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Dr. Paul Broca versus Soldi

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Cynique, Troy and others, just wanted to share with you guys something I found on the internet archive. It's one of those telling gems that makes you wonder again how much built in animosity to blackness or dark skins plays in the conception of who and what the Ancient Egyptians were. For some Afrocentrics online propagating the idea, it's self evident. The proof is there. I agree with them that there is proof, circumstantial, images and historical texts, yet mainstream white academics persist in even denying the need for further exploration of the plausibility much less the proof. It certainly is plausible and genetic science seems to be on the side of its plausibility. Such resent data that suggest darker skin humans peopled Europe before the emergence of white pigmentation is still not enough for the mainstream .  I'm bothered and disturbed by any counter racism, however, that tries to denigrate white skin in any similar fashion as black skin. I'm not a believer in race per se but I'm interested in truth and facts.

 

My concern in this debate has always been how to be convincing enough to reasonable people to convince them of the truth of the matter or the lack of it. How to argue the case well is important, albeit for me, not from a racial identity perspective, search or claims, but for historical honesty and truth telling. One of the first things I would tell white scholars is they must look at the rabid hatred of all things negro before dismissing any of these claims. Ancient Egypt was being rediscovered during the era of race hatred and race fantasies on the part of whites--in images as well as text. The earliest white scholars at the dawn of modern history and science, that had anything to say on this matter, must be reexamined in terms of their racial, political and other prejudices before any statements or facts regarding the racial characteristic of the Ancient Egyptian can be taken seriously.  How many favored or did not favor the slave trade and the exploitation of blacks, either personally or in terms of the economy. These facts should also be considered. Many academics simple presume that early Near East research has no racial or political bias. Yet scholarship like the Lost Book on the discovery and translation of cuneiform clay tablets found in Irag (during the infancy of scholarly methods and techniques) suggested a native Iraqi's important role in the discoveries was greatly diminished because of his race.

 

At the same time as the rabid hatred of blacks existed either to justify slavery or because of slavery itself, science was still in its infancy--a haphazard affair--not as it is now--some of the early archeologists, for example, were not men of total objectivity, some were Christians trying to find evidence for the Biblical Flood.  Let's contrast their world view with a resent study of children that found a bias against darker complexioned sample story type illustrated images of children--the darker the skin coloration the more negative the reactions by the white kindergarten age children. I can't recall how the black children reacted white images and the  gradations of complexions getting darker. 

 

But where did the bias come from. In these children it's not racial hatred so much as negative feelings and associations, not even  rabid as the ill will and nastiness of the pseudo racial science of the era of slavery and Jim Crow. These modern children, most or all of them, the children of educated middle class people found darker children negative. Some of the parents denied they were the source of the inherent bias. Now if such a bias could exist among even children long ago, from early age in times when images of blacks were far more vicious and cruel, it's not implausible or unlikely that such built in social images influenced the point of view regarding the race of the Ancient Egyptians among the men and only elite men in their private clubs and societies constructing the earliest rules and methods of science, while blind to their own bias.  A perfect example of this was the self conscious cover-up in this case of Greek homosexuality in art and images, these gentlemen decided the general public should not see Greek pedophilia. So the idea that it is laughable that the nose of the Sphinx could've been blown off because it outraged whites during slavery to see negroid features on the impressive monuments of a high civilization doesn't strike me as laughable at all. 

 

So here I've accidentally found, as I was looking for something else, more on the kind of ephemera of the past that non-established, amateur Afrocentric scholars would use to discuss the questions around were the earliest Ancient Egyptians blacks, Negroes of some sort. As I pointed out elsewhere white scholars will quote Herodotus on the other things of note but suspect his descriptions suggestive of negro type Egyptians. It's not even that Herodotus has anything to prove, it's all casual with him.  Now I believe there is quite enough visual evidence to suggest further research should be given to this as more plausible than not. There have been serious, credentialed attacks on so called Afrocentric research on this matter.  Personally I wish the question wasn't tied to race identification but simply to find out who these people were in reality, given these tantalizing, as in Herodotus, suggestions that they were in fact blacks of some sort. I've not yet read Black Athena but even such a well established scholar is attacked and dismissed for what should at least be acknowledged as plausible, more plausible than not and in need of further research. Why not search for proof of it rather than try to find ways to dismiss its plausibility.  What a researcher or scholar favors is also a matter of emotional and personal bias if not politics as well. It seems a Eurocentric world view has no place for even these facts as we find them.  Yet Apollonius of Tyana  persumes a direct connection between black Egyptain mystics and their East Indian counterparts.  This part of Apolionius is not to be taken seriously and researched further but the idea of ancient Aliens is in popular discourse.

