Where does the anti-black racism that exists in the world come from ? If you are African or of African origin, this is a question you have had to ask yourself at least one day in your life. The Black man is badly seen by a large part of humanity. When he is in the Arab Muslim world, he is rejected. When he is in the Western world, despite all his signs of openness, westernization or integration, racism and hatred are never far away in order to call him a bambula, monkey, etc.
Everywhere where he goes he is always the victim of stereotypes which end up seriously harming him (rejections, racisms, hatreds, etc.) as history has shown it on several occasions.
But where does this attitude that other peoples have towards the Black man come from ? What is the historical origin of this rejection ? When did it begin in the history of mankind ?
This may shock some, but anti-black racism originally originated from religious sources, more precisely on the religious bases of the so-called revealed religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam).
What is the founding text of this racism ? Well it is the text that is better known as the curse of Ham. This text is in the biblical book of Genesis, more precisely in the story of Noah and his sons, sons representing the ancestors of the nations.
This is what the biblical book of Genesis says in chapter 9, verses 18-19: “The sons of Noah, who came out of the ark, were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah, and it is their posterity that peopled the whole Earth. “
The biblical text explains that they are the ancestors of the nations that populated the earth after the deluge. What are these nations ?
According to the biblical text there are 3 ancestors of the 3 nations that populated the earth after the deluge. These are the nations: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Here is the passage from the bible where the curse is mentioned.
(Genesis 9: 20-27):
” Noah, started to cultivate the soil, and proceeded to plant a vineyard. He drank some of its wine, he became drunk and laid uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body, while doing it, their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness.
When Noah awoke from his drunkenness and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! May he be the slave of the slaves of his brothers.” He also said, “Praised be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the their slave. May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”
At first glance, this text does not mention the skin color of the people here. At first glance, one can not say who symbolizes (between Sem, Cham or Japhet) Blacks (Africans), whites (Europeans), etc …
At first sight this text does not say that Ham is cursed, since in this text it is Canaan (son of Ham) who is cursed and struck with slavery and therefore not Ham himself. These are the kinds of arguments often used by the followers of the revealed religions to defend themselves when it comes to this subject.
But how do we know that Ham designates black people ?
Well, it is because in Hebrew (the language in which the book of genesis was written) the term “Ham” refers to the idea of heat, blackness, or burnt. In the Pharaonic language, the term “Kam” means black.
If then these Hebrew people have at some times of their history stayed in Egypt as the Bible says, it means that there were contacts between these Semitic people and African people (blacks). We can then understand where this term Ham (term to designate the physical appearance of Blacks) comes from, which is found in the Bible.
Ham is (by taking account of the contacts between the Semitic people and the African people in antiquity) a distortion of the term Kam or Kem (meaning black, blackened in Pharaonic language) by the editors of the Bible as Cheikh Anta Diop explains it in his founding book Nations Nègres et Culture. It is therefore normal for Ham to be designated in the Bible as the source of black (African) people.
Moreover, the traditions of the so-called revealed religions refer to Ham and his Biblical descendants as the symbolic names to designate the people originating from Africa.
If Ham is the ancestor of the first African (black) people, then his biblical sons Kush (Nubia/Sudan), Misraim (Egypt), Punt and Canaan (Palestine-Syria) were originally African people.
If then the curse concerns (according to the text), only Canaan (son of Cham), how did we pass from the curse of Canaan to the curse of Ham ?
Well, it is in the interpretation and teaching of the religious leaders of the so-called revealed religions (priests, popes, rabbis, caliphs, Imams, etc.)
Thus, according to the rabbinical commentaries (such as Midrash Rabba and Bereshit Rabba), this text is interpreted as the fact that through Noah’s ark during the flood, Cham committed a serious sin of sexual impurity against his Father (what it means to see the nudity of his father). And thus through Canaan, it was Cham who was cursed (turned into black) and his biblical descendants (Kush, Misraim, Punt and Canaan).
In the Midrash Rabba, page 293, Noah said to Cham: “You have made me incapable of doing things in the darkest moment of the night, so your offspring (that is, your descendants) will be naughty and have a Black skin “.
