According to etymonline.com the word ‘denigrate’ originated around the 1520s. The word means to ‘sully or stain’ the reputation or character. It originates from the Latin denigratus which is the past participle of denigrare which means ‘to blacken or defame. ‘Nigr’ in the word denigrate is from the stem of niger which means black. To make black the reputation or character.Black or Negro which, figuratively (according to the same website) means ‘gloomy, unlucky, bad, wicked’.Negro, ‘member of a black-skinned race of Africa.’
How ironic that this is exactly what the world did to Afrika.
The basis that Europeans used to justify their colonial domination over Afrikans was that the people they were subjugating to inhumane rule and practices were sub-human. European ‘thinking’ had for many years before colonialism characterized the Afrikan as a bi-product of the reproductive act between humans and animals, their preferred theory appeared to center around copulation between the (white) human female and an ape. This thinking was embedded into social and cultural thought and practice long before Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was captured in On the Origin of Species. Darwin’s theory of evolution was disparaged by those who believed in the truth of Creation. His theory suggested that mankind was the highest product of changes that began with a ‘big bang’ which triggered the formation of life and gradually over hundreds of millions of years eventually brought forth man from a line of apes according to the ‘Great Chain of Being’. Hence the black man was considered evolutionarily backward and the white man the absolute pinnacle of the evolutionary process. It has been suggested that Darwin himself did not put forth a racist agenda on the basis of his postulations. Rather, those who perceived opportunity in his writings felt they provided some ‘scientific credence’ to their evil plots and schemes including justifying slavery in America. The European continued the subjugation of the colonies of non-whites to their oppressive rule and out of all the people colonized, the black man was deemed the lowest man because of his color. It seems a long way to go to justify greed and political and economic domination and even genocide of other races, but this is exactly what happened and not only to Afrikans, but to any land where the European – firmly under the grips of the Whore of Babylon – set his sights, his guns and his other devices.
In February 2020, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury said to the Church’s national assembly, “Personally, I am sorry and ashamed. I’m ashamed of our history and I’m ashamed of our failure. There is no doubt when we look at our own church that we are still deeply institutionally racist. Let’s just be clear about that. I said it to the College of Bishops a couple of years ago and it’s true.” Keep in mind that this is the Church of England i.e. the Anglican Church, of which the Queen of England is the Head admitting to institutionalized racism. The same Church of England that sent missionaries to Afrika under the Church Missionary Society. These missionaries were variously accused by Afrikans of either being complicit in the oppression of the colonizers, apathetic concerning its evil activities or tools in its sustenance through the teachings that they spread urging the Afrikans to ‘turn the other cheek’ or ‘forgive’ in the face of continued injustice. It did not help matters that they were often embedded with or protected by the colonial administration, making their message often seem more like a poisoned chalice than one of salvation. It is said that there were those amongst these missionaries who withstood the efforts and policies of the colonial government and those who, even while compassionate to the cause of the Afrikan, still felt themselves to be far superior intellectually and culturally to the Afrikan as to continue to embed the racist narrative of the Church. According to scholars, the Church of England was ‘decolonized’ and ‘Afrikanized’ on the continent, not so much as a matter of choice on the part of the church, but rather as a matter of consequence due to a reduction in funding and thereby a need to find locals to fill in the much needed roles in the ranks of the church in Afrika. Welby’s confession would seem to support this claim.
The following are various excerpts taken from different sections of a paper on Christian Missions and Colonial Rule in Africa by Dr. Etim E. Okon published in the European Scientific Journal in 2014:
“The Times in an article titled “The Commercial Value of Africa” endorsed the commercial motives of colonialism: The fact is that up to within the past few years Africa has hardly been needed by the rest of the world except as a slave market. But her turn has come, and the need for her cooperation in the general economy of the world will become greater and greater as population increases, as industry expands, as commerce develops, as states grow ambitious as civilization spreads: it is discreditable anomaly that at this advanced stage in the progress of the race nearly a whole continent should still be given over to savagery… (qtd in Uzoigwe, 1978: 27).
The predetermined objective of European colonial enterprise in Africa was also stated point-blank in the Pall Mall Gazatte of 1899: Nor have we gone to the equatorial regions from religious or humanitarian motives… still less have we sought out the African in order to endow him with the vices (and virtues) of western civilization… the dominating force which has taken us to Equatorial Africa is the desire for trade. We are in these tropical countries for our own advantage and only incidentally for the good of the African (qtd in Uzoigwe, 1978:28).
There is a lingering myth that the black man cannot aspire or compete favorably with the white man.Dr. Etim E. Okon
The Portuguese historian, Adriano Vasco Rodrigues has opened another debatable dimension of the argument, still to justify the humanitarian and civilizing mission of the European race. According to Rodrigues, it was through colonization that the African was elevated to the status of a human being: “Colonization, principally that practiced by the Portuguese, raised the Negro to the status of human being, to the extent that they considered him to be their equal” (Rodrigues, 1968: 440).
The argument here is value-loaded and ethnocentric with a faulty conclusion that it was colonization, that aided the full development and maturation of the African to the status of a human being. Apart from technological superiority, there was also a concomitant feeling of moral and racial superiority. The white man was theoretically placed at the top of the hierarchy, while the black man who was deemed irredeemably inferior and senseless was placed at the bottom. Thus the conquest of Africa and the subsequent scramble and partition of the entire continent were carried out supposedly in the interest of Africans who required many years of tutelage to become normal human being. Lord Leverhulme at a dinner in honor of the Governor of Nigeria, Sir Hugh Clifford said: I am certain that West African races have to be treated very much as one would treat children when they are immature and under-developed… Now the organizing ability is the particular trait and characteristic of the white man. .. I say this with my little experience, that the African nature will be happier, produce the best, and live under conditions of prosperity when his labor is directed and organized by his white brother who has all these million years’ start ahead of him (qtd. In Crowder,1968:36).