 

My concern for a well reasoned argument and presentation of what evidence there is, contrasted against the inherent basis and racism is perhaps merely an aesthetic desire for order. I'm not a fan of careless research but a critic of academic scholarship on this matter--the presumption is among white established scholars that there was none nor is there now any racial basis against blacks in terms of science and research. This is simply not true. Did and does it effect the search and recognition of the Ancient Egyptian being negro or blacks, or mixed Semitic Nubians of some sort.  Watching the History channel presentation of Herodotus on mummification one would think that there were not even reddish or brownish modern Arabic Egyptians  who could play the Egyptians of Cleopatra's time. And some of these "modern" Arabs clearly look as if they are mixed race Africans. Why could it not have been even more so in the past? The modern Egyptians presented as Ancient Egyptians were white without even a sun tan! for people who lived in the desert.

 

Given the earlier mentioned study of children, children of educated people, being biased against darker completions in various ascending or descending gradations--some of the white parents denied that they consciously were the source of this bias--of course the psychology and history of bias could be based simply on the fear of the dark, hell, the devil, darkness being a symbol of the unknown, of death, the earth, the soil, dirt etc. filth.

 

 

See the synopsis of the debate. The controversy is about this Dr. Broca's suggestion or impression of what is stated below and being attacked or critiqued by Soldi--I'd also like to know where one could find the whole collection of these photographs. Was Soldi biased because of all the negative associations and it's merely his scholarly and artistic imagination in denying what may in fact be clues to the people described by Herodotus? I even wonder about the review below it, is that too biased because of racism.  Before even discussing the case, I would investigate Soldi's personal view and association if any with blacks. Why shouldn't his view of blacks be interrogated to see whether he is not being disingenuous? You can see how easy it is for the modern reviewer of the debate not to even question the perspective of people from an earlier time period who may have had very, even more extreme prejudice based myths and dislike of blacks. There is no question Soldi is right for the reviewer irrespective of his knowledge of sculpture. But he's just one sculptor, the reviewer doesn't ask himself if we've learned more about Egyptian art than what was known in Soldi's time. No. Soldi is right. The reviewer doesn't even know or won't say that some Greeks praised the Egyptians highly, that they might've been influenced by them at some stage and surpassed them at another in realism--idealization?

 

In this classic 1879 presentation to members of the Anthropology Society of Paris, Emile Soldi, the great 19th Century Italian sculptor, discusses the proportions of Greek and Egyptian statues. Soldi points out that neither the Greek nor Egyptian sculptors used the black race as their model, and that any elongated features found in Greek and Egyptian statues were caused by other reasons, such as the process employed by artists of squaring up a drawing. Interesting comments by various Anthropology Society members follow Soldi's talk, especially Doctor Paul Broca's contention, which was based on measurements he made, that the arm lengths of ancient Greek and Egyptian statues do not correspond to the arm lengths of Europeans, but rather of Nubians and Negroes.

 

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Reviewer: gerrykuhn - star.pngstar.pngstar.pngstar.pngstar.png - September 23, 2011
Subject: Thought-provoking talk!

Renowned Italian sculptor Emile Soldi easily outmatches leading scientists of the Anthropology Society of Paris in perhaps the only talk ever given by an artist to Society members. Soldi repeatedly puts Society members in their place, utilizing his expert knowledge of sculpture and the Arts to debunk assertions made by various 19th Century anthropologists that the sculptors of Greek and Egyptian statues used the bodily proportions of black Africans as their model. It is amusing to see Doctor Paul Broca, the Society's long-serving Secretary-General and founder, realize at one point that he is out of his element when he states: "I shall not follow you, Monsieur Soldi, into the region of aesthetics; I leave it to others the trouble of criticizing or defending your position on the Apollo of the Belvedere." All in all, this is a highly thought-provoking talk, not only with respect to its main topic, but also with respect to the mindset that one should possess in pursuing any scientific investigation. As Soldi tells the Anthropology Society members in concluding his presentation: "I therefore believe, messieurs, that in science one must above all interest himself more in uncovering and highlighting the dissemblances rather than the resemblances, because the latter can always be detected, which, while being conducive to all theories, do not really provide a serious basis to any."
-- Professor Gerald Kuhn

 

 

 

I couldn't upload Soldi's book on Egyptian and Greek proportions because the file was too big.

TheNubiansOfTheJardinD.pdf

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Trying to copy-edit this post this morning has stimulated some more thoughts on my spur of the moment comments above.  And I do recall now--if vaguely--the reactions of the black kids in that study I mentioned. I think, if I'm recalling right, only a few of the blacks showed positive responses to the complexion getting darker and darker, too.  They too shared the bias against darkness.

