Afrikan-Centered Linguistic Tradition Re-examined
Posted: June 23, 2002
An analysis by
Dr. Kwame Nantambu
When on 18 December 1966, the Oakland School Board, California, USA, passed a policy statement "for the combined purposes of facilitating the acquisition and mastery of English language skills, while respecting and embracing the legitimacy and richness of the language patterns whether they are known as 'Ebonics'," it ignited an acerbic national debate as to its inherent intent.
The crux of this debate is that the mere mention or notion of "Ebonics" as a new genre of public education policy is perceived as a threat to Eurocentrism (educational segregation) by the political powers that be. As the deceased erudite Afrocentric historian, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, admonishes:
"We have to realize that education (in America) has but one honorable purpose.one alone.everything else is a waste of time: that is to train the student to be a proper handler of power. Being Black and beautiful means nothing until ultimately you're Black and powerful.The world is ruled by power, not Blackness and not beauty." Historical Dis-location of "Ebonics"
Despite this reality, it is important to point out, however, that the concept of "Ebonics" seems to have been presented and couched in an a historical, dysfunctional, and divisive context and this is the overt Achilles heel that has facilitated the potent, full-court pressure against it, both in theory and in practice.
From an historical reference locus, "Ebonics" refers to the status and life experiences of African-Americans only as descendants of slaves who were individually transported from Africa to Jamestown, USA in 1619. The explanation that "Ebonics" is derived from Ebony (Black) and Phonics (sound) speaks to the inherent, built-in problem this Oakland resolution had at the outset. Here we have an overt untenable situation where minority descendants of powerless slaves are asking the majority descendants of powerful slave-masters to accept and validate their linguistic expression. This is not the modus operandi of the European supremacy.
If this resolution was properly thought through, the Oakland School Board would have discovered that within the parameters of European supremacy, there is no room for equality, complimentarity, nor power-sharing. The stark reality would have compelled Board members to posit "Ebonics" in its proper, historical context, that is, African-Americans as descendants of the world's first, original master-thinkers, high priests, teachers, scribes, builders of Temples and Pyramids, inventors of mathematics, writing paper, science, medicine, educational systems, architecture, governance (including democracy), social organization, the concept of communities/states/provinces (Nomes), etc., in the B.C. era in the Nile Valley, ancient Kemet
(Egypt.) These ancient Afrikans were powerful people.
If the Oakland School Board had posited "Ebonics" within this macro context, it would have had a much more potent, historically proven, politics-educational brief with which to defend "Ebonics." In its present ahistorical form, "Ebonics" only speaks to the narrow, micro powerless nationality of African-Americans. In other words, "Ebonics" confronts White American racism, while Afronics challenges European supremacy.
Historical Location: Euronics vs. Afronics
Afronics, then, speaks to the macro, global, powerful originality of African-Americans. Afronics is the proper, correct, historical location of the rich, glorious ancestral linguistic expression/heritage of African-Americans.
For the past 400 years, Eurocentric mis-education or edjumacation has dislocated, misdirected, disoriented and detoured African-Americans from their original, historical linguistic and cultural reference point. As such, Afronics redirects, relocates, reorients, and repositions African-Americans to their original linguistic cultural reference point. Afronics speaks to the linguistic globalization of African-Americans and not to its myopic, parochial marginalization, devaluation, and demeaning. Afronics empowers African-Americans not because of their Blackness nor beauty but because of their innate Afrikanness.
Afronics is a composite of Afrika (the original ancestral homeland of African-Americans) and Phonics (sound). Slavery only represents .01 percent of the history of Afrikan people on this planet; unfortunately, "Ebonics" only references this minuscule negative portion of Afrikan history, while Afronics references the 99.99 percentile.
Language is not just the spoken word; it reflects a people's particular culture, value system, mind-set, way of life, and worldview. For example, the English language reflects the proud Euro-British history, cultural values and way of life; just as the French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish, etc.languages reflect the same. The Europeans who speak these different languages are nevertheless accorded their proper respect, dignity, and humanism. They are regarded and treated as full-pledged, first-class human beings under European supremacy.
Nevertheless, to suggest that "Ebonics" is "Black English" is a blatant/flagrant insult to and disrespect for Afrikan people because Euro-British is not referred to as "White English;" we do not speak of "White French," "White German," "White Spanish," "White Portuguese," "White Russian," "White Latin," "White Italian," or "White American English." All these European linguistic forms of expression are accorded their proper, historical, cultural reference context coterminous with respect.
In this regard, here is how European supremacy functions: (i) ONLY the linguistic expressions of Afrikan peoples are insulted, discredited, disrespected, and demeaned; (ii) they are not considered to be representative of a 'true', legitimate language; (iii) they are denied any sense of historical, cultural base/continuity, and (iv) by extension, Afrikan peoples are ceremoniously relegated to and treated as global second-class citizens and imperfect human beings, "with small brains and defective genes."
Another variable that must come to the fore is the salient fact that "Black English" only refers to the slavery experience of African-Americans. However, it must be pointed out that Afrikans were not enslaved because they had a skin color that was Black; if Afrikans had a green, blue, or purple skin color in 1455 A. D., they would still have been enslaved by disparate Europeans.
Slavery was based on economics and not color, as Dr. Eric Williams proves in his Capitalism & Slavery:
"slavery was an economic institution of the first importance. the origin of Negro (Black) slavery.was economic, not racial; it had to do not with the color of the laborer, but the cheapness of the labor."
