Black Slaves in 16th-17th Century Japan: Nanban 南蛮
The period of the Nanban (“Southern Barbarian”) in Japan 南蛮貿易時代 Nanban bōeki jidai, from 1543 to 1614, is named such to mark the arrival of the first Europeans to Japan and the ensuing establishing of certain relations of power and culture.
The Portuguese arrived earlier in China and Southeast Asia. Of course, this was the period in the most recent memory, of black bodies arriving in Japan from the “outside.” They arrived as slaves to the Portuguese and Spanish, then the British and Americans. The bodies were not only “African” we think today.
There were black bodies as slaves that were not only from the African continent, but also Gujrati (South Asia) and Malaysian as well, among others. Not only this. We must understand that from these places I just mentioned, there were different kinds of “black,” different hues and heritages. Creole people, for instance, are an example of one kind among others. We must remember that there were Black indigenous Asians as well, who were written about and depicted BEFORE the arrival of these slaves linked with the Europeans, who lived in Southeast Asia, China and Taiwan–their present-day place-names.
In popular consciousness, trained by our national textbooks and cultures, the black body has been portrayed in a variety of ways, including absent. In absence, certain assumptions of nation, self, community, race and ethnicity, are often controlled by dominant forces of thinking, doing, being.
Black Asians have existed for centuries. Certain black persons may have come from other lands as traders and settlers before the arrival of the Nanban slave blacks. Most of these records are gone. Often, African nationalists would claim that all Black people originated on the continent we now call “Africa.” People have forgotten that continents have changed, sunk, shifted, arisen through time. The search for single and reduced origins is a modern invention of the mind. It is problematic when we attempt to work with diversity and social justice today. In thinking these thoughts on this post, I want to point to the slave trade.
The image of African slaves, and the history of Blackness today, is often dominantly portrayed through the lens of a Black Atlantic slave trade. Paul Gilroy’s writings and thought are important on this topic. However, there lies the open diversity of other spaces-places-times outside of that reality and timeline, experience and identity in their diversity.
The Black Pacific holds a myriad histories. It is another way of translating a counter-memory to the idea of a “Pacific” or “Asia,” which by its naturalizing forms, leave out the fact that we are talking most often about “The White Pacific.”
The Portuguese slaves were not what people commonly think of when thinking of “slaves.” The images of the Black Atlantic slave trade, the series “Roots” in the United States, and other books, depict a singular kind of slave in chattels, in loin cloth, toiling. This is real. I do not say that it does not exist as real and history. But what I am saying is that there were and are many many different kinds of slaves.
The slaves that arrived in Japan were not only work horses of heavy labor. Some were clerics, translators and interpreters, guides. Some spoke Japanese and perhaps other Asian languages fluently. From the accounts I have read, some of the slaves were well-respected and the Japanese took kindly to them. This is a part of the idea of Blackness in Japanese history. It is different from how blackness arrives in consciousness in the United States, or Germany, or in Kenya or South Africa, India and Sri Lanka or Kurdistan. It also challenges pervasive notions of “natural” and essentialized notions of a universal Asian racism against Blacks. Racism is learned.
Black guides helped Commodore Perry when he arrived at Japan, to guide him to the correct places and people. It is also known that when the Americans a la Commodore Perry, arrived in Japan, they first went to Okinawa. The Okinawans are NOT JAPANESE. Japanese colonized the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa). But while Commodore Perry traveled to the Japanese islands from Okinawa, one of his men raped an Okinawan girl. The locals then murdered that man. Black slaves that were at this latter “revenge” event, apparently, did not stop it.
What is also true is that the Japanese saw how the Portuguese, Spanish, Brits and Americans treated the Black bodies. This then, puts a first initial “stamp” into the people of the Japanese islands, traveling mostly by stories and rumors across Japan, as to how whites treated blacks. They were not quarantined (although it is written that there were slaves’ quarters) in Japan, and it can be imagined that there might have been offspring born of relationships between some of them and Japanese women.
More research needs to be done for this period in regards to the slaves themselves. The paintings depicted above in the slide show I show on this post, show slaves fanning and taking notes and accompanying their Portuguese overlords. Black as inferior, then, is an early cultural memory, now globalized through the reach of the colonial enterprise, alive today in our minds and systems of consideration, priorities, concern, and “human” universalism. Hypodescent is intensified via European race science moving through general populations, then being proliferated through colonial contact and settler and colonized communities, then combining with local Asian forms of colorisms that were most often formed through caste-system notions of color and hierarchy based on indoor/outdoor work and modalities.