 

 

I suggested on one site debating the issue that we need a better sourcing of all the stuff afrocentrics scholars and others have brought up and discovered and to present it in a more coherent well reasoned elegant online presentation of the basic facts and counter arguments and to separate this revisionist history from any spiritual or other idealization of these Ancient Egyptians. I like to tell biased whites not thinking critically about the  presumptions behind their skepticism--which seems more and more like the denial of the obvious--is that whatever King Tut is, stylized, idealized or not, negroid or not, contrast his bust against a roman's of Ancient Rome and you will see that he's not white in any sense of the modern word whatever such race terms actual can mean given the absurdity of race against biology and genetics. Race, basically appearance, is such a slight difference. The very fact that whites and blacks can interbreed, can share blood etc shows this up for the absurdity it is.  Usually animals of different species cannot breed successfully or at all.  I just recently heard that the Nazi's used a pretty Aryan child to showcase the beauty of whites but the child is actually of Jewish ancestry! There were blond and blue eyed Jews.

 

It's these kind of common sense things that need to be done. I really have issue with any group, ancient aliens, afrocentric, Euro-centric idealizing the Ancient Egyptians, though there may be some truth to their prowess and ingenuity and originality, they were still flawed human beings.  And we don't know the extent to which they exploited people of their own kind as commoners or slaves because like in every history of high civilizations we get the point of view of the kings, the nobility, not the serfs or the slaves. Yet such identification is exploited, numerous movie goers whose ancestors were probably serfs will identify with the Roman emperor turned gladiator in a revenge melodrama, however ahistorical and escapist, avenging a wrong is a universal desire along with other elements of the plot, yet even this plays into racism.  I suspect the cruelties of Roman slavery and its later offshoot serfdom were minimized by emerging historians just because they idealized the literate and advanced qualities of the Roman Empire. Being elite people themselves they would naturally not favor criticism of its down side.

 

In Ancient Egypt only the best got to eat beef. So I am caught in the middle of the debate, I believe in the evidence, but I don't believe in the idealization. That's why I couldn't ultimately join the Khephra society even though I could see the good in it for black people.  On the level of common humanity we all share things today with ancient peoples, pride, ambition, greed, lust, love, fear, sadness, joy, but we are now in so many ways different in that our world view is modern not pagan and is shaped by the destruction of the latter. This is a profound difference modern people cannot grasp, though some people try. When people believed in pagan religion, in Africa and Europe, they believed perhaps with fewer doubts than we have now. They wouldn't necessarily be searching for the meaning of life--modernity introduced contradictions to put it simply.

 

I think the experience of Native Americans during the Ghost Dance rebellion in which they sought to expel whites through a spiritual yearning or longing or dream magic and it failed is a testament to the power of paganism and its ultimate weakness as a reality--its terrible defeat.  Maybe that's why natives here are so broken. Unlike black Americans not connected to native ancestry here, the loss of the land, the loss of the spiritual reality connected to the land is deeply profound.  Only the first Africans that made it across the ocean could understand as well. All these people are dead.  Also only Africans still connected to old tribal ways in a similar situation today can understand being alienated from something thought once to be true. I guess only a Christian perhaps becoming an atheist can understand the shift in world view. To know something was once true and to know your place in it only to find out that it is no longer real for you or it was just a dream and it no longer exist here. Of course the atheist sees himself as enlightened, free from delusion. But if you lose faith and have nothing to replace it with?

 

Van Sertima explained the need to pick up these shattered pieces of evidence carefully. So Broca's measurement if correct could be another piece. Look how these esteemed gentlemen don't seem to connect the dots with Herodotus's descriptions, nor with Apollonius of Tyana's unquestioned presumption or belief that the priests of Ancient Egypt were blacks just like the blacks in India or related to them historically, rivals or offshoots.  Such Greeks who acknowledged this African connection makes me dismiss any claims that the Grleeks deliberately stole anything--they were influenced and seemed not to have been ashamed to acknowledge their connections to Ancient Egypt, the oldest advanced civilization even at a time when the Greeks were still barbarians or tribes. For white scholars these ancient Greek beliefs or presumptions are not acceptable, not even plausible. If Broca is correct then it isn't that slaves were used as models because of prudishness--the models were in fact Africans. Even here the racism finds it more plausible to believe the measurements are the measurements of models not the actual people themselves--yet in a remarkable twist of thinking it also reveals that the Ancients were not racists as their modern European counterparts if they saw all men as basically sharing the same type bodies.  I think the denial by whites of what the images reveal, Tut for example, must've driven less careful afrocentrics to extreme, careless rhetorics of their own.

