Socially Irresponsible Academic Inaccuracy by Professor Gates

Fri, 30 Apr 2010 Source: Berko, George

This is a Socially Irresponsible Academic Inaccuracy by Professor Gates of Harvard University.

The reported claim by Professor Gates of Harvard University, in the USA, that the Ashanti Empire willfully, deliberately and actively participated in the Slave Trade and profited by it is not only slanderous but also academically fraudulent and anemic. If that is true of the Professor, then all fair-minded people should not hesitate to debunk his claim and question his motives for it. That would also indicate that the Professor did not do a deservingly adequate factual excavation commensurate with his Professorial caliber to present a full and honest, unbiased presentation of the issue. The issue of our collaboration in perpetuating Slavery, one of the World’s most inhumane atrocities inflicted by fellow humans on others, has for far too long been left to reflect the bias of the West at our expense. But that effort in exaggerating our complicity in this monumental crime against humanity is nothing but a futile attempt to shift the preponderance of culpability of the West to us.

This is not the first time we have been so unjustly accused for our part in Slavery, and I would not have cared to comment much about it, but for the fact that the erroneous, unflattering claim, as attributed to the Professor, has been a source of bile provoking African American hatred against Africans, especially among the unsuspecting young minds in America. What makes it more dangerous is the fact that it is coming from one of the few renowned Academic giants from the African American community with tenure at Harvard University of all places. The Professor’s sheer prominence lends immensely to the credibility of the claim.

We should not, however, be cowed by the Professor’s academic stature to retreat from the debate. It is such view of the Professor's that many African Americans use to antagonize African Diasporans in the USA. Those African Americans would simply claim that it is those of us remaining on the African Continent that sold them into Slavery and therefore we are the first, and possibly more, to be blamed for their horrific experience here. My own personal experience following below attests to that perilous sway of the African American minds that could lead to practical acting-out against us.

I encountered an 18-year old African American lad, in the late 80’s, that threw similar misconceived culpability in my face, adding that our presence here in the USA was like a double slap in their faces, because we were, also, taking their jobs away from them. He told me to go back to my jungle in Africa. This was when I had shortly arrived in the US and working in a Restaurant in Washington, DC, still feeling around for a suitable corner to settle in. I, calculatedly, responded that if that job was the only type of, or the cream, job that his folks depended on to move ahead in life, then I really felt pity for him.

On a second thought, I summoned some patience and took the opportunity to explain to the boy that not every African participated in or condoned the Slavery. And the fact that we were the ones that were left behind on the Continent did not mean we were the ones that sent them into Slavery. I advised him to put the tragedy of Slavery in the proper context, something he might have been too young to understand, then.

I added that most of our people, in that period, regardless of their status in our Society, were vulnerable to the Slave Raids that ravaged our land and ruined our lives. I asked him if he had ever heard of the names Samori and Babatu? He replied in the negative. At that point, I told him he still had a lot to learn to get the truth.

I also told the young man that I came to the USA to search for and retrieve something that I believed was stolen from me and brought over here centuries ago. And I would only go back when I had recovered it, at least in kind. When he demanded to know what it was, I told him he did not seem mature enough to be able to understand and appreciate it, even if I told him. I cited his comments on our participation in Slavery as being a clear indication of his immaturity, yielding a high probability that he would not grasp what I would reveal to him as being my object of the search that brought me here. I might have gotten him more baffled than ever, as we both left it at that for a while. The young man made my working experience at the Restaurant one hell of a trial. But knowing what I was here for, I remained indifferent to his daily taunting that ensued the next few weeks.

Some months later, when this young man had grown a little more tolerable of me, and realized that I was taking some courses at the University of Maryland, he surprisingly approached me to ask me if it was true that I was studying at the University of Maryland. My Iranian boss and owner of the Restaurant, who had a couple of Bachelor degrees in Electrical and Chemical Engineering under his wing and migrated to the USA for similar reasons as I did, had noticed the young man’s irritating behavior towards me and called him to talk to him in his Office about it. It was then that my boss revealed to the boy that I was a student at the University and my working there at the Restaurant was very strategic and only transient.