To deconstruct racisms, we must look at history and the different forms in different locales, then face accountability and use ethics and creativity to shift the operation of race-making and racism and the ways we view difference-in-action in ourselves and others, contexts by contexts.
Nanban trade info at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanban_trade
What a thoughtful post. It’s interesting that European took enslaved Africans to the Far East, however, isn’t the Black presence in Eastern and Southern Asia a lot older than the Atlantic Slave Trade (Maafa) and the Eastern African Slave trade, and goes back as into Antiquity. There is this stigma with looking at the Global Black Presence through the historical lens of the ‘Slave Trade’. Africans were not always slaves. in fate, prior to the 16th century…Africans were by large, a free and prosperous and wealthy continent respective of the many different tribes and clans and Kingdoms. This is why I intentionally used ‘enslaved’ rather than slaves. Enslave is more appropriately describes a free person forced into serviced rather than a person/people born into servitude. Black people were the first inhabitants of the Pacific….the negritos of the South Pacific are a testament to the truth right?!!!
tell me…what do you think of Runoko Rashidi historical notes on the Global African Presence?
http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/shogun.html (Black Presence in Early Japan)
http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/melanesia.html (Blacks in the Pacific)
I look forward to reading your thoughts on this
Thanks for your kind comments and also your questions.
Many of your points reinforce my points exactly, as far as indigenous black Asians existing before the arrival of the slave trade cultures into Asia. Also, the enslaved people were not only from the African continent. Notions of single ethnic nations and cultures are largely fictional, as the world has clashed, intermingled, traded and procreated through centuries. The main issues are ones of power and the writing of imagination and action. Our national and cultural identities are controlled by contested notions and refusals. So it continues in dominance/resistance patterns.
I think Runoko Rashidi is a very powerful and needed scholar. However, my one critique of his writing/thought is that often he makes sweeping comments that assume certain things about black bodies and their identities. Blackness in relation to white supremacy is different from its relationship with “yellow” supremacy, as Bernard S. Lucious reminds us. Black bodies are often rendered only as “Black” by many people in the academy that I know. Any notion of a mixed-Black identity is consumed under the victim thinking of many black thinkers, and is reduced to “you are black, why are you saying you are also Chinese?” or some such criticism.
Many self-identified mulattos studying in ethnic studies circles, for instance, have told me that many professors have told them that they are a shade of Black and that they are part of the Black family. Any thought of being white or other colors, is spiraled within and into a singular blackness. From where I stand, this thinking comes from the colonial project and needs further investigation. In honoring Black Pacific peoples, to language them only as “black” is a homogenizing, totalizing project that needs intervention. I am not saying that Runoko Rashidi does or does not do this. What I am saying is that much of Rashidi’s writings need to be nuanced so that diversities of bodies are not made into black, white, yellow, red, brown–the language of colonists. Decolonization is a struggle that all of us, no matter how “expert” we may sound, must share in.