 

Again, you are confronted with and seeing rabid hatred, some kind of madness.  How can any one think the face of Tut in the mask is white. We have racism's reality as one explanation.  The pamphlet is another example of something pointed out by afrocentric scholars about the term Ethiopian being used as an all encompassing term for blacks in general, Nubian or negroid, not as some white scholars want to say now that it meant strictly North African Berber types or Arabs or strictly present day Ethiopians who may in the eyes of Eurocentrics juggling terms to say who is white or black and who may prefer the modern Ethiopian types over their related African negroid cousins. It was the negroid type that is most offensive. The consensus is against it and popular pseudo science favors ancient aliens over all these strange bits and pieces of blacks here and there. Of course this search for proof of the African presence is seen as pseudo-history as well. The ancient aliens could still make for interesting fiction but checking sources available online, I agree with the critics of  Zecharia Sitchin (July 11, 1920 – October 9, 2010) was an Azerbaijani-born American author of books proposing an explanation for human origins involving aliens.  I went through the data base of the Sumerian tablets, the primary sources and you have to read into and imagine things not there to believe it's about aliens.  The History Channel's promotion of bad scholarship on the possibility of ancient alien contact is unfortunate. I don't dismiss the possibility but I'm not convinced after reading the original Sumerian Tablets, that these, the oldest text prove their case. And again, I wonder if it's part of the denial of the more compelling and difficult African origins.

 

Of course saying priests and pastors covered up doubts about hell from the general public, and aficionados of Greek pottery, sculpture, in private collections kept Ancient Greek homosexuality a secret from the common Christian masses at the height of British Adoration of Greeks and Romans, is no proof that early scholars just learning how to organize evidence, to the tell truth, could cover up or lie about the black origins of European civilization during and after slavery--still it makes you wonder given that they did cover up those other embarrassing facts, realities.

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Among occultist the idealization can be extreme. Edgar Cayce's for example, but as a Southerner with Anglo Saxon bias or beliefs as well as Christain belief, he saw the Ancient Egyptian master race as spiritually advanced whites from Atlantis. The occult side of this whole Egyptian idealization is fascinating as well.  I actually read a fascinating--what would be considered pseudo-science book--on Atlantis called Atlantis of the North, quite a convincing bit of research there.  But I need to read it again looking for any signs of racial bias.  It's a much more down to earth study of the idea, more plausible than the ancient alien or Edgar Cayce beliefs.

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All I've said here needs a more formal, careful essay. Just shooting off at the mouth here right now. Again, I blame errors and faulty construction, memory and typos, on touch-typing and my brain racing a mile a minute and the informal nature of forums.

 

I know that on Afrocentric websites the scholars and posters presume its done and finished, they have the evidence, that maybe true, but like something Carl Sagan supposedly said about another non-respectable pseudo-science or revisionist history--YOU ARE NOT EVEN PART OF THE DISCUSSION. I think if it was known and acceptable to more reasonable people and not even academics it would be on the History Channel instead of the ancient alien theories which are much weaker and more speculative. Is it the fault of it being dismissed as black identity madness?  Blacks are just talking to themselves on this evidence and my wish is that it should become more popular and worthy of being discussed and supported on Nova, say, and better understood. For me the death of Ivan Van Sertima was a great blow to this research.

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What is left after squeezing all the moisture out of the sponge of Egyptian skin color is a rhetorical why?  Why is blackness despised shunned and denied?  Why do great civilizations want any trace of it erased? Yet, Mongolian, Chinese and Japanese dynasties are give their just recognition?   Even Mexican and Native Americans influences are acknowledged.  But Blackness is dismissed.   

 

If aliens from Mars landed on Earth would they find Caucasians more appealing and attractive than Negroids? Europeans more appealing than Africans? Asians equally acceptable?  Does the place blackness occupies in nature and the universe have anything to do with the negative vibes it is subjected to????  The dark continent seems to have been doomed from the beginning.

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WC in this case I'm not really clear on what you are saying or looking for in terms of a response.  I read what you wrote and skimmed the attached pdf. 

 

For most of recorded history the continent of Africa and Black people represented the height of civilization. Sure the last few hundred years in North America have been disastrous for Black people but that is a relative blink of an eye relative to the dynasties of the Nile Valley.

 

Blackness is denigrated because it servs an economic means.

 

If equating Black people with animals made the permanent enslavement of Black people palatable to religious people great.  If science could be contorted to "prove" Black people were inferior terrific.  If the Black people, already robbed of their history, could be brainwashed into believing in the own inferiority by the perverted science and religion--perfect.