Robert Graves and Raphael Patai give us another insight into this curse in another Hebrew text through their book entitled ” Hebrew Myths, ed. Fayard, 1987, p.192-134: “Moreover, since you have contorted yourself to see my nakedness, the hair of your little children will become wrapped until they become frizzy and they will have red eyes. Your lips have joked about my misfortune, yours are going to swell and since you have lacked consideration for my nakedness, they will go naked and their male organ (genital organs) will lengthen ignominiously. “
According to these texts, African physical characteristics (being black skinned, having frizzy hair, sometimes thick lips, etc.) all these characteristics are in fact the mark of the curse. According to these texts at the beginning of the creation the first men were not black. And if there are some blacks, it means that they are the children of the devil and the curse. Thus, seeing a black such as one can see in nature (frizzy hair, black complexion, etc…) is seeing someone cursed, it is seeing a demon, the devil himself !!! Even the idea that Blacks would have the most developed and biggest male organ in the world comes from these texts !!! Thus we see how caricatures and stereotypes about the physiognomy of the Black began in history.
Rabbi Maimonides in his book, considered by the Jews to be the greatest in Jewish religious philosophy (The Guide to the lost, Book III, Chapter 51) tells this about black people:
“Their nature is similar to that of mute animals, and in my opinion they do not reach the rank of human beings; among the existing things they are inferior to man but superior to the ape, for they possess in a greater measure than the ape the image and likeness of man.”
Christianity presenting itself as the heir of Judaism, these ideas of the Negro being cursed by God, then passed into Christianity and were used by the church as the justification for the enslavement of Africans, since through the text of the genesis it is written: “Let him be the slave of his brothers’ slaves!” As Guillaume Hervieux shows in his book entitled L’Ivresse de Noé (Noah’s Drunkenness) : The Story of a Curse.
These ideas of the Black being cursed by God then passed into Islam. This is why in the Quran, we find in the Surah Al Imran (the family of Imran) verses 106-107: “106. On the day when certain faces will be illuminated, and others will darken. To those whose faces will be darkened (it will be said): “Have you disbelieved after having faith? “Well, taste the punishment, for having denied the faith.
107. And as for those whose faces shall be enlightened, they shall be in the mercy of Allah, where they shall dwell forever ”
We see that the dark faces are the faces of infidels, pagans, etc … and will face punishment. On the other hand, the “light faces” will have the graces and mercy of God.
In the volume 1 of Tabari’s Chronicle (Imam, Persian historian and exegete of the Koran), Tabari provides an explanation of Ham’s curse by saying: “Yet, may you know that all creatures have gone forth after Noah (may peace be upon him), Shem, Cham, and Japheth. The Arabs, the Persians, the white-faced men, the good people, the jurisconsults, the scholars, and the wise, are of the race of Shem, and this is why:
‘’ One day Noah was asleep; the wind lifted his clothes and uncovered his private parts without his notice. Japhet passed near Noah, whose private parts he saw; He began to laugh out loud, and to turn his father into ridicule, without covering him. Cham, Japheth’s brother, arrived; He looked at Noah, burst out laughing and joking, and passed by, leaving his father in the condition in which he found him. Sem came after his brothers, and seeing Noah in an indecent posture, he turned his eyes away and hid his father’s nakedness. Then Noah woke up and asked Shem what had happened; Having heard that Cham and Japheth had passed him by, and laughed, he cursed them, saying, ” may God change the seed of your kidneys. After that, all the men and the fruits of the land of Ham became black. The black grape is one of the latter. “
In another passage of this book we have: “… The three sons that Noah left were: the first, Shem, whose race the Arabs came from, the prophets and the good people; the second, Ham, it is from him that the Negroes and Ethiopians who gave birth infidel descendants originated. Now Ham’s children became black, because their father came to his wife in the ark, in spite of Noah’s prohibition, who cursed him; and the Most High God changed the seed (semen) of his kidneys (into black) “
Thus these religions, while expanding in the world, have spread everywhere the idea that the Black man is a pagan being, evil, cursed by God, villain, idolater, sorcerer, etc. Thus, since Black people were declared as cursed in these religions, all that Black people have done has been declared to be pejorative and evil. His culture, his spirituality and all his customs were demonized as the culture of the evil, the culture of the devil, etc.
The so-called revealed religions have been for so long (because of the writings and teachings of so-called “men of God” ie priests, popes, imams, etc.) the first torch-bearers of racist stereotypes and racism towards black people.
It is the idea of the Negro cursed by God that is at the origin of all the negative ideas (idolatry, ten plagues of Egypt, etc …) about Egypt and the pharaohs that are found in all the writings of the so-called revealed religions.
In the early days of the abolition of slavery, the idea of the black curse was one of the reasons why the KKK, Ku Klux, Klan members (some Christians) attacked Blacks (whom they were considering as cursed by God and demons) in order to lynch them, kill them and burn their houses and possessions, since the Church had used this idea of the accursed Negro at that time of slavery to justify slavery.
