RACE PAGE: Many or None
(c)2004 HIM contents (summary of the HS web-biography) *
Ethiopian & Rastafari
by Aster Sellassie, Millennium Ed.
GeoAlaska: Theatre & Film
(c)2004 HIM contents (summary of the HS web-biography) *
I think that after I was "red" in communist Russia, my white color is questionable. One color I resented the most in Moscow -- the grey. That's maybe the single reason why I defected. You see them everywhere, faceless and blank. Since Russians lived in a closed society, they had ethnic, but not the racial conflicts. It's not a surprise that people famous for "pogroms" could be racists.
How do I file the shameful line in applications -- the race question? Shameful, because there was a nationality point in every Soviet passport. It mattered little, if you happened to be Russian. It was done not for them, for others. If you have "Jewish" in your passport, they knew how to red and what to do. there was 5% quota in universities, they tried to limit Jews from getting too much education.
It was a matter of politics, that royal offsprings would have as many bloods as possible. There are over seventy different languages in Ethiopia, perhaps, hundreds of clans with their own nobility. It was a long process of mixing blood in the line of Lion of Judah. In fact, the very begining of the Solomic dynasty started with the inter-racial relations of black women and a semitic king.
How do they draw their color line in Africa? Oh, yes, there are "blacks" in Africa. And "whites"?
[Text is from Chapter 1. 2000 of "HIM" - See page 3 for Part I.]
History is a series of troubles which we have to understand to prevent ourselves from repeating them. But all troubles of history occurred because we are the problem. We remember that but not when we judge history. We know what they didn't understand and what should be done to have it right. Our assumption is that we learn from and we know it all now. We don't ask questions, we give answers. Isn't that what any science supposed to do?
The first problem with history is that it never ends. Even after "the end of history" we still have something of a historical process. We still have the past and the future with us in the middle.
The postmodernists who have problems with time and history should consider living in Africa. Even within a global village environment Africa managed to have no visible history. Or a history which we can include in world history. Only a history of troubles. And African troubles have to be big to make it to our evening news. Nothing good comes from Africa. Only the bad things, hunger, wars, AIDS.
Sir Arthur Kirby, Commissioner for British East Africa in London, said in 1958, that "in the last sixty years .... East Africa has developed from a completely primitive country, in many ways more backward than the Stone Age...." In David Hume's opinion, pre-European African Negroes could boast of "no ingenious manufactures among them, no arts, no sciences."(1)
[Look further back, and you will discovered that God didn't created an Englishman. Or even a race. Never the less, how come the ancient civilization of Africa never followed the Wonder of Europe? There are many answers, too many.]
The above patronizing statement looks flattering to Haile Sellassie. There are enough testimonials of what he accomplished in modernizing Ethiopia, including the model of Emperor itself. What is missing in such an approach is to notice what Haile Sellassie dismantled while reforming the country. The intellectual moment of departure from the past is the most dramatic and intriguing in the story of Ras Tafari. To a great degree Ethiopia is a hostage to its own long history. The radicalism of the last two decades could be explained as a need to get rid of the cultural treasury in order to move ahead faster. Not the present but the Ethiopian past has to be re-elevated. Who would do it and when?
European interest in its own past has a rather recent history. Archeology as a science owes more to the colonial period perhaps more than to the European soil. The parallel existence of Europe and Africa is no more a paradox than the co-existence of West and East, or even the wonder of developing neighboring cultures which we saw and can see everywhere.
Only after our return from Ethiopia did I realize that the family never visited a single museum in Addis. Archeological, Historical, Art -- museums are not there. The country still behaves as if it is itself a museum. The preservation of the past is done by foreigners. Even the famous pre-historical excavations
are conducted by outsiders. Even a poverty-stricken post-communist Russia struggles not to give up its museums and libraries -- the last hope for a possible future renaissance.
And Ethiopia is one of the better known African civilizations.
The lack of knowledge is just a part of the problem. The
efforts of "post-colonialist" academia to move in the third world
studies in many ways causes more harm than good. The extremes of
cultural studies are an easy target. The basic mistake is to
replace European heritage with "non-white" cultures. To
acknowledge somebody's achievements, do we really need to put the
other down? After a century of modernity with its universal
attitude and discoveries of the Other, itís too late to advocate
the need for inclusion of non-western cultures into a body of our
knowledge. The question should be how much did we learn from it?
How much more can we get?
The problem is not with the subject itself but with mass consumption of cultural studies -- where cultural and studies are lost. There is nothing new about the trivia which takes place when ideas and masses meet. It's a pain and price of popularization.
....Back Americans, Ethiopians, Russians and the rest in the POMO Universe (Americana)
From potentiality to actuality?