 

The battle is about power.  The "race" crap is a diversion.  Unfortunately in the world we live in we have to deal with it, 

 

The history of Black people is available, the science on race is available too.  The problem is people are not interested in this stuff and are quite happy talking about Black this and white that while being raped by the powerful without even knowing what happening--or better yet enjoying it.

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I guess I'm not satisfied with what's been done so far online or off. I think Van Sertima did the most elegant presentation of the data.  It seems he financed that research and its publication himself.  Just as you see or hear of new volumes like an Encyclopedia on Sumeria for example or a Dictionary with updated, newly organized and referenced material, I'm hoping for that when it comes to all the research that has and is being done and a better explanation of why it's necessary--for example the history of racism's effects on this scholarship, presented in such a book or series of books. 

 

Troy, you said in another post that blacks are whites presuming a racial element in the matter of power also. I 'm not sure I agree that blacks are white because of the anti-intellectualism among working class blacks and poverty stricken blacks--for me whiteness is essentially an intellectual pursuit of knowledge and knowledge also brings power. The whole issue of forbidding slaves to read is the most elegant example of the situation. You could say blacks who don't read are essentially still slaves.  It behooves then the victims of unchecked power not to disregard knowledge, history and learning so impudently or out of share, blind ignorance.  If you were speaking about black intellectuals I would agree with you because they use the tools of modernity--modernity is intellectual pursuits and contradictions against the certainties of lost pagan identities. If black Americans really want to be Africans they have to give up Christianity for beliefs older than Christianity or if you are an occultist the purer versions of these beliefs via Ancient Egypt's primary sources for such beliefs that have been distorted by latter day neo-Platonic and other elaborations of what seems in one case to be very straightforward after life beliefs: in the after life what the heart desires the tongue commands, to paraphrase it.

 

As I said I know some websites where the scholars and readers on this subject are quite happy just to present it in isolation from the rest of the culture. I want a better fight for the idea, I want it to be recognized and acknowledged in a wider arena of discourse, to be taken seriously and not dismissed. For many years I researched this material thinking that I might be able one day to contribute to its appeal and appreciation.  In example of an elegant presentation, speaking of economics as you did, Animal Farm is a very powerful and elegant statement in narrative form of the economics behind our present circumstances perhaps more so than Marx.   I do agree with you that the problem is not the illusion of race but the truth is still important even as people struggle for economic justice. Of course it maybe a waste of time. It seems like such an injustice though, that the evidence and the truth of history and the search for it must be abandoned. But blacks today are not Ancient Egyptians but as Cynique pointed out everyone else gets to have their high civilization except Africans. They never had any.  Given the state of Africa now it might be good to remind even Africans of the lost civilizations they once had, unified kingdoms, the flaws as well as the good qualities, they were as cultured as any in Europe. The Moorish-Arabic influence for example and its influence on Europe via Spain, Europe rediscovered lost works of science and culture during that period.

 

Just day dreaming aloud. 

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If aliens from Mars landed on Earth would they find Caucasians more appealing and attractive than Negroids? Europeans more appealing than Africans? Asians equally acceptable?  Does the place blackness occupies in nature and the universe have anything to do with the negative vibes it is subjected to????  The dark continent seems to have been doomed from the beginning.

 

Those are very powerful questions, Cynique--much food for thought.  I didn't find any jealousy in the texts I mentioned--I forgot what I've read on the Ancient Roman period and their treatment of Africans and this history, they did have black slaves in Rome and other parts of the Empire.  Apollonius of Tyana, when he spoke on the matter of these black priests and their connections to India, it seems like a common place belief or knowledge without controversy during that period of Rome. The Romans seems to have regarded their temperate climate as producing an ideal in terms of an early idea on race or civilization. Europe went through a terrible time with the belief in a black devil and demons and hell. The poor and illiterate peasants were frightened. They had rejected or had had their own paganism destroyed or co-opted.  These confusions among the common people, the loss or rejection of their own paganism, being afraid of it, also I think contributed to racism during the decades of slavery.  The ancient Irish, glimpsed in their folklore, had a lot in common with the Masai, as an example of related pagan beliefs and behavior. They both loved cattle raiding.  Lost when Christianity began to dominate them.  I see a lot of universality in the myths of all pagan peoples white and black.