I certainly understand your point about sweeping comments, and of course one should always exercise caution with generalizations of any kind. Of course, slaves came from many different continents, for example, white slaves were taken to North Africa during the Moorish Conquest of Spain in the 8th century. It’s also true that people of the world have intermingled, clashed, and procreated throughout history. This is not something I dispute in anyway or fashion, however, I only digress with the eurocentric view of black bodies and their global presence being limited to ‘slavery’. Race and racism is a relatively recent social construct that dates back to the 1400’s (15th century) which resulted from an ideological, structural and historic stratification process by which the population of European descent, through its individual and institutional distress patterns, intentionally has been able to sustain, to its own best advantage, the dynamic mechanics of upward or downward mobility (of fluid status assignment) to the general disadvantage of the population designated as non-white (on a global scale), using skin color, gender, class, ethnicity or nonwestern nationality as the main indexical criteria used for enforcing differential resource allocation decisions that contribute to decisive changes in relative racial standing in ways most favoring the populations designated as ‘white/light skinned’. This is a true social/scientific definition of what ‘white supremacy’ is, which i got from http://www.euroamerican.org/Library/Definitions_Racism.asp
The catalyst for white supremacy was of course racialized slavery e.g The African Holocaust (Trans Atlantic Slave Trade), but not only have people, nations and lands been colonized with eurocentrism, so has history it’s self. People of the Pre-Colonial and Ancient world identified by their clan or tribe, nation or serfdom. Romans identified as Roman…not white, and even Rome had a Black emperor: Septimius Severus who was of Moorish birth..the term “Moor” is Latin in origin refers a person of ‘dark skin’. Indeed, even in Shakespere writings, he uses the word ‘Moor’ to refer to black people’
Anthropological studies confirm that the Negritos are indeed Indigenous people of South Asia (Proto-Australoid) who represent the first wave of modern human migration out Africa. There is an general consensus among most in the scientific and anthropological community that all modern human beings have a common ancestor out of Africa who migrated into what is now India, Australia, Western Asia and as far East as mainland China and Japan, and another major migration wave into Europe, and that this is reflective of the fact Africans have the largest Bio-Diversity than any other race, and this irrespective of intermingling. Black skin/Black Bodies and Brown people did not have the negative connotations that prevail modern society in the Pre-Colonial world. Considering the stigma in mainstream Asian cultures about ‘dark skin’, Interracial couplings (especially those were the partner is ‘black’) and the reverence for pale/light skin in modern Asian societies, did the perception in dark skin change in Asia in after contact with Eurocentric/Western idea’s and practices of a post-1492 social stratification process in European and African relations? I guess my point and real question is…how does ‘yellow’ supremacy differs from white supremacy and what was the catalyst for it?
While I really do understand your criticism of Runoko Rashidi, I contend that Rashidi’s work and studies on the Global African Community stands to challenge Eurocentric Historians who would have these same people (Africans and their descendants) believe that Africans were ‘slaves’ who Europeans brought religion and civilization too. Rashidi ventured to put to rest the myth that “Africans have done nothing”. This he does from a Pan-African perspective, with respect to the diversity of the Global African Community IMO.
I myself have a grandfather that was Native American, and a great grandfather that was either white or biracial, however being identified as ‘black’ or being considered part of the black family has never had negative connotations to me. Because people are treated bases on 3rd party perceptions, and because “Race” is relevant in modern societies regardless of it being a social construct, if you look ‘Black’, or meet any of it’s criteria, you will be regarded as such in a country/nation/society that that is socially stratified by race. In my personal experiences, it has been those who have negative connotations about being mulatto (more specifically half black) sometimes are the individuals who want to put distance between themselves and the ‘black family’, not understanding that even with Black peoples diverse cultures and religions we are ‘family’ because we have a shared history in the struggle against Slavery, Colonialism and Western Imperialism…this is what Pan Africanism represents and pretty much the thesis of Runoko Rashidi’s work. Being unified political body is not a challenge or hindrance to ones cultural identity. Pan Africanism is taking a hold in places of South Asia where people are beginning take more pride in their black heritage and in their black bodies, if the Black Panthers of India are any example of a challenge to that nations status quo/caste system which has maintained the stability of its social order through race-based fascism.
I apologize for the long reply…being a Sociology major…sometimes these matters are hard to simplify. And yes..I agree, Decolonization is a struggle that we all must part take in, regardless of our expertise or nationality…and being from a politically active family that participated in the Civil Rights movement/struggles….I know from shared memories that struggle and strength is found it unity, and there can’t be unity if we can’t identify with each other.
Also, check you inbox…sorry for the late replay 🙂
Peace and Respect.
Thanks again, I love these conversations when they are of reflection, thinking/re-thinking, sharing, respect of difference.
I certainly agree with you as well on your points. I understand being “black” is not necessarily negative. From your comments, it seems you thought that this was my point in my example. If you look at what I said, it is not that something is positive or negative. When a Black person says that a persons should NOT say they are Black-Japanese, they are practicing homogenizing domination. A Black person can be black and…. Black persons who use the tactic of homogenizing all blacks without allowing for a person to name themselves, is an act of domination and hegemonizing. And yes, some mixed people, mulattos, mestizos, and mixed-Asians I know and others, want to distance themselves from blackness. It is a form of internalized oppression, which was my point.
So the prioritizing of blackness, as I was hinting at, is often a reactionary stance against global whiteness and white supremacy. As a reaction (instead of a self-reflexive responsive) often colonizes others with its own prioritization, In resistance, how can we resist differently instead of with our inherited models? At the same time, in hating being black, or distancing oneself from blackness, this is also internalized racism and often a hidden form of self-hatred. All of these things cannot be psychologized, as psychology must be put into social and historical/cultural contexts (which it doesn’t in the dominant modes today), and seen as further contestations that we must enter into.