From nation to state? What nation? Afro-communism spans out of politics of modern history. Dictators and dictatorship shacks Africa for three decades. De-colonization brought a wave of civil wars. What did they bring? Oh, we are here not to explain but to change history (Marx). What's now? From state to nation? Which one? Will Africa fall again into neo-tribalism?
How many nations are then in Africa?
More than countries.
Who are they?
To understand Ethiopians is to travel far into the past. The small, the un-noticeable. Egyptian motifs in Ethiopia. They are less visible than African. People's features, not only Semitic or Arabic. Did they move down the River Nile to give birth to the great Egyptian civilization? Did Ethiopian Jews come down at the time of Moses's exodus? Egyptians thought that Ethiopia is a land of God. Because of the Nile's source? Mountains? What will be the meaning of "Ethiopian" in the future? Colors? Ceremony of coffee drinking? Will there be a country "Ethiopia"? Something will be there -- in Africa.
Intellectually, Africa is still the land of myths and fantasies. Our discovery of the planet Africa is too recent. Of course, we have no right for this innocence. We are ignorant. I only wish I could write about Ethiopia the way they did before:
In the earliest account of his fabled kingdom, written in the twelfth century, Prester John is described as ruling over seventy-two kings and over the three Indias. In his realm `were to be found all the strange beast recorded in medieval bestiaries, including the salamander which dwelt in fire; from its incombustible envelope were made the Prester's own robes, which were washed not with water but with fire. In his dominions were also the Amazons and the Bragmans and the unclean races of men whom Alexander the Great had walled up in the cities of the north to emerge at the last day. His palace was built according to the designs of St. Thomas, the apostle of the Indies, and contained a marvelous mirror in which he could see all parts of his dominions... He went to war preceded by thirteen golden crosses, each followed by ten thousand horsemen and a hundred thousand footmen, and it was his great ambition to march to Jerusalem and annihilate the infidels.3 (ER 52-53)
The four of us arrived in Addis Ababa airport in June of 1995. The kids and I -- for the first time. Esther -- after eighteen years. Lost luggage in Khartoum (as in JFK), fight with the customs officers over a computer (the same as in Russia), and the deposit money for bottles of Coca-Cola.... That must be it, the new, the different.
Of course, after a few months one could collect those pieces
of the other culture but the Ethiopia of my imagination was
better. I was living through the experience my wife lived through
in Russia. Real Addis Ababa was a disappointment. Forget the
marvelous mirror of Prester John! The locals walked around
dressed by a Salvation Army store if it still could offer the
fashion of the late forties. Neglect, abuse, indifference.
Buildings, cars, people. Even chickens are small, dusty and
without meat. The hotels under construction on Bole Road already
What are the "specifics" of Ethiopia?
[And how much of the "specifics" of African customs are "African"? Is it possible that we see "our" past revealed in preserved forms by cultures of the Island of Africa? To what degree do Ethiopia's peculiar practices differs from European or Russian medieval history? And how much do we know about "our" national histories?]
And where is this "true" Ethiopia?
WHY DID YOU MAKE ME BLACK DEAR LORD? (A POEM-PRAYER WITH A REPLY FOR THOUGHT)(4) by RuNell Ni Ebo Lord, Lord Why did You make me Black? Why did You make someone The world wants to hold back? Black is the color of dirty clothes, The color of grimy hands and feet Black is the color of darkness, The color of tire-beaten streets. Why did You give me thick lips, A broad nose and kinky hair? Why did You make someone Who receives the hatred stare? Black is the color of the bruised eye When someone gets hurt. Black is the color of darkness, Black is the color of dirt. How come my bone structure's so thick, My hips and cheeks are high? How come my eyes are brown And not the color of daylight sky? Why do people think I'm useless? How come I feel so used? Why do some people see my skin And think I should be abused? Lord I just don't understand. What is it about my skin? Why do some people want to hate me And not know the person within? Black is what people are "listed" When others want to keep them away. Black is the color of shadows cast. Black is the end of the day. Lord you know my own people mistreat me And I know this just ain't right. They don't like my hair. They say I'm too dark or too light. Lord don't You think it's time for You To make a change? Why don't You re-do creation and Make everyone the same? GOD ANSWERED: Why did I make you Black? Why did I make You Black? Get off your knees and look around. Tell me, what do you see? I didn't make you in the image of darkness, I made you in likeness of ME! I made you the color of coal from which Beautiful diamonds are formed. I made you the color of oil, the black gold that Keeps people warm. I made you from the rich, dark earth that can Grow the food you need. Your color's the same as the black stallion, a Majestic animal is he. I didn't make you in the image of darkness. I made you in likeness of ME! All the colors of the heavenly rainbow can be Found throughout every nation. But when all of those colors were blended, you Became my greatest creation. Your hair is the texture of lamb's wool. Such a humble little creature is he. I am the Shepherd who watches them. I am the One who will watch over thee. You are the color of midnight sky. I put the stars' glitter in your eyes. There is a smile hidden behind your pain. That's why your cheeks are so high. You are the color of dark clouds formed, When I send My strongest weather. I made your lips full so when you kiss the one that you love, they will remember. Your stature is strong, your bone structure thick To withstand the burdens of time. The reflection you see in the mirror... The image that looks back is MINE.