 

I used to study the history of European serfdom and I think most white scholar didn't tell the truth about it and like most history written by the victors or the powerful, we really don't get much information directly from the peasants' point of view. I think new scholarship is attempting to sort through the materials to find it. We may have better revisionist scholarship on this now.  Take Jefferson, oh boy, it's clear now that there was no romantic love between Jefferson and Sally Hemmings, two revisionist histories has convinced me of that.  Jefferson's mistreatment and abuse of his slaves, particularly children, and his own mixed race children was covered up or ignored in the past. Washington at least felt guilty for owning people and regretted it on his death bed. Tragic stories.  Jefferson didn't seem to have had any remorse, though they were treated better than the ones that worked in his nail factory. We see how truth matters in this case to white historians at least. There is a controversial critique of Lincoln by a black scholar that I have yet to read but I've heard about  the controversy on C-span. I have one of his earliest books. I can't recall his name right now.

 

I have an old stapled booklet from either Dr. Clark or someone else on the possibility that Lincoln was mixed race. I think the mainstream dismisses this saying it was pro-slavery propaganda.  I wonder though.   I'm sure the more realistic view of Lincoln would show him with flawed feelings or thinking. It doesn't mean he was a monster. But then again humans being over all may be monsters of some sort, all of us, the good, the bad, the ugly and indifferent.  This stuff should also matter when it comes to blacks in ancient history. There is a fascinating story in the Washington expose, I forget the author's name for both books, one on Jefferson and Washington--of a white man adoring his mixed race son who seemed more like him than his own white son. It shows the bizarre nature of these relationships. Black Jack, it would make for a great movie.  The kid died under mysterious circumstances and never lived past his teens to receive his inheritance. Was it murder or simply the common place disease that struck down many children at that age.  Jefferson did not recognize a son who resembled him, could've been mistaken for him.

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Cynique that's also a neat little idea for a science fiction story. Cynically speaking, of course the aliens would reject the lot of us! Until we cleaned up our act on this poor planet.

 

When I mentioned jealousy I think if I recall right, among some Afrocentrics there is this conclusion that there was jealousy, envy involved, given the age and prowess of ancient Egypt this as explanation for the cover-up, the evidence being destroyed, denigrated, but I didn't see that in the documents I looked at. My source for blacks in the Roman period I can't recall right now, a book I read quickly and didn't get to study long.  The mainstream view maybe correct in that as long as locals adopted the Roman ways, they were accepted into the Empire, it wasn't so much skin or race but their religious beliefs and economic dominance that was at stake for them--I think the example of how they ruled the Middle East maybe an example of this assessment or consensus--the Romans were not racist, at least not in our sense of it. But I could be mistaken, not recalling correctly.

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Again, just talking shop, history, literature, fiction--the place of this racial material in entertainment--the arts. How do we use this stuff as artists faced with the commercial demands to entertain people.  If art has no moral purpose except to help people escape from reality is it worth pursuing? Can non-commercial art survive against pure special effects spectacle.  If you still persist in being an artist in this day and age, you have to confront these questions. The world really doesn't need any more escapism, so what good is the artist, what is his role--a propagandist for the status quo, a preaching to the choir moralist, who tells people what they already know--can the ideal work of art make a real difference at a time like this? Does the best consensus on history matter also. Wondering aloud again.

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I forgot to mention that the terrible thing about the Black Jack story is that he would've inherited his mother, a slave and other slaves. HIs white father's love of him didn't include any convervation to free slaves and to not exploit them. It makes for a bit of suspense, too, will he or won't he free his mother and the other slaves.  Looking back at old Hollywood films at the heyday of filmmaking it's remarkable how little reality existed in terms of black contributions to the West, for example and other things: movies about race horse Jockeys, whale ship crews, most early films fail to show history with blacks participating in almost every area. The cowboys and Indians, the calvalry.  It's to your point Cynque, about the exclusion of them from history. I'm not even saying they should take the lead, which would've been nice, but you could say in the background of reality versus escapsim when a film ignores or censors history altogether it only contributes to ignorance and unreality--there is some interesting revisionist history on Disney's use of race which suggest it was more positive than not, quite a contradiction but that's life, full of contradictions. So in the above example the mosre escapist films censors historical matter present and past, or avoids the troublesome and difficult, the more they contribute  to ignorance. Who could argue for more ignorance of true history.  But how to convinve people not in my choir of this,that's the problem. 

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Well, there is a school of thought that all art is political.  There's are theories about how the art of Leonardo DaVinci and his contemporaries was full of codes about  religion and masonery. Many Hollywood producers in the 1940s and 50s supposedly injected inside homosexual jokes and hidden political messages in their movies. The western classic "High Noon" supposedly did this, with its anti-establishment undertones.

