A CLOSER LOOK AT COLONIALISM
History of colonization and slavery is discussed under the veil of a systematic disguise as it continues to free colonizers from their guilt. Consequently, former colonizers continue to pompously appear as champions of democracy, while the formerly colonized nations are labeled backward. Before explaining the aftermath of this historical denial or literal ‘white lie’, I will use the allegory the great African American writer, James Baldwin, made to present colonization and slavery. Imagine if your friend had killed his own mother and hid her corpse in his closet. You go to his house and discover the matricide, and your friend also knows that you have discovered his crime. Despite the heinous facts, you both decided to deny it because you want to remain friends. But slowly, there appears a hollowness, a gap, in your friendship as you each retreat into silence, dreading the prospect of simple conversations leading to the hidden crime. The only hope of salvaging your friendship is found in your admittance of the truth and your friend’s confession and readiness to pay for his crime. Let us now translate the allegory into current realities.
The story of James Baldwin speaks of the history of colonization and slavery. The mother is Africa and other subjugated nations; the murderer is the colonizer and slaver who forgot their African lineage; and you are the colonized and enslaved. The closet that hides this matricide is the fictitious history that defends colonization as a mission for civilization. The avarice and callousness of Europe has resulted in not just the colonization of Africa, Asia and South America but, even worse, in the genocide of aboriginals of North America, Australia and many others across the globe. Africa, the mother of civilization, fell victim to the barbaric conquerors, and remains a continent that suffers colonization’s aftermath. The colonizers who committed unparalleled crimes were never held fully accountable; they instead enjoy their spoils and reign supreme in the world. The children of Africa, who are scattered all over the world, have failed to speak the truth and seek justice. Yet, who can blame the colonized for such failure, when even justice can only be sought from an unjust world where criminals reside as judges.
The self-proclaimed world arbiters continue to guard the gates of history, which will dethrone them if opened wide. These are the ‘developed’ nations that prospered from the stolen resource and enslaved labor of ‘developing’ nations. Remember this: the concealment of history is an arduous task made possible through the ‘naming power’ of the oppressor. As the African proverb goes, “Until the lion learns to speak, the tales of hunting will always favor the hunter.” The colonizer labels the colonized and the enslaved as ‘barbaric’ and ‘uncivilized’, while their own exploitation and barbaric crimes were labeled missions of civilization. Out of necessity, they created the ‘negro’, ‘yellow’ and ‘brown’ people. It was the only way to make the utterly diversified European people ‘white’ and unified partners in crime. The US and Western nations used their ‘naming power’ to exploit the world, just as the school bully labels the smart kids ‘geeks’ or ‘nerds’, so as to feel superior through coercion, while copying their works. The legacy of white supremacy was never eradicated, as it has returned like a plague in the mask of democracy and the mission to democratize.
The level of denial and lack of guiltiness these colonizers display is unimaginable, nevertheless, the perpetuation of great crimes necessitates grand deceptions and apathy. As Martin Luther King, Jr. in his book, ‘Where do we go from here, chaos or community?’ intensely states, “It seems to be a fact of life that human beings cannot continue to do wrong without eventually reaching out for some rationalization to clothe their acts in the garments of righteousness.” And so, their moral justification is a cover for their cold economic profit, and to avoid mental dilemmas, they overdose on white supremacy. The black light, by the name of W.E.B. Du Bois, has explained everything in his book, ‘Dusk of Dawn’. Du Bois powerfully argues that colonization and slavery transcends ignorance and ill will as it is an irrational economic motive that demands black slaves to build wealth, and this unmerited wealth is employed in the service of more injustice and inhumanity.
The colonial doctrine of racism and white supremacy has been the cause of two World Wars. But, instead of bringing a doctrinal change, it only made tactical changes. The myopic philosophical attitude of Thomas Hobbes and others who deny history to all except Europe, the fictional Teutonic Theory of white supremacy, the pseudo-scientific theories of racial difference, and the false Western missionary attempt to civilize the rest of the world, all ended in gruesome killing and slavery. Then, followed WWI among colonizers, which gave the winners a right to subjugate the former colonies of the defeated. This only led to WWII, which still gave the victor a mandate to rule the colonies with the mission to educate and civilize them, which they planned to continue until the colonies learn to exercise democracy by themselves. How unjust is history when the brute colonizers are granted the right to civilize the already oppressed by branding them uncivilized. I wonder whether the real brute and uncivilized is the one in bondage or the one who puts chains on sentient humans. Verily, it is barbaric to commit continental genocides, to ship precious humans into slavery, to rape their women, lynch the men, and systematically make them poor. As if this has not been enough, the very same countries are not on a mission to dominate the world, or as they like us to believe, to democratize the world.
In the 21st century, former world-class brutes and colonizers have made another strategic shift and labeled themselves liberal democrats. Sadly, liberalism only tolerates the ‘white’ nations while illiberally terrorizing the rest of the world.
The so-called western protectors of democracy have dismantled historical nations by calling their foreign invasion a protection of democratic rights. Just look at Libya to recognize the truth behind my statement. You will see how Westerners left this historical nation in endless civil war by claiming to defend freedom of speech, women’s rights, and/or human right. Is current Libya a place of humanity or, rather, an epicenter of humanitarian crisis? We can observe this tyranny of ‘democracy’ from the puppeteer role of France in Mali, when they directly intervened and fought against the Tuareg people of Sahara, who have historically refused French colonial attempts. The US and Westerners continually extended their hands to play this democracy card so as to conquer the Middle East, erase its rich culture, and control the oil. If this is what the vanguards of democracy aim for the rest of the world, I do not want them to intervene in any affairs of my country and my Africa.
Currently, the former colonizers are trying to intervene in the internal affairs of Ethiopia, a land they failed to ever conquer. Nations who committed historic crimes and who still deny it cannot be expected to have the moral righteousness to even speak of other nations. Moreover, they never bothered when our nation was squandered away for about three decades by TPLF; but now they want to intervene. In the past, their ‘humanitarian aids’ have fostered dictatorships, because the money was going into the pockets of corrupt African leaders, whose reign ended either by natural death or revolution. To be clear, our democracy is our own national experiment, to be nationally won and fashioned. As to the foreign interventionists in Ethiopia and Africa, the truth in James Baldwin’s statement still stands: “All of the Western nations have been caught in a lie, the lie of their pretended humanism; this means that their history has no moral justification, and that the West has no moral authority.”
There is a lesson for Africans to be learned from this cruel history. The relentless efforts of former colonizers and slavers to physically and mentally control Africa through economics and political manipulations is a testament to an undeniable fact – Africa is a continent of abundance, and they want it. Our true independence can occur only after we, Africans, realize our wealth in all spheres of life. Divide and conquer was the way of the colonizers, which Africans continue to accept for the benefit of our oppressors. A united Africa is bound to be powerful. We must own and utilize our own land and resources for the benefit of Africans. The unity of Africans and a united Africa is our only hope.
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Abel Merawi is from Addis Ababa. He is an English literature teacher, freelance writer/reporter for Ezega.com and an Amharic-English translator and editor. He also writes for www.msingiafrikamagazine.com. You can reach him via: firstname.lastname@example.org