I understand the acts of distancing from blackness, or not acknowledging identities other than African–as ‘black,’ are also forms of internalized racism. IT is relatively easy for some people to distance themselves in a world that demotes color, by-in-large. Usually, people will not change or shift unless something is at stake. I talk of the Black Pacific as a pointer to complex struggles that continue to ensue and haunt us. To place black ahead of others, or to place white or yellow ahead, may be norms in cultures and nations, but must be shifted to allow more honoring forms of empowerment and identity.
Being unified is fantastic and that is the point of why I write and think and become active in communities. But when unification requires a non-acknowledgement or a hierarchy that invisiblizes an other, is something we must fight. Hegemonizing is practiced often, by people in targeted communities. It’s enough of living with the relationships forged through colonial forms of identity-making. But we cannot ignore them or degrade them. I am black, I am Japanese. I am Chinese, I am Austrian. I am Cherokee. I should be able to see this all, not have someone tell me that I should just be black. On the reverse, if I deny being black, this is also something that would need shifting. Of course I never do that. But one thing, one origin, one reason, one starting place—this is a process of thinking that must be gotten rid of. Origin stories are dangerous and violent. To empower ourselves in our blackness, we should acknowledge–as you say– black that is also not-black. In difference, we can be unified. In sameness we move toward future battles and resentments, and fascisms and totalitarianisms of identity and control.
I defy these later things and move to honor differences, not consume things under black, white, yellow, red, brown. But this does not mean, however, as most Americans are “diseased” by dualistic thinking, that diversity does away with blackness. Being Japanese does not dilute Blackness because “Black” is a political signifier. In England, everyone not white, is Black, mostly South Asians. Africans are called African or negro. Universal ways of talking about our heritages always kills the ‘other.’ So I agree with you, and also wanted to reiterate my points.
I believe in the unity of differences, but not all people will be unified or want to be. Why does “Africa” become prioritzed? For some, it is something problematic. Too much history has paced. Racializing and colorism
Thanks so much!
Sorry for the long-windedness 🙂
Please, don’t apologize for writing so much, I enjoy reading your perspective and thoughts. It’s much needed food for thought.
I was never questioning how one prioritized their identity, and I’ve never heard a fellow Pan-Africanist and any other activist make such criticism about a person who Identifies as Japanese and Black, or Black and……but i won’t doubt that perhaps you have come across these sentiments. Criticism is usually held for those who have a resentment towards black and being half black. However i was only pointing out that when it comes to Africa, it’s seems to only be problematic for those who fear and harbor negative connotations associated with the continent, and usually this is by way of ignorance of the many different cultures in Africa (which is a continent, not a country) and the cultural influence these different cultures have carried around the world. This is something we are in agreement on….however…it still seems that there’s an assumption that ‘blackness’ has no diversity…this is what i think we may be in disagreement with. I use Black and African interchangeably, but thats not to negate ones mix heritage. Africa itself is full of bio-diversity, and in some countires, mostly do to colonialism, there is indeed mix heritages. I think we are talking about political affirmation, and not so much cultural indentity of individuals
In the west, enslaved Africans from many different ethnic groups, clans, and tribes who all spoke different languages, however, yes, due to the need to survive in a hostile environment of RACE based slavery within the larger scope of whiteness/white supremacy, Africans of of different tribes and languages unified with each other irrespective of their ethnicity and language to organize uprisings on plantations. In response to this, plantation owners used the tactic of division and dis-unity to prevent slave uprisings. This is why families were broken up and sold to different plantations, and owners were careful not to have too many slaves of the same language on plantations. In this regard…slavery was a failure. Because African Americans in the most adverse circumstances still had enough resolve to forge new ways communicating with each other, and form an identity to retain different aspects of African culture, and segregation only intensified this identity, regardless of the countless biracial children Black mothers had as a result of the systematic rape of black women. In general…white breed with black women to create more slaves when the importation of Africans was outlawed by the British High Court. So I see your point on identities that are forged through colonialism, Africans in America are probably the greatest example of that. We identity with the continent as a whole because we have no way of knowing what country or ethnic group our ancestors may have been from as records were not kept on a enslave Africans origins, and because of the systematic oppression of African cultures and identity as their were many, and only through DNA testing can an AA pin point where their ancestors originated on the Continent…and many African Americans have undertaken this testing and can now point to an ethnic group in West Africa and say ‘my ancestors come from there’ and take pride in that. And our diversity is celebrated…. So, i would respectfully disagree with the statement that >Black persons who use the tactic of homogenizing all blacks without allowing for a person to name themselves, is an act of domination and hegemonizing.< I don't see such tactics being used, however this is probably base on perspective. Political homogenizing doesn't mean that a person can't make a name for themselves. I think the real issue is that people do not see the diversity of 'blackness', and these are usually people who are half black, but have had very little contact or knowledge of the 'black' community, it's complexities, and varying cultures. It's not that diversity takes away from blackness..it's that the two are often considered out side of each other instead of within the same context. It seems words like 'diversity', and "universal" are used in a certain context that induce concepts that use whiteness or near whiteness as the default.