 

Subliminal techniques have always been an effective tool in brainwashing movie and TV viewers whether it occurs in commercials or prime time content. I've often mused about whether all the amazing scientific special effects that re-create the universe and currently appear in documentaries about the cosmos aren't the output of humans remotely controlled by advanced aliens, preparing Earth for what the future holds...    

 

The information about little known black history is there for those who want to dig for it.  Lately, white authors and publishers and film makers are the ones who have been doing the diggin, capitalizing off the telling of "our stories". Black people have always been consumers rather than manufacturers. In this case, we remain the audiences instead of the producers.  Meanwhile, black directors tend to get caught up in the ego trip of being at the helm of white movies with white casts.     

 

Recently, a person who some might refer to as an airhead in the person of ex-supermodel and current TV producer, Tyra Banks, made the statement to the effect that before the end of the century,  through a variety of circumstances, everybody will be moocha colored and race will be irrelevant.  I have considered this idea myself.  But I've never deceived myself into thinking that if everybody was the same color, all our dilemmas would disappear. Classism would, in all probability, complete the emerging trend of becoming the new racism.

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Cynique, you have the imagination of a science fiction writer.  Your other points on color interests me as well. I'm more impressed by Tyler Perry's writing white characters than his black characters because it seems white authors were privileged to write about anything under the sun, they could put themselves in everyone shoes, correctly or incorrectly, so I'm happy to see his freedom to recreate whites as it were.  I don't believe any author white or black should be confined to exploring the personalities and cultures of only the groups, classes and races assigned to him. If they give you ruled paper write the other way to paraphrase something I read in a Ray Bradbury book.  I admire Bradbury a lot because he used the library to teach himself and loved libraries. The truism of write what you know has subtleties of meaning, it doesn't necessarily mean biography or just from your culture, never true in genre fiction in any case, and certainly not true in science fiction and fantasy.

 

I think it's good if black authors can write white characters because writing beyond one's race or experience should not be the privilege of whites only.  And all authorial conceptions are the conceptions of the authors own wishes, needs and indeed politics as you correctly stated. I feel this keenly about escapism, escapism is a form of politics in art--there is cultural consensus on subject matter, and there is some merit in the argument that explicit propaganda and morality plays are boring and does bore audiences. I find a lot of good intentioned "black" problem films suffer from this, but since I know a lot about the problems in the black community maybe it bores me more.  I think this is why more than a lot of stuff about poverty and racism I loved the Black Panther when he appeared in the Fantastic Four. He had problems but it wasn't what I already knew.  I bought or it was bought for me at a a local A&P in the 70s black history comics, they were in these plastic bags on a rack, if I recall correctly--they certainly weren't exciting as the Black Panther and even white superhero comics.

 

You speak off subliminal techniques, escapism does seem to work subliminally, given our fight or flight instincts.  Its moralities, social codes and all the status quo politics is represented indirectly like a magician's slight of hand. The only thing that's clearly explicit is the happy ending, de riqueur.

 

India is a great example of probably a mixing that did not necessarily produce much equality, but I hear that there is some embarrassment there now over the use of skin whitening creams and formulas. I suspect white Indians are the elites there.  I guess nobody wants to be black because of its symbolic aspects then.  Classicism and caste would as you say become the new racism. Did they inherit this from British colonialism or was it there before. The whole Dravidian thing is fascinating, too. Tony Brown I think did a show on the outcast castes in India, very black Indians, blacker than some American Negroes.  We're fortunate to be in America despite its problems. India I think has far worse social problems than America--maybe because overpopulation and their own flawed social order.

 

It sounds like a theme for a Vonnegutian satire, movie or play:

 

But I've never deceived myself into thinking that if everybody was the same color, all our dilemmas would disappear. Classism would, in all probability, complete the emerging trend of becoming the new racism.

 

Yes, everyone is the same but of different classes, social ranks, caste--all that fight for equality.  Have you ever wondered if there was a biological reason to keep people apart even of the same species--how did this come to be? Just the seasons. A change in the pigmentation of our genes.

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Yes, a writer has, so to speak, "poetic license" to write about anything.  But this is kind of in conflict with the cardinal rule for authors to write about what they know. The possibility that a white author may have to do research to write about black people somewhat disturbs me.  He might equip himself to recreate the external conditions of being black but could he, as a privileged, entitled member of society get inside the head of a black person.  True, certain emotions are universal and are thereby receptive to empathy but what constitutes the soul of a black person is innate and indigenous and not easily recognized or expressed by an outsider.  (Many black people secretly long to be white but a white author would be treading a slippery slope to write about this.)

