Tristan Samuels is a MA student in Egyptology via the Near East Studies progam at the University of Toronto. His major research centers on race in antiquity and the relationship between Kemet (ancient Egypt) & Nubia. This post is the first essay for Tristan’s new column for us, With Malcolm, a space to discuss Africana studies and cultural engagement, which you can follow also on Twitter @WithMalcolm.
I’ve noticed, frequently, on my twitter timeline a series of tweets in a hashtag #ThingsIHateAboutHoteps which was rather ironic because I was venting my thoughts about the latest anti-Black erasure of Kemet (ancient Egypt) in Hollywood in Spike TV’s TV special Tut in the #BoycottTut hashtag. More recently, there was a Huffington post discussion that was decent, but had limited diversity in perspective. From my understanding (based on the tweets that I’ve observed), ‘Hoteps’ refers to black pseudo-intellectualism and pseudo-Black nationalism. I’m down for all the criticisms (some of which were especially funny), but to call these people ‘Hoteps’ in a matter of slur is anti-Black. I will provide this list illustrating why the naming of this group as “Hotep” is problematic and anti-Black. This list by no means is exhaustive, but should be seen as an introduction to the idea of “Hotep” within Africana studies.
Fact #1. “Hotep” is a classical African word, specifically from Medu Neter (ancient Egyptian Language) meaning ‘peace’. E.g. famous Kemetic intellectual ‘Im-hotep’ can be rendered as ‘in peace’. The problem remains two-fold: people who do not care to do rigorous study of Kemet are hi-jacking the term; also, those who criticize them as Hoteps perpetuate anti-Blackness by dissing an ancient African language and concept which is remains misunderstood.
Fact #2. There are alternative terms to describe pseudo-intellectualism & pseudo-Black Nationalists. For example, Fake-Deep & Fake-Conscious (I prefer the former because it’s shorter). These posers are fake in that they co-opt academic language and use pseudo-intellectual scholarship in order to prove how much blacker they are than the next person. I’m also open to other ideas that do not disparage any Black cultural traditions (ancient or modern), maybe even as these interviewees at the Huffington Post referred Fake Deep as No-Tep or other have called it, Faux-Tep.
Fact #3. Disagreement with Twitter’s version of intersectionality is not inherently bigoted. The fake-deep community cites youtube videos as ‘evidence’ for their faux academic Black nationalism, but many people misabuse ‘intersectionality’ to look ‘progressive’ with limited knowledge of the discourse itself. Twitter Intersectionalists refuse read/acknowledge serious criticisms of intersectionality from post-intersectionalists or multidimensionality theorist perspectives. Part of the problem that Rod and I have noticed is that intersectionality in online discourse is understood in primarily individualist, private, experiential terms. Any criticism of a person using intersectionality in an online context will be seen as a personal attack.
Fact #4. The bigotries associated with ‘Hoteps’ can be found anywhere on Black Twitter. As heterogeneous as Black Twitter is, not all Black women and men are AntiRacists or Womanist thinkers. Black Twitter is a reflection of Black Life in the African diaspora and its diversity should be recognized as such.
Fact #5. The concept of Black male privilege has no support from empirical evidence. For good arguments to back up this criticism, please see Dr. Tommy J Curry ‘The Myth of Black Male Privilege and ’“‘Black Male Feminism’: a debate between Dr. Tommy Curry and Dr. David Ikard” Perhaps this is my most controversial statement, but it must be said. Fake-deep people certainly are sexist, homophobic, etc., but this is not only Black men & gendered discrimination is not one way. It is impossible for Black men to be patriarchs in a society where Black men wield little institutional power as well as demonizes Black masculinity, e.g. observe the rate of police brutality against Black men.
Fact #6. It is a patronizing argument to continue to say: ‘why focus on Ancient Egypt, what about other African cultures’?’ Unfortunately, Mainstream discussions of ‘Black/African History’ do not include Kemet. Kemet’s Blackness is constantly contested in comparison to other African cultures, e.g. I don’t have to argue that medieval Mali is a Black culture. Kemet is the oldest attested Black culture & yields a vast range of primary sources that are more accessible and more diverse than most pre-modern Black cultures (e.g. ancient Nubia, Medieval West African Kingdoms, etc.). Black LGBTQIA scholars have asserted Kemet’s African context based on their understanding of ‘other African cultures’ as well as , via African-centered thought, Kemet scholarship offers us unique ways to think about the contemporary Black world. It would be best for critics to say that they personally are not interested on Kemet – and they shouldn’t disparage others who are.
Fact #7. There is a very lazy argument that is quite popular these days: “This ‘we were kings and queens’ shit is ahistorical and celebrates oppressive systems” Okay, first of all, it’s just a popular way of saying African societies had complex socio-political systems – Duh! Chiekh Anta Diop demonstrated this over & over. I’d recommend looking at PreColonial Black Africa . These Black rhetorics of royalty are, in fact, subversive to Western notions of ‘democracy’ as Pan-Africanist scholar Greg Thomas argues in “Queens of Consciousness & Sex-Radicalism in Hip-Hop: On Erykah Badu & The Notorious K.I.M.” JPAS 1.7 (2007), pp. 31-32. In contrast, Classical Athens, the idealized democracy, included only Athenian males as citizens (with situational exceptions). Some “democracy!”The slave class was racialized (but not only Blacks) and ethnicized (non-Athenian Greeks). The U.S. prides itself on being the a descendent of ancient Athens, and I presume readers know all about American democracy & white supremacy. So democracy – read historically – can be shown to be inherently tied to exclusion. I’d prefer critics read the work of actual African-centered scholars – like Chiekh Anta Diop, Jacob Carruthers, Theophile Obenga, Mario Beatty  – to critique fake-deep twitter, not personal assumptions, and come to their own conclusions concerning the complexities of pre-colonial African political life.
 Recommended sources:
(b) The Journal of Pan African studies has some articles that discuss Kemet itself and/or in context of other African cultures: (click ‘archives’ tab)
c) there is also ANKH: (NOTE: some articles are written in French)
(d) great overview of the meaning of Africana studies in general: “What Black Studies Is Not Moving From Crisis To Liberation In Africana Intellectual Work”