when we fell victims to this feeling of inadequacy or inferiority or
helplessness, we turned to somebody else to show us the way. We didn't have
confidence in another Black man to show us the way, or Black people to show us
the way. In those days we didn't. We didn't think a Black man could do anything
but play some horn -- you know, some sounds and make you happy with some songs
and in that way. But in serious things, where our food, clothing, and shelter
was concerned and our education was concerned, we turned to the man. We never
thought in terms of bringing these things into existence for ourselves, we
never thought in terms of doing things for our selves. Because we felt
of the negative side effects of the mis-education that African people have
undergone is that we have internalized a type of victim mentality. That is to
say that when we look at ourselves throughout history we always see ourselves
as being victims that are waiting for other people to liberate us or to save us.
That is certainly the historical narrative I got in schools. I was taught about
how Abraham Lincoln emancipated the slaves or how William Wilberforce ended the
slave trade. Nat Turner’s name came up once in class and there was Frederick
Douglass, but the role of Africans in resisting slavery was for the most part
erased. In schools African children really do not hear about Toussaint, Cuffy,
Sam Sharpe, Buddhoe, Nanny, Bussa, Dessalines, Zumbi, and the many others that
resisted slavery. This leaves students with the impression that Africans were
reduced to merely being slaves that begged for other people to save us, as the
image above depicts.
change this type of mentality we need to know our history. We need to read
about how the Haitians defeated three of the most powerful empires in Europe or
how the Ethiopians defeated the Italians. We need to read about the defeats
that the Asante and the Zulu inflicted on the British Empire or how the Hehe fought
bravely for seven years against the Germans. We need to read about how the Maroons in
Jamaica or the Black Caribs in St. Vincent managed to force the British to sign
a treaty with them on their own terms because the British could not outright
defeat them in combat.
every African nation but Ethiopia failed to fend off European imperialism (and
even Ethiopia would, for a time, fall under Italian rule), Africans fought
valiantly and in some cases won the respect of their foes. As John Henrik
Clarke said, “For a period of more than a hundred years, African warrior
nationalists, mostly kings, who had never worn a store-bought shoe or heard of
a military school, outmaneuvered and outgeneraled some of the finest military
minds of Europe.” The point Clarke makes here is profound because although
Africans did not have the same technology that the Europeans had, they were
able to score some major victories simply through their military tactics alone.
The defeat of the Italians at the hands of Ethiopia was perhaps the only time
Europeans fought an African army that was armed with up to date weaponry.
many of us have never really studied our history to see that at various points
Africans defeated or came close to defeating Europeans, we have a skewed view
of history which makes it appear as though we have merely been victims
throughout history and we are incapable of standing up for ourselves.