In reality, history tells us that poor Whites (Europeans), Indians, Jews, Gentiles, etc., were all enslaved at some point in time; so every species of human beings on this planet has a history of being enslaved. So if "Black English" apparently and logically comes out of the slavery experience of Black people, than how is it that "White English" apparently and logically does not come out of the slavery experience of White people?
Why is this label, nametag, designation ONLY assigned to Afrikan (Black) people? The answers to these questions lie within the functioning of European supremacy. Let us recall that history also tells us that during the early days of Euro-British colonial America, Euronics (European linguistic expressions) were the accepted and respected spoken word of the day.
In fact, even today in 2002, Euronics can still be seen engraved in the platforms that surround and adorn statues and government buildings throughout America. This contradiction automatically gives rise to the following poignant questions: (i) how is it that Euronics is acceptable, respected, and permitted by public policy makers on Capital Hill to continue to exist for centuries? (ii) how is it that Euronics is permitted by these same Capital Hill policy makers to be taught in public high schools and universities in Literature/Classics courses?; and (iii) how is it that Afronics is suddenly unacceptable, disrespected, discredited, and not permitted to be taught in public schools where the majority population is of Afrikan descent?
The answer to these questions lies within the domain of European supremacy. To deny African-Americans and Afronics the same dignity and acceptance accorded to European-Americans and Euronics tantamounts to a sad travesty of the very concept that "all men are created equal."
The Afrikans in ancient Nile Valley Kemet invented the world's first written language called "Medu Netcher", or 'picture writing', thousands of years ago in the B.C. era. These writings can still be seen today as they were originally engraved on the walls of the Temples by the ancestors of African-Americans. "Medu" means "writing" and "Netcher" means "God," thus producing the "writing of God."
When the Greeks (the world's first Europeans) invaded Kemet under "Alexander the Great" in 332 B.C., this original ancient Afrikan/Kemetic linguistic expression/writing was renamed "Hieros"
meaning "sacred" in Greek Hellenic language and "glupho" which means "sculptures," thus producing "sacred writing" or Hieroglyphs. Greece, then, is the historical reference locus of Euronics.
So Europeans once accepted, respected, appreciated, and valued Afrikan writing and linguistic expressions, but something happened along the way to the descendants (African-Americans) of these mighty, all powerful ancient Afrikans from Kemet as they now exist in the twenty-first century in the A.D. era-that something operates under the rubric of European supremacy.
Europeans so respected and appreciated the linguistic expressions/writings and education system of these ancient Afrikans that the famous Europeans (Greeks) that we now study and revere in high school and university curricula throughout the United States today all studied at the feet of these ancient Afrikans at the Temple of Waset (later called Thebes by the Greeks and Luxor by the Arabs when they invaded in 642 A.D.).
For example, Plato studied at Waset for 11 years; Aristotle for 11-13 years; Pythagoras spent 25 years there; Socrates 15 years; Euclid 10-1 years, Hypocrates studied there for 20 years, and the other Europeans who studied under the ancient Afrikan master-thinkers include Diodorus, Solon, Thales, Euripides, and Archimedes. Indeed, the Greek, St. Clement of Alexandria, has stated that if you were to write a book of 1,000 pages, you would not be able to document the names of all the Europeans who went to the Nile Valley, Kemet, to be educated and even those who did not go to Waset claim they went because it was prestigious.
These Europeans so respected and internalized the ancient Afrikan writing that if one were to take a very serious comparative examination of Greek linguistic writing in the B.C. era, one would discover that this Greek (European) writing is a mere facsimile/fax copy/duplication of the original Afrikan "Medu Netcher." And as the African-American, Afro-centric educator/scholar, Dr. Asa G. Hilliard points out:
"In 1066, William the Conqueror invaded and conquered Britain and established French as the national language. English was still the language of the masses, but it was influenced by French. By 1500, British English began to be quite similar to the English that is spoken in England today. And so, what is now English emerged as a polyglot language from the remnants of the language of the Celts, Latins, Germans, Jutes, Angles, Saxons, and finally the French.
The result is a language that is largely Germanic in grammar and largely Romance in vocabulary. In fact, we could do with some merit argue that English is "nonstandard German."
The teaching of Afronics can be achieved through a process I call Afrocentrification whereby the linguistic expressions of African-Americans begin at their correct ancestral reference locus in ancient Kemet. Afrocentrification will imbue African-Americans with a positive, subconscious sense of self-confidence and self-empowerment and thus fully equip them to eliminate and permanently eradicate the mental paralysis, induced collective historical-cultural amnesia, collective lobotomy and psychological genocide European mis-education has imposed on them over the past 400 years. African-Americans are now brain-dead, brain-damaged, anesthetised, and culturally comatose.
For whereas "Ebonics" gives African-Americans a fish so they can feed themselves and "feel good" with high self-esteem for one day, Afronics teaches African-Americans how to fish so that they can empower and feed themselves for the rest of their lives. For whereas under "Ebonics", African-Americans celebrate "Black History Month," under Afronics, they MUST celebrate "Africa Year." "Ebonics" represents a derailment of the rich, glorious, and powerful dynastical Afrikan ancestral time-line. The implementation of Afronics, therefore, is the resolution that all School Boards with a majority African-American student population should adopt in order to improve their academic skills and standards.
Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").
Dr. Nantambu is an Associate Professor, Dept. of
Pan-African Studies, Kent State University, U.S.A.
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