 

 Ironically when it comes to black people writing about white people, I am little more broad-minded because of the double consciousness black people maintain. I think Blacks are more qualified to write about Whites than vice versa because for centuries we have been observing white people, honing our instincts in order to know how to deal with them from an underdog position.  Yet, a gifted white writer should be equal to the task.  A regular one?  Not so much. I always thought that white author, James Patterson was so eager to portray his Alex Cross character as a person first and an African American second that he bleached out Cross' identity. It was like Patterson thought there was something wrong with being a typical black man. But he means well.   Walter Mosely's black detective, EZ Rawlins, is a more authentic character.

 

I'm surprised that anyone as sophisticated as you would be so impressed with Tyler Perry.  I give him his props for recognizing opportunities to capitalize off a certain audience. And I also give him credit for providing roles and work for black artists. But, to me, what he produces is trite not aesthetic. Which is not a sin, but not an asset either. What I like about him most, is how he rankles the ego of Spike Lee  whose movies don't do as well as Tyler's. 

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Those are interesting points and some serious things to think about. 

 

How to explain why I find "The Haves and Haves Not" in particular interesting, it's difficult to say. He certainly has done well with his opportunities and is a good example of savvy, business smarts-- using his gifts to achieve fame and success, building his own studio of sorts, if I'm not mistaken. The roles on the show seem pretty unique to me--not your typical cops and soldiers stereotypes. No super-people but flawed people. Other stereotypes. I like the hyperbole. The exaggeration. The show is probably an example of bad taste or even kitschy melodrama, soap opera but I'm not sure...there something about it that appeals to me. I don't watch much television, no sitcoms, no police dramas, nothing except mostly old movies and TV shows, some PBS, news programs. I watch the Sundance channel.  I enjoyed some new movies, too.  I just started watching Key and Peel, very funny stuff, however safe and tame.  I loved Madtv. Dumb and Dumber. I enjoy some History channel programs, C-Span, so this Tyler Perry show's appeal to me is a bit surprising come to think about it. It's probably that I've just taken off my critical hat and I'm not thinking but experiencing it on its own terms. I can do that with a lot of movies, suspend criticism or suspend disbelief. I'm not against genres. Or maybe I'm not so sophisticated after all! 

 

The question can whites write black? If we're speaking of strict realistic literary race fiction, I would hazard to say maybe some whites that have experienced some forms of alienation or racial violence: a Jewish writer in Hitler's Germany, experiencing the slave labor camp, might have the empathy or the imagination necessary to find connections between the two holocausts, though one would be more immediate than the other.  A film with black actors performing something on race written by a white from empathy rather than experience could do it. 

 

But given the nature of a specific black experience, that overwhelming self consciousness as a result of hatred and the cowering that both men and women had to do to survive in the South in particular, to have to put up with insults and denigration in your face as if it was normal, no, most whites have no idea of what that was like--an ethnic white could easily change his name for example and some did in order to make it--the stigma of race isn't really there. But I'm not sure again that the consciousness is the same now.

 

The younger generation of black men for example, don't have to act timid to survive as an everyday reality, to be called boy, for example, and have to take it, they have machine guns in the inner city for example, despite the cases of prison and police brutality now, at least in those parts of the South in the past when humiliating blacks in ordinary circumstances seemed to have been routine, nothing out of ordinary or odd. I'd say things have changed considerably since then, though we all know of incidents of modern day lynching and abuse.  But if it's particulars we're talking about, that particular black experience wouldn't be universal. Most ethnics were able to identify with white culture over all, if they assimilated or accepted assimilation despite some discrimination and prejudice.  Maybe whites in Africa surrounded by Africans in positions of power may feel a heightened self-consciousness of difference. 

 

But the love of family, these would be universals and could be shared whether the writer is black or white but authenticity might be lost depending on the social context of a particular era, the nuances that racism would have on the family experience.  It could be researched and the gap filled in by that research, that is the real experience of real people, that could help the writer at least make his best effort at achieving believability.  I guess a blind test would be necessary to see if he or she fooled us. We wouldn't know until after finishing the book if the writer was white or black.  I think circumstances probably favors your position--given that whites are not compelled by experience to write race specific fiction, a very privileged position.  I suspect white editors, readers and publisher probably expect that blacks are compelled to write about black specific issues because of the social condition they are in as victims of racism, people struggling against racism and facing the choice of either forgetting or remembering what happened to their ancestors. The only others who face similar choices would be Jewish writers concerned about what happened in the past and what might happen again, any current ethnic and religious groups, or castes facing various forms of discrimination in other countries. I've been hearing a lot about modern slavery in different parts of the world, so writers emerging from those groups would have the necessary background.

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LOL, wc.  Sounds to me like your appetite for "The Haves and The Have-Nots" is a form of - escapism.

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