Slavery in the Americas was different from Colony to Colony. In America, there were laws passed to prevent alliances and racial mixing between Native Americans and Africans, and later the Chinese labors, on the belief that the mixing of the two served as the greatest threat to the institution of slavery. At the time it was believed that the two mixing would create a mongrel race that would challenged the superiority of whites. Again..their efforts were by large a failure, Native Americans and Africans (and sometimes Asians) did copulate together and in the Caribbean, they constantly raided plantations, and even built communities for runaways from plantation life. They are called the Maroons, however, I've never met a Maroon who disassociated themselves from being Indigenous AND Black or Asian. Being that the indigenous and culture was pretty much absorbed by the Africans who continued to arrive on slave ships…the Maroons today would hardly call themselves anything but black. This is how Maroons self identify… in fact to be "Maroon" specifies the native and black identity.
In the Caribbean and in the French colony of Haiti where slaves out number whites, White plantation owners intentionally breed with black women (who had no rights to their bodies to contest, so it was always rape) to create a mulatto class of free people of color (in french: Les Gens De Couleur Libres) who was to serve as a buffer between the white minority and the black majority. Many of these mulattoes identified and sympathized with the owning of black bodies, and many of them did own black bodies and were as cruel, or even more so than white plantation owners. Unification in Black communites have never required a non-acknowledgement of ones identity or name at the activism level, however, Black people in the west are only to familar with these divisive tactics of creating 'racial categories' for Africans based on their perceived whiteness. The Genocide in Rwanda between the Hutu and the Tutsi's is an example of dividing Africans up into racial groups and pitting one against the other…Black politics do not follow this line of thinking in general, and find it to be unhealthy and a determent to political unification. With all it's diversity, African nations see strength in political homogenization against Western Imperialism which is also homogeneous in structure. Pan-Africanism was born on the African continent by freedom fighters from diverse ethnicities and tribes who so the need for Africans to overcome ethnic and tribal fighting which has been largely instigated by European Colonial administrations for the purpose of exploiting the natural resources of a particular region.
I understand why you point to the Black Pacific…and I've been very interest in the unique struggles there..however, i see something that is a constant in all these struggles….and that is internalized notions of white supremacy or ideological whiteness. As i stated in my first reply…when and how did white and paleness come to be a marker of purity, and beauty in Asia?….When prior to the racialized slavery, ideals of white privilege and superiority did not exist in Asia. How did Asians come to think that their eyes were something that had to be 'fixed' with surgery? My query was about why limit the of the presence of black bodies in Asia though the explaination of Slavery when black people…weather they be called Africans, black or otherwise had a presence in Ancient Asian Civilizations and not as SLAVES. This is the real crux of the matter and the questions that i have…..
Ah yes! Great questions. To Americans, slavery is uppermost. In my postings across the entire site (not just this post), it should be clear that racialization is a problem. African-Americans, especially, make things about race, when –for instance– I have repeatedly written my thoughts on how in Asia, it was not about race, it was about color related to indoor and outdoor work — elitism. The “other” had to work more outside, farm, carry goods, and be on the dangerous outposts in warfare. They had darker skin not because of their “race.” They may, and often were, however, another ethnic group considered “outsider” or more primitive. But this is not the same as European race science and its categorization of the globe’s people, presenting white-skins on top.