Jomo Kenyatta, the first President of independent Kenya in a perceptive analysis of colonialism has faulted the idea that colonialism enhanced the economic fortunes of the Africans: They speak as if it were somehow beneficial to an African to work for them instead of for himself, and to make sure that he will receive this benefit they do their best to take away his land and leave him no alternative. Along with his land they rob him of his government, condemn his religions ideas, and ignore his fundamental conceptions of justice and morals, all under the name of civilization and progress (Kenyatta, 305).
It was speculated that through the process of intensive conversionism, a colony that excelled in adopting western values to the maximum may achieve a pseudo independent status and merit the description like “overseas France” or “overseas Portugal”. Another theory of imperialism was called “permanent trusteeship”, or “paternalism”. For this school of thought, Africans were incurably inferior to Europeans and are naturally incapable of adopting the civilized standards of the “superior” races. There is no possibility of future improvement or development. Africans perpetually are to be protected, supervised and monitored by the “superior” races. The difference between “conversionists” and “trusteeship”, was that the “conversionists” were at least optimistic that with intensive guidance and kindergarten-like tutelage, Africans may reach minimal maturity, but the “trusteeship” school were absolutely pessimistic on the possibility of transforming the African into a normal human being.
Europe saw Africa as a continent that suffered total and incurable dwarfism. A people with a defective religion and natural victims of psychic malfunction. That was the mind-set that prevailed in Europe when missionary interest was revived in European Christianity. The idea of a defective religion was anchored on the concept of heathenism, which was the preoccupation of missionaries in the nineteenth century. The conversion of heathens and abolition of pagandom at all cost was a task that must be done.
N. S. S. Iwe has defined colonial mentality as a mind-set that sees Africans as people who are not competent, or mature to manage their own affairs. It also connotes lack of confidence in Africa and the African way of life. Colonial mentality sees the African as imperfect, wanting in self confidence, dignity, resourcefulness and creativity, hence do not deserve any honor and respect from civilized humanity. Colonial mentality means a lower or negative self-image, lack of self esteem and the belief in one’s own inferiority. In colonial Africa, colonial mentality was the outcome of intensive European propaganda, brain washing and psychological warfare against Africans and anything African. Colonial mentality has affected all the segments of African society. Anything that is indigenous is looked down upon as unimportant. Unfortunately, Africans including the elites are ready to accept anything, if it has a western label.
Perhaps, the greatest negative, psychological impact of colonialism in Africa is colonial mentality and inferiority complex, which plagues the entire continent. Christian missionaries were also viable collaborators in killing self esteem in the African. Missionary education and tutelage did not emphasize self-confidence, creativity and adventurous spirit. There is a lingering myth that the black man cannot aspire or compete favorably with the white man. This is a misconception based on Eurocentric propaganda and brainwashing.”
The systematic denigration i.e. defamation, sullying, staining, ‘blackening’ of Afrika’s reputation, cultural beliefs, spirituality , education, economic and agricultural practices by the colonialist led to the inferiority complex and ubiquitous low self-esteem that you find in Afrika and Afrikans continent-wide, who now believe that everything that the conqueror believed was superior to what they had before. But it never stopped. Generations of Europeans, Americans, Asians, Australians and even Afrikans continued to and continue to be taught and acculturated to believe that Afrika is poor, weak, dirty and disease-ridden. That is why, in the midst of Corona Virus madness-demic you will have Chinese throwing Afrikans out of homes and ships and denying them access to shops. That is why you will have Americans wondering why in an Afrika with ‘poor hygiene’ we do not have more cases of Corona Virus infections. That is why you will have French and British scientists talking of using us as lab rats… which actually they have been doing for generations. That is why the Kenyan government would approve of Britain’s suggestion while ignoring the fact that other Afrikan nations are already way ahead of most western nations in the fight against the virus. Why not just get help from your Afrikan brothers and by that create a new positive narrative for Afrika? For if Senegal a tiny West Afrikan nation is already producing testing kits for 1Dollar and ventilators for 60dollars, why on earth are other afrikannations still importing testing kits for 60 Dollars and ventilators for 60,000 Dollars? And if Madagascar already has an official indigenous cure to this virus, why are we still waiting for China or America? Who bewitched us in Afrika?
The truth is that it is a psycho-spiritual warfare being waged against the Afrikan which led to the hero worship of the oppressor which continues today in the worship of the heads of multinational corporations who receive red carpet treatment and are welcomed into presidential palaces and mansions across Afrika, to the detriment and corruption of Afrikan economies. But this is not new information. Lone voices in the wilderness have been shouting about this for decades. The question is… are we, as Afrikans, planning to continue under this spell for another 6 decades? Or are we going to come out from under it and chart a new course for ourselves and the generations to come? We have looked to the East and to the West for development assistance and solutions and all we continue to get are the same murderous intentions. They wish themselves well, not us. They will continue to use us for as long as we allow it… and our governments will continue to play along for as long as it lines their pockets. It is time for Afrikans to gather the lessons of the past and present and put them to good use, for Afrika’s sake.
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Chioma Phillips is the Editor of Msingi Afrika Magazine. She is also the founder of the magazine's publisher, The Knowledge Consultancy Limited, which shares information, tools and insights to provoke thought and inspire movement... towards God. Her perspective goes beyond national boundaries to see the full scope of what God is saying and doing for the continent of Africa and the world in these end times.