The idea of Black people cursed by God led the Church to draw pious images of beings she considers as good in white and images of the evil and the devil in dark or black color.
It is the idea of Black people cursed by God that the philosophers of the age called enlightenment (who predominantly presented themselves as Christians) elaborated so many racist theories about black people. Let us take, for example, the case of Montesquieu, who said in his book L’Esprit des lois (the spirit of the laws) XV, 5, that: ” We cannot imagine the idea that God, who is a very wise being, has put a soul, especially a good soul , In an all-black body, (…) “
Therefore according to the famous French author Montesquieu a black body does not possess a good soul, but necessarily bad. He goes on to recite later in the same work by saying that:
“It is impossible for us to suppose that these people (Africans) are men; because if we considered them as men, we would begin to believe that we are not Christians ourselves.”
So for Montesquieu, a good Christian is educated to think that Africans are sub-humans or sons of the devil.
It is the idea of Black people cursed by God that gave birth to a negative vocabulary about the Blacks. Thus we add the term black to all that is not good. Example: bad humor = black humor, black Thursday, black grinding, black dot, black list, having a black heart, etc.
It is the idea of the Black cursed in the Islamic philosophy that is responsible for this rejection of Blacks by the Arabs and all the injustice and hatred that Blacks suffer in the Arab world.
This idea of the cursed Black man was conveyed in the black world at the time of slavery and colonization by the missionaries.
Here is a song from a book of songs “Njembo nda nkundo” (Songs in lonkundo) intended for Congo school children under the Belgian occupation in Bamanya in 1911. The songs’ author is the Catholic Church nun, Arnoldine Falter of the Sisters of Precious Blood. The booklet contains 66 songs. The songs being in their original version in lonkundo, here is the translation in English:
ESISEZELO EA KAM (The punishment of Cham)
O Father Ham, what have you done?
We suffer a lot
By God we are punished
The punishment he had inflicted on you
Inherited by us all
You mocked, you, bad son
You had taunted your father
And Noah, as a punishment to you
And thus: “Ham works
always for his brothers “
And now your descendants
Slaves here on earth
What a pity for thy people! Because of your curse
All Blacks here
Regret your fault
As you mocked your father
Your descendants laugh at you
They refuse your name
If you want the blessing on earth
Honor your father and mother
For centuries these ideas have been conveyed throughout the world by the so-called revealed religions (Judaism Christianity, Islam) in their impulse of conquest and conversion, evangelism or Islamization. Thus all the followers of the revealed religions who live around the world have already heard, seen or thought or incorporated this negative image of Black people on their mind, which has led many people to reject and hate the Black .
Thus the African followers of the revealed religions have largely and consciously or unconsciously integrated this negative depiction of Black people (of themselves) in their mind.
Given that the Black man was declared cursed in these religions or their philosophies and that it was taught even to the Africans, they have incorporated into their minds the idea that all that the Black does is pejorative and bad. His culture, his spirituality and all his customs were demonized as the culture of evil, the culture of the devil, etc.
Thus many African followers of the revealed religions reject themselves, and everything which is African. They do not like their complexion so they lighten it, their hair so they perm it with products, they do not like their traditions, their culture, their spirituality and treat them as evil, etc.
For quite a long tome, it has been explained that the problems of Africa and the world come from the fact that Blacks have been cursed by God and that Africa and the black world will consequently always be the last of the class at all levels because “God willed it.”
The problems of racism, as well as most of the stereotypes experienced by Africans throughout the world, originated from religious beliefs, the curse of Ham and the picture of the cursed Black before spreading to other areas. So before the anti-black racism existed for other reasons, this racism began firstly on the foundations of the so-called revealed religions.
Before the invention of this fable of the cursed Black in the so-called revealed religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), there was no text giving a negative image of Africa and Africans around the world.
By: Lisapo ya Kama © (All rights reserved. Any copying or translation of the text of this article is strictly forbbiden without the written approval of Lisapo ya Kama)
- The Bible
- the Qu’ran
- Midrash Rabba
- Chronique de Tabari (Tabari’s Chronicle)
- Les mythes hébreux (Hebrew myths), Robert Graves et Raphaël Patai, éd. Fayard, 1987
- Le Guide des égarés (the guide to the lost), Maimonide
- Njembo nda nkundo (livret de chants destiné à des écoliers au Congo) (song booklet for pupils in Congo)
- Montesquieu, L’Esprit des Lois (the spirit of the laws)
- Cheikh Anta Diop, Nations Nègres et Culture ( Negro nations and culture)
- L’ivresse de Noé : histoire d’une malédiction (story of a curse), Guillaume Hervieux