I think your point and questions on black bodies other than slavery, is well-taken. This is why empowerment of black people comes from excavations of histories long-buried. But often, the way we do it, is to use examples of comparing “civilizations” of technology and large buildings and “sophistication” as “proof” of life and dignity. Aren’t persons in villages living with dignity and beauty? Why do people want to explore self-pride through mirror-images of what Europeans and Americans (colonial and industrial market-economy and manifest destiny ideas) consider “worthy.” Why do Africans and African-Americans render life wanting to “prove” their worthiness through the ideas coming from whiteness and global dominance?
But your question is also my question. What was the presence of blacks in Asia before the arrival of slaves? Well we know that the Ainu (which were not ‘black’ necessarily) and other groups in Japan, and the Negrito groups in South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific isles, have been targets of genocidal practices, ethnic cleansings, displacements (i.e. urbanization and land grab), and demotion in educational institutional images, as a way to give whatever current form of rulership a way to PROVE A REASON FOR THEIR VIOLENCE. Convincing selves that self is superior to this “other” must be done in order to make the destroy-able body. Some people willingly go there, while others take time, or outright hide from any accountability to their community neighbors participating in such things.
Forgetting is a passive term for it. I call it REFUSAL. I think refusal is more prevalent in imperialism and nation-building more than anything. Some of it was FORCED, by a ruling or more powerful group or systems, while others forced THEMSELVES in order to survive. Participation in refusal is the reason you and I and others, are attempting to excavate and jog our ancestral memories.
Of course, my caution is what I’ve already written: to not re-do the colonial, imperial forms, the civilizational forms, of rendering power and significance and dignity in its mirror-image. Life doesn’t have to be big and full of armies and shiny structures and complex religions in order to be worthy. The ideas of progress and evolution contribute to these notions and many people unconsciously internalize these ideas as natural and therefore– it is NOT thought of, deconstructed, problematized. Science is often, indeed, an unconscious God, as much as some fervent religious people may render their religious God in certain ways and attach themselves violently to this image and defend it to death.
I am also, like you, interested in pre-slave black Asia. But we understand them to have been killed and displaced into jungles. Often we are told that these “timeless” primitive jungle people in the Philippines or Guam or Japan or Korea or Thailand (and of course on all continents today), have been like this for ages. This is also a question I have. Often, westerners who write about people like this, do not understand that sometimes, they lived like this because they were pushed out and away from their homelands and MADE to live like this to survive and have done quite well. Some groups voluntarily did this in order to not participate in the “others” who willingly took on the ways of urbanization and industry instead of living with land, ecology, each other. So history needs to be excavated along many lines. Also, it’s not a surprise — that we understand history to be “lost.” Subsequent leaders throughout history, would displace bodies living differently and often viewed as expendable. But this was not always done only by color of body. Often, they were the same, but the lines were drawn along different divisions, not color or language, or spiritual god, or color of eyes or other things.
Okay, all of these ideas can’t be explained in these things. I just wanted to respond in agreement. There is a Zen Buddhist saying that I love, which I will close this response with: “Things are not as they seem, nor are they otherwise.”
Ahhhh….I really appreciate the time you have taken to anwer my questions. Now I have a better understanding of my experiece in japan with xenophobes lol. I didn’t realize the stima with brown and dark brown sking had to do with elitism….even in the day and age people are stuck in an outdated thought process….meaning…people haven’t realized that people are actually born with brown skin?????
What a stimulating discussion we have ggoing here. I had a japanese lady tell me sometime I was pretty “for a black girl, no monkey face”
also….your question about why Africans and AA feel the need to prove their accomplishments in a historical context…..like I said before….history was also colonizes here in thhe states and in Africa. In public schools, in both places….Blacks are taught we had no culture, religion, or societal oranization before the presence of europeans. I would recommend reading the miseducation of the negro by dr carter g woodson. Self hatred goes deep…and runs hand in hand with a “slave mentality”…its not about proving ourselves to whhites…but more to eachother. No, there is nothing wrong with villages of the sort…just creating a balance to all thhe negative propaganda about africa and africans. I get to this in more detail when I get home however.
