THE EDITOR: Raymond Ramcharitar’s 21/9/11 piece on Africentrism [How to do the Afrocentric Hustle] was a shameless display of intellectual laziness and generalising with enough vitriol to hint at something I won’t even dignify here with a mention. Which is unfortunate because it took away from a message that contained some validity. There’re quite a few scholars, politicians, artistes and activists who exploit enslavement, colonialism and Euro-centred racism to excuse self-defeatist attitudes and who manipulate racial insecurities, narrow tribalism and ideas of entitlement to retard real self-development among Afro-Trinis.
There’s also an overly romanticised painting of classical Africa instead of looking also at the realities of contemporary Africa. But classifying Africentrism as the “Afro equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan” is deeply insulting to the profound scholarship of Cheikh Anta Diop, Charles Finch, Asa Hilliard, Van Sertima, our own Tony Martin and Gloria Emegwali along with white scholars like Sir Flinders Petrie, Martin Bernal, JH Breasted, Gerald Massey and Alexander Von Wuthenau. To lump together Diop, Jeffries or Dr Ben with say Dr Cudjoe, PNM politicians and semi-literate calypsonians, speaking of Africentricity as opposed to “sanity,” shows Ramcharitar possessing the same intellectual shallowness he and Baldeosingh of the Express like to pin on Africentrists (funny how uncritical they are of conservative academia, apparently only Africentrists peddle myths).
I’m not saying that Africentric scholars make no academic mistakes but how is it that the Ramcharitars never speak about the fact that many of these scholars — even now — manage to produce detailed research in spite of hostile, cliquish, conservative academia, failure to secure grants, denied access to libraries and obscure private antiquities collections? RIIIIGHT, because with Obama’s election such wars are long over. Ever heard of morphing, Raymond?
His snide dismissal rings hollow if one examines such debates as the Black Athena debate when Mary Lefkowitz’s and conservative academia’s (even more “therapeutic”) arguments were systematically deconstructed as were those of the conservative Egyptologists by Diop and Theophile Obenga in the 1974 UNESCO debate. I’m also curious Ramcharitar, which is more absurd, the wearing of dashikis and kaftans or jackets and ties in tropical heat because 49 years after Independence we still cyar adopt formal attire (and military and police uniforms) that reflect the realities of our tropical environment (question, is a sari a “costume” too? Just asking).
Africentric scholarship, far from being an oxymoron, is simply a way of looking at the world using as its foundation traditional African-centered ideas of development and philosophies which, last I checked, were always notorious for being too open and accommodating (and quote me one racist utterance by Dr Jeffries, Raymond, just one, and the context). Ramcharitar may want to keep that in mind or better yet, study the principles of Ma’at before he spouts such effluence about Afro version of the KKK.