African American,

Matthew Ashimolowo - What is Wrong with Being Black?

Matthew Ashimolowo takes issue with the way Africa has uncritically blended into the second-fiddle position shaped for it by supposed title-role nations.


Stanely Mushava Literature Today
Whereas the Bible has been faulted as being complicit in the subjugation of the black people, everywhere they appear in its passages, it is with respect to mission or majesty.

Book: What is Wrong with Being Black?
Author: Matthew Ashimolowo
Publishers: Destiny Image (2007)
ISBN 10: 0-7684-2638-3

A question often comes up, in self-deprecating resignation at home, and racist indignation elsewhere: What is wrong with being black?

Africa, home to the richest resource deposits and the poorest people, is a site of contradictions.

The black community is not just at the base of the pyramid on the map but also in the economic scheme of affairs.

The African vision, as articulated by post-colonial demagogues, reads more perfect than an application letter but starkly contrasts the corruption, misgovernance and lack of inventiveness on the ground.

So what is wrong with being black? For Matthew Ashimolowo, the answer is a succinct and emphatic “Nothing!”

In his 2007 book, “What is Wrong with Being Black: Celebrating Our Heritage, Confronting Our Challenges”, Ashimolowo argues there is nothing inherently flawed about being black.

The problems of Africa are not in pigment, not in the wiring of race, but in the pathologies of history which are not past remedy.

Ashimolowo takes issue with the