Peace and respect
Yes. I didn’t have a “question” about Africans needing to prove themselves. Some African-Americans do. Some don’t. Blacks are taught those things and history needs to be excavated. But history is “gone.” By what route do targeted peoples “recover” things that are gone and lost? My point is that in recovering, in healing, in reckoning, in acknowledging, how do targeted people REPEAT dominant patterns that then turn against others? I don’t think Africans need to “prove” anything. I also did not say that YOU said that there was something wrong. My statements are not about “you.” My comments are about diverse strategies and psychologies that people have undertaken. You may or may not share in certain strategies. However, it seems clear to me that your own fight to “prove” African-ness and Blackness, is uppermost. My point is not that this is bad or good. As my whole entire argument states, we have to deconstruct with the question: WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS of our truths and methods? If Blacks repeat what whites have done, to overrun people like myself with “your’re Black” — and other such admonishments, to command, to dictate, to invisiblized diversities, then it is the SAME as whiteness and white supremacy. Undertaking self-empowerment means that we must co-create together, new ways of acknowledging and recovering without REPEATING tactics of the masters. I don’t think anything more needs to be said about this, except that I do NOT like those Africanists who tell other blacks about themselves. There are diverse histories. We don’t need yet more colonizing methods. What we need is CO-CREATING strategies. In the US, there are those from other countries whose blackness is not informed as such. What is being done BETWEEN BLACK PEOPLES and people of color which creates more problems due to lack of a RE-LANGUAGE, a Re-Thinking, a re-structuring of our minds??
I am also one who is excavating and researching and thinking into history. I do refuse a Blackness that ERASES other histories in the same location. I think we have to GO into history to excavate– to see the HISTORICAL PRESENT. BUT WE CANNOT GO BACK and I don’t want to go back. The past was not better. Certain elements of our past are ways we must come to our selves, our power, our honor. But if it’s more of something that is based on victimhood and the necessity to override in the name of a prioritizing of blackness over other aspects of life, it becomes dangerous and I critique that and deconstruct it and shift it. Make not mistake, I am African-American as well. But I”m also other things, as are all Africans and African-Americans. We’ve come through histories that are contradictory and contested. No one has a cornerstone on some TRUTH. There is no universal truth. Anyone who posits a truth— which means that another idea would be considered “false” or “lower”– would enttiled themselves to dominance. I refuse it. I believe–always– Co-creating, investigating, admitting, and to do away with colonial dominance in our thinking, especially as subaltern peoples. But this does NOT block anyone’s efforts to recover and heal and empower. Empowerment can be democratic. This is my point.
So I”m not disagreeing with you, but it seems you read what I am saying and assume I am negating African-American history. I have been a scholar for thirty years. it is a long journey. We never know everything and we know practically nothing really. We use and interpret. But for a better world, I don’t want any one group “on top.” WHile the structure of “The New Jim Crow” is alive and well in our present US, what are African-Americans doing with each other? Even as we tell each other to be proud of some of our heritage, some don’t care. What do we do? And as I mentioned, it’s not about white supremacy anymore, located in white people. Whiteness is a transnational phenomenon that is not about race, but often about ethnicity and caste/class. It is reinforced by our global system. This is the crux of our issue. Shall we continue to form African or Pan-African American, or Pan-African notions of resistance? I think W.E.B. Dubois had these wonderful questions while he thought of Japan as a leader in the world political realm in the fight against white supremacy. But this crumbled as some of the most violent and virulent nationalists in Japan began to govern its armies to increasingly mutilate all around it and were even willing to sacrifice Japan into total death for the sake of itself. The US is very transnational. I agree with you. We must educate people on our histories. But then what? Even as we are proud, the structures keep the stratifications in place. Democracy is messy and difficult. My point is not focused on Blackness. Blackness is a racialized SYMPTOM of global elitism.
