1. Telling the Story of Europe in Africa
“Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.” In his book, Africana Studies: A Survey of the African Diaspora, Dr. Mario Azevedo, an author, professor, epidemiologist and historian, says the first European historians to study the continent of Africa only focused on African history that consisted of European events and individuals. By disregarding the existence of African leaders, prososperous kingdoms and intellectual developments, the historians implied that Africa did not have a history prior to European involvement.
2. Belittling Africa’s Technological Difference
Many archaeologists believed that Africa was inferior to Europe due to the fact that Africa’s tools and materials were not deemed valuable or relevant, according to European standards. Max Dashu, an American historian and founder of the Suppressed Histories Archives website, describes this ideology as the “technological calibration doctrine.” Archeological findings derived from this belief have led many to adopt the common misconception that Africa was historically primitive.
3. Derogatorily ‘Tribalizing’ the Entire Continent of Africa
The early European archeologists and anthropologists of African studies purposely concentrated their efforts on smaller African communities, which they referred to as tribes. Furthermore, these scholars failed to highlight the interesting cultural complexities that existed within these settings. Dr. Lansiné Kaba, a scholar, writer and prominent professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University at Qatar, states that these archeologists described the activities of these communities as “savage or at best as exotic curiosities.”
4. Disrespecting Sacred African Aspects
Institutions, especially those of mainstream media, have been known to take terms that are significant to Africans and attribute them to aspects that are unimportant or senseless to Europeans. For instance, according to Dashu, the phrase “mumbo jumbo” was derived from theMandinke word mama dyambo, which refers to a ceremonial staff characterized by the image of a female ancestor. This tactic inevitably caused individuals to devalue sacred African culture and tradition.
5. Stereotyping Individuals of African Descent
Make no mistake. Hollywood was and will always be an institution. And, historically, this institution has used the technique of stereotyping to create false images of African people. Whether it was derogatory terms or images of inaccurate depictions, these stereotypes created a false narrative. Dashu expounds on this topic in her article, Racism, History and Lies.
6. Focusing Solely on Africa’s Downfalls
Many Western scholars of the past, including historians and archaeologists, only informed the world of the crises of Africa in order to promote the untrue notion that Africans are inferior to their European counterparts. Professor Thandika Mkandawire, the first person to become the chair in African Development at the London School of Economics and the previous director of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, refers to this phenomenon as the “CNN factor” or “Afro-pessimism.”
7. Writing History From the Winner’s Point of View
History was written by those who won. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise to learn that historians who were on the “winning side” only celebrated those who successfully conquered others and won the most wars. Dashu describes this philosophy as the “Spread of Civilization Doctrine.” In regards to African history, this doctrine gave historians the opportunity to glorify the West and omit the accounts of African successes from the history books.
8. Disassociating Ancient Kemet From Africa
Historians also aimed to separate the accomplishments of Ancient Kemet, or Egypt, from the rest of the African continent. In fact, they attempted to associate the traditions, practices and innovations of Ancient Egypt with Greece, Rome and the Middle East. Dashu identifies this principle as the “Passing of the Torch Doctrine.” In addition, Dashu, in her article Racism, History, and Lies, argues against this doctrine by conveying that “archaeology shows that the earliest formative influences on ancient Egypt came from Sudan and the Sahara, not the ‘Middle East.’”
9. Sweeping the Crimes of Europe Under the Rug
Many white historians have promoted the practice of what Dashu describes as “double-think.” This technique serves the purpose of downplaying the inhumanity that surrounded the practices of Europeans in Africa. For instance, racially biased historians often described the cruel history of European colonization, imperialism and resource exploitation as ventures characterized by unity and helpfulness. In turn, this excused the crimes committed by Europe and left the resulting unfortunate condition of Africa unexplained and unexcused.
10. Monopolizing the Field of African Studies
European historians have managed to maintain their monopoly within the field of African studies. Professor Mkandawire refers to them as the “gatekeepers” of the field. According to Mkandawire, these historians “act as a police force” and permit as few Africans as possible into the academy. This is due to the fact that most African historians wish to bring about positive change to the continent, while historically most white historians aimed to maintain social, political and economic influence. This technique inevitably misconstrues recorded African history and negatively impacts the future of Africa.