"Is something really wrong with the black people all over
the world? Here in the USA many blacks kill one another for
things that are absolutely insignificant. In Latin America, for
example, in Haiti blacks kill one another rampantly.
I never saw our family as an inter-racial marriage. What did
I know in Russia about black people? I don't know how much one
could learn about being a black from the Ethiopians. I liked
their unique position in history and geography. They were
referred as "lost in history" -- they never could claim to belong
to one or another side. Emperor Menelik didn't consider himself
black or African. Anthropology has no final answer on the origins
of Ethiopians. They are dark, all right. One can see all possible
shades of darkness on the streets of Addis Ababa, no less than in
black Americans. There are "blacks' (Oromo) in Ethiopian,
according to Amhara. But the Indians could be even darker!
Ethiopian conflicts lie along ethnic lines, at least on their
Look what is going on in Africa!! Sudan, Eritrea, Egypt, and Ethiopia are vowing to wage war against one another. The Rwandas devoured one another like a hell. Uganda is at odds with Sudan. Meles' Ethiopia and Sudan are on the verge of devouring one another. Sudan seems determined to rape the X-daughter of Ethiopia, which is Eritrea. Egypt and Sudan are at odds with one another. All of them are trying to destroy one another. They are destroying each other's country. They are destroying Africa. They are destroying the black land; they are destroying themselves.
But look what the Europeans are doing!! They already became united as the "European Union" or "EU". They are growing their economy through unity. They are developing their European culture or white culture. They are extremely advancing in technology; in education; they are invading the space in the sky. They are paving the way in which they put all the world under their total subjugation or submission.
The black people all over the world are paving the way for the Europeans or the white race so that the Europeans will put all black race under their total control; In other words, black people are paving the way for their own destructions.
Are the black people really cursed? Are they really cursed? Cursed? Cursed? Jalala.(5)
Only a black person alienated from black language-use could fail to understand that we have been deconstructing white people's languages and discourses since that dreadful day in 1619 when we were marched off the boat in Virginia. Derrida did not invent deconstruction, we did! - Henry Louis Gates(6)
It was only natural. And non-conscious. "Ebonics" is no less
real than English grammar. It's not just a deconstruction of the
English language but the language itself.
Double consciousness emerges from the unhappy symbiosis between three modes of thinking, being, and seeing. The first is racially particularistic, the second nationalistic in that it derives from the nation state in which the ex-slaves but not yet citizens find themselves, rather than from their aspiration towards a nation state of their own. The third is diasporic or hemispheric, something global and occasionally universalist.(7)
Double consciousness is not a criterion of "black mind" -- but our pomo state of mind....
Haile Sellassie finished building the Empire at the time
when the empires already had fallen apart. The world was into
economic and cultural imperialism, not political. Even at that
time Ethiopia was out of touch with the world. Global history
time was much more powerful than a local national time --
Ethiopia still lives seven years behind the universal calendar.
We understand imperialism differently.
Imperialism = concentration of capital across national
borders. Power is a capital (pre-industrial mode).
Colonization. Was it also the "North over South" in Ethiopian history? Menelik with his army fought not so much Italians but his southern neighbors. In a few years he doubled the size of the empire. There was little resistance, no more than to the Russian colonization of Siberia. When Americans moved to the wild West, Menelik went to the South.
The race issue? Abyssinians over Africans.
The same with Egyptians, who are only located in Africa. Even our present geo-political classification speaks of "Northern Africa" and "Sub-Saharan Africa" -- how many Africas are there?
Oh, Africa is the world and it has four corners.
Was it a mixture of classical empire and imperialism?
Marxism always tries to save empires falling apart. That's how we
think about "China" -- a country. Really?
Empires end up with civil wars.
The present Ethiopian republic speaks of federation, which is more like a confederation. The same news on TV is broadcast in three languages.
Empires exist only in motion; the moment they stop growing, they die. Any empire is a hostage to its expansion. They have to be in a state of war all the time.
The Ethiopian solution to a race issue -- the mix.
...Color of your skin. Something so simple, turns out very controvertual.
When our daughter was three year old, she had her question of identity solved. Sasha, are you white or black? "I am half Russian, half Ethiopian, half American and half English." The three halfs were easy to understand, but why "English"? Why English, Sasha? "Because I speak English."
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