Hmmm, I think there is something getting lost in interpretation here. I never intended to imply that the focus was on blackness, nor was i under the impression that you were suggesting i personally was focused on blackness, but that seems to be where this is kinda going. My last reply was short due to being on my mobile phone at work, but it appears something unintentional has been left hanging in the wind. I should have waited to post my thoughts in their entirety. My experiences in Japan are varied, and yes, I was surprised to be confronted with Western style prejudice and assumptions and wondered…where the heck did that come from? The first thing i noticed when me and my cousin (who just happens to be darker than me) were in Japan, was that people didn’t think that we came from the same place because of the variation of our skin tones…which of course was very very confusing for us. She even spoke better Japanese than i did, so she was able to communicate with locals better than me. I remember her trying to explain to a lady that she was from America….not Africa. It was a little later that i realized that here was a stigma with alot of Asians, that Western, and in this case American=white, and Black=’other’. I have dreadlocks and the lady at first insisted that i was Jamacain…mind you this was not offensive to us…as we were not bothered with being associated with ‘blackness’, however it made us wonder where these kinds of assumptions or notions come from considering the insular country that Japan was….we deduced that it was Western media influence. They learn about us from the twisted American media. Then we started paying attention to the advertisements for beauty products, fashion and all kinds of other things that seem to have more white than Japanese models, or Japanese females paired with Western males, or Japanese males paried with White females. Being from the American South, i can honestly say, that there is a big difference between Western Racism and Asian prejudice and assumptions. For the most part, people were curious, we got stared at constantly to the point of feeling like Extraterrestrials lol, and even had people touch our skin and our hair…my hair was in dreadlocs, hers was in an Afro. But above all, we really enjoyed the experience, and for the most part at least people were polite, and we were even surprised when we complimented several times. Seeing the ganguro girls were pretty interesting, if not a bit bizarre. The tongue in cheek comment i made about ‘being pretty for a black girl, you no have monkey face’ was a real experience i couldn’t make up lol I have a lot of funny experiences i could tell, that i have fond memories of and not so fond..but thats on a personal level.
Going back to your reply at 4:45pm
My comments about the Mulattoes in Haiti were an example of Hierarchies that can exist among people of color, in agreement with you, i think there are certain social pathology’s that are inherent in such systems that makes them elitist, be they based on race, skin color or social status/standing by way of skin color e.g the status quo…..and in some cases they are based on all the above. In Asia, I agree, it’s not about race per se, it’s more about the color of ones skin which is supposed to represent class or social status. My point being, this is the reason for looking to the past…to understand such psychologies and to not repeat them. Here in through out the Americas (North, Central, South America, and the Caribbean) this Hierarchy based on colorism is already acknowledged as a serious issue among the socially conscious, and culturally aware, and perhaps this is because here in the Americas this is rooted in the history of Colonialism in “New World” and the rise of Anglo American-European Captitalism. There is a tendency to lump the politics of black people into one category (in the Americas), which is favored by mainstream western media (Propaganda that upholds the status quo) where those that favor the status quo have more representation, while there are various movements and grassroots activism still at large that challenge such status quo’s (some of which are under the banner of Pan Africanism/Pan Asianism/Ingenious movements) which ten to be misrepresented by westerners (who sympathize with and adhere to the status quo, and this is regardless of race) who write about it as some sort of sensationalism. This is what i was referring to when i talked about diversity in ‘blackness’ and the struggle for recognition in a crooked room that view black people by Eurocentric standards. It is the appropriation of Blackness and the diversity therein for a ‘universal’ audience of spectators. Pan Africanism for that reason is not a mainstream political theology or philosophy nor a is it sensationalism, or the cousin of white supremacy wrap in a black package. I think we agree here?!!!…I’m not sure what the disagreement is anymore lol!
waterchildren says: >But often, the way we do it, is to use examples of comparing “civilizations” of technology and large buildings and “sophistication” as “proof” of life and dignity. Aren’t persons in villages living with dignity and beauty? Why do people want to explore self-pride through mirror-images of what Europeans and Americans (colonial and industrial market-economy and manifest destiny ideas) consider “worthy.” Why do Africans and African-Americans render life wanting to “prove” their worthiness through the ideas coming from whiteness and global dominance?” Why do Africans and African-Americans render life wanting to “prove” their worthiness through the ideas coming from whiteness and global dominance?However, it seems clear to me that your own fight to “prove” African-ness and Blackness, is uppermost<
Well that is certainly untrue, but i guess open to perspective. However, I do dispute Eurocentic notions and assumptions of ideological 'Blackness/African-ness" that exist in a vacuum with a disregard for the diversity that exist within Black people the world over. it's not so much that we disagree, but more that we seem have slightly different introspective and approaches to these subjects. However…i don't begrudge you in anyway…and my questions were sincere as a person who is opening to learning and seeing things from a different point of view….so thought I'd clarify that. And with that…I'll bade thee good night. My eyes are heavy with sleep.
Thank you for your comment. I agree with you as far as interpretation. I think that this word-medium, online medium is not the best place, sometimes, for complex discussions. But sometimes it is better, depending on the conditions.
I think the main points here are that you are speaking, it seems, about the circumstances. I am speaking to strategic EFFECTS and tactics. Other than that, I think we are parallel in agreement with the histories. Thank you much 🙂