress others or cast them out of our communities merely based on things that are no more than skin and history deep, we are condemning them to misery and suffering for no just reason.

If we believe so much in uniqueness and indemnity of our race, what do we think of those who are a mix of our race and “theirs?” Recognizing we are a non-tribal people, with so many intermarriages. Where do we wish to throw them? Where do the Obama’s go? It is still sad that in the US, the one-drop rule still applies; this is why we regard Obama, a half-Black and half-White man as a Black man. He is mixed. Many of us are mixed. Genetic studies keep exposing just how mixed most of the world is. Israel was referred to as “little Eden” in Steve Olson’s “Mapping the Human Genome” book, because therein are found almost all genotypes of all races on the planet. The founder and CEO of the world’s most valuable brand—Apple Inc., late Steve Jobs, son of John Jandali is a Syrian by blood. One has to ask, what does race really mean in the context of the world?

How would it be if we focused on the things we have in common, rather than harping on what sets us apart? Race, ethnicity should be like school teams, only valuable for progressive, competitive sport and not a nidus for war. Don’t we all shed the same red blood and feel hunger the very same way? And for those of us who accept transfusions, when we need blood, do we ever ask “whose blood is that?”

Some of us look forward to a world where there are no fences. Where all nations are merely nations for governance purposes and not to segregate or separate. Where there is free, no-visa travel from country to country. Where man is recognized and qualified of “superior race” by virtue of his value, his skill, his morality and his uprightness and not the color of his skin or from whence his father hailed.

A Black man whose father hails from Kenya and bears two Arab-Muslim and a Luo name, is the president of the United States. Would we accommodate a Barack, let alone let him head our village? I think this is something we should think about.

Much of the world’s problems stem from the unreserved advantage, oppression and impunity based on race, ethnicity, class and other sectional demarcations. And the devil rules this domain.

Man, Why Not Let Wisdom And Understanding Be The Features That Set You Apart.

Dr. Peregrino Brimah wrote from [email protected]; Twitter: @EveryNigerian