My affirmative response to the young man when he came to me for confirmation of what my boss had told him seemed to have perplexed him, too. He then asked me how, in the World, I got access into that Institution which he saw as having been less than fair in admitting Blacks. I wasn’t very enthused to help him with that, given his caustic attitude he had shown to me. But then he further surprised me with the fact that he never seemed to have forgotten what I had told him, some months ago, about my object of search that led me to the USA. He wanted to know exactly what it was I claimed stolen from me and that I was here to retrieve. I offered to explain my very modest Academic and Professional background to him. His jaw dropped a little. I detected he was more amenable to reasoning now and seemed eager to know more about me. I thought he needed to know more about Africa, in general, instead.

I sighed a little, recognizing the look of curiosity stuck on his face, and told him that the West had intruded into our land and imposed a protraction of Slave Trade on us that resulted in the capture of many of my most virile, beautiful and youthful, physically productive relatives into Slavery, Colonized us for hundreds of years without developing much of any infrastructure in our areas, and stolen our Natural Resources, thus, denying us the opportunity to develop freely at our own pace with all our Human and Natural Resources.

I told the young man that if he could ever help me find those two elder brothers of my great, great, great, great grandmother's, and their youngest sister, captured into Slavery during a raid by Samori and Babatu in our small town, I would immediately leave. This young lady among the group captured was a nursing mother whose baby was left for my ancestral grandmother to raise.

I also told this curious young African American man some other stories of heart-wrenching sacrifices that our people had to make to save some of their family members from being captured by bands of hired Slave Raiders.

At the end, the young man was speechless for a while and the only other comment he made was: “I am sorry to hear that. But I was told differently.” I then concluded our conversation by telling him to always do further research to substantiate stories or reports of that nature before arriving at a conclusion and acting upon it.

He did not even know that Ghana was the first African Nation, south of the Sahara to be independent of the European Colonial domination. From that point onwards, the young man became a close friend of mine. In fact, he, more or less, regarded me as a mentor. His father had passed in the Vietnam War, when he was just an infant and his mother had hard time recovering from drugs. He was, for a while, a ward of the State and later adopted by his Aunt. My association with this young African American man encouraged him to seek access to the University of Maryland, too, from where he decided to pursue a career with the US Diplomatic Corps. This young poisoned mind could have been a lethal menace to me. And I believe other Africans might have suffered even worse experiences with some African Americans harboring ill-conceived animosity against Africans from such irresponsible comments by the Professor and other Westerners.

So, I would strongly suggest that the good Professor, as well as any of his like-minded Westerners, ought to expand his research to include sources within the Homeland to mitigate likely incidence of errors and inaccuracies conveniently perpetuated to exaggerate our presumed savagery and betrayal, and not parochially extract information from his Caucasian, bias sources alone. He should also be more understanding that even if Slaves were sold from Ashanti, it was not necessarily the usual practice of the Ashanti Monarchy to direct or order it. Who does he blame for the enslavement of the Africans brought to Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica with Ewe, Mandingo, and Yoruba roots respectively, for example? Were these also the products of Ashantis’ Imperial profitable mercantilization of humans across the Oceans? I hope the majority of the African American community would not be taken in by such comments.

As a matter of fact, the Kingdom of Ashanti had in its unwritten Constitution a popular law that prohibited anyone in the Kingdom from discriminating against the vanquished added to the Kingdom. It was simply illegal to refer to or call another "manfrani" meaning a foreigner; anyone caught doing so was liable for prosecution at the Traditional Court. So, that makes the claim by the Professor even more unlikely. The Slavery in Ashanti was not by Imperial consent or an endorsement by the King. There has never been any record by our Colonial masters indicating the Ashanti Monarch was a partner in exporting Slaves across the Atlantic.

Professor Gates should therefore provide any evidence supporting his claim, which would not be indisputable, by the way, or keep his view as only a hollow theory that consigns some moral authority to only the Western sources to justify our vilification. That is a big shame!

Long Live Ghana!!!

Columnist: Berko, George