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Seven Things You Didn’t Know About Hotep Twitter

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 [1] – to critique fake-deep twitter, not personal assumptions, and come to their own conclusions concerning the complexities of pre-colonial African political life.

Notes

[1] Recommended sources:

(a) Mario Beatty has a great discussion which makes a great overview: Part 1 –  ; Part 2 –  

 

(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

Saying Farewell to the Angry Black Man part 1 (Tristan)

Angry Black Male Studying Black Antiquity

abm antiq

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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.

I’m a Black male university student born and residing in Toronto: a city that thinks multiculturalism is anti-racism (oh the fallaciousness). I’ve have a Classics BA and I’m currently studying Egyptology in an MA program. As the subtitle indicates, I study Blacks in the ancient record through these fields. In Classics, I was able to write a BA thesis on Greek and Roman perceptions of Black people and I saw much enthusiasm for my work at conferences. In Egyptology, I have a professor who has no problem acknowledging that the ancient Egyptians were Black/African. In addition, I have a professor that shows interest in my application of critical race theory.

However, I have been characterized as an angry black person. The most direct was in an introductory course for Near Eastern archaeology which was really the first time that I got a true understanding of what I was up against. The professor was a Syro-Mesopotamian specialist. I argued, in my essay proposal, that the ancient Egyptians were African/Black and, in turn, the Nubian rulers of Egypt (ca. 800 BC) should not be called ‘the Black Pharaohs’. The portrayal of the Nubians as the bonafide Black people of antiquity means an imposition, deliberately or subconsciously, of ‎whiteness onto the ancient egyptians. Ex: calling those Nubian rulers “black pharaohs” sneakingly implies that the indigenous Egyptian rulers were “white”‎. A good example of this is the New national Geographic rise of the black pharaohs documentary on the Kushite/Nubian dynasty. My professor, framing himself in a ‘progressive’ sort of way, accused me of “racism in reverse” because I brought up race. However, I never made the claim that Ancient Egypt was superior because it was a Black civilization. I simply said that the ancient Egyptians’ identity is misinterpreted because of Eurocentric racialism and that Black identity is more complex than treated in Egyptological literature. So, I sent him a response e-mail clarifying my intentions – I got no response. So, I let my writing do the talking. I made sure to include a comprehensive section on
white privilege and white normativity. I got 92%, but that does not eclipse the bigger problem: A Black Male challenging epistemology is treated as a threat.

blacks in antiq

Image from Amazon.com

My issue in Classics has come through publishing issues. I had submitted a work on the Herodotus, a famous Greek historian, perception of Black bodies to a joint British-US journal. The first readers, there were two anonymous readers, said that I needed to revise which I certainly agreed. However, some comments troubled me. Reader A felt I just needed slight additions but suggested my tone was inappropriate because of this comment: “McCoskey’s approach is sound for the most part, but she underestimates…”. Reader A felt that I was treating McCoskey as a grad student. I just specified a particular problem in her work – why the tone policing? They shouldn’t *know* that I’m black per se, being that I don’t have to disclose my identity, but I believe it was assumed because of my essay’s subject matter. I take it as ‘okay, but remember your place Negro’. Reader B argued that I was being anachronistic in calling Herodotus racist. More specific, this reader thought that Herodotus accusing Black men of hypersexuality and describing them as having black semen “unlike other men” did not constitute racism. Apparently, I was being too simplistic. It is quite disturbing that this explicit sexualizing of Black men is not understood as such. I seriously wonder if the reader believed one or two of those stereotypes. While I got a 2nd attempt, these response are very problematic.

The 2nd reading was done by one referee and yielded interesting results. Itwas 3 or 4 days after I resubmitted – that is fast. The reader, which was clearly a different person, strongly disagreed. My critique of classical scholarship’s handling of Herodotus & Blackness was dismissed as “mud-slinging” – I’m just a real angry black person I guess. I was also told that I didn’t “get” D.E. McCoskey’s book, Race: Antiquity and its Legacy (I.B. Tauris, 2012), even though I wrote a published review on that very piece. In fact, I cited that review in my essay, so that the reader could go to it for further discussion of her mishandling of Blackness. I guess to him I don’t have the intellectual capacity to critique her. This reader also accused me of playing the race card. So, this reader definitely assumed that I was Black. I never once accused any scholar of racism and, in fact, two of the classicists that I critiqued are Black. It was very clear to me that the reader was polemical and saw my work as a threat to his white supremacist fantasy.

I responded to the editor to notify him that I appreciated the second opportunity, though I found the review perplexing. He, definitely a white male, responded telling me that he is a professor and that I needed to “learn some manners”. I could hear a ‘boy’ at the end of that sentence. I responded stating that he was in no place to make such character judgments about me and emphasized that I simply disagreed with the reader. His only response “I’m not a doctor” – I had referred to him as “Dr.” Again there is this sense that Black bodies are animalistic/savage in need of taming.

god remain grk

Image from Amazon

While I’ve grown up race-conscious, I’m starting to really understand the depth of anti-Blackness in a way I never understood before – something only experience can teach you. No matter how logical the arguments you put forth, your resistance is a threat. The Blackness of ancient Egypt is a means of dismantling ‘civilization’ – a concept so dear to the White gaze. It cannot fathom a role where it is not in power. When we refuse to fit or compromise ourselves for whiteness we are uncontrollable (e.g. militant, angry). Whiteness can only see its de-centering as an act of reverse racism because they cannot fathom a world where they do not control us. You see, the only ‘peace’ and ‘balance’ for the White supremacist is one where people of color know their place, or else they are nothing but angry savages in the chaotic realms of otherness.

postmodern blackness in ABC's #Blackish @black_ishABC

This week I found great relevance in Tony Purvis’ article on postmodernism and television in The Routledge Companion to Postmodernism. In one of the opening statements of the chapter, he states that television is praised and censured for its ability to be the site of fantasy, ecstasy and pleasure. Ultimately the piece helped me to reflect on the question of whether or not television is still the site through which consensus norms and values are transmitted, as they were in the period of television’s modernity. I recently watched a series on ABC called Black-ish, which by its very titled screamed postdmodernism to me. I decided to use this show as a medium to provide my own analysis of postmodernism and television.

Image from Deadline.com

The very title of the series speaks to the complexities of the present in both the series and in the field of postmodernism. The title refers to a characteristic of not being a stereotyped urban black person or an urban black person with non-urban characteristics. This sets the background for the series. The show revolves around the lead character Andre Johnson and his family as they try to adjust to life in the suburbs. Through its treatment of cultural identity, postmodern subjectivity, and the generic boundaries of hybridization, the show Black-ish can be read in a postmodern context.

One aspect of postmodernity that recognizable in the show is its ability to blur generic boundaries of hybridization. It playfully makes use of self-referential preoccupation with the inner thought of Andre. Truth and falsehood are manufactured in various ways on the show. Thus it scantily totes the line between reality and Andre’s perception of reality. For example, on the first episode Andre feels like an animal at an exhibit as neighbors stare at his family as they pass by. This is clearly an example of how Andre’s thoughtful imagination influences the show. Yet there is no event to counter this reality. Thus it blurs the line between what is real and what is perceived as real by not clearly indicating a difference.

Realizing the plurality of perspectives is evident through many of different voice on the show. Andre and his father have different interpretations on what it means to black in a suburban setting. Simultaneously, Andre’s wife Rainbow and their children also have different interpretations of blackness. Laurence Fishburn’s character juxtasposes yet another example of blackness. Fishburn’s character plays the live-in father of Andre. He represents many of the traditional notions of blackness derived from the Civil Rights movement and its subsequent social impact.

They (the family) struggle to gain a sense of cultural identity in a predominantly white, upper-middle-class neighborhood. Black-ish for them refers to the ways that they have to redefine what it means to black in under a different social context. In the very first episode Andre is promoted to the Senior Vice President of Urban development. At first this promotion irritates him because he associates Urban Development with “minority stuff.” For his first project he submits to the other senior vice president his intention for urban development, which fit basically every conceivable stereotype for urban. By the end of the episode however he realizes that there is no one interpretation for the concept of urban. Urban only implies “minority stuff” if that is the way you choose to interpret it. Thus postmodern subjectivity is involved even in how the show defines itself. I think it is critical to understand that the show does not conceive of one definition of blackness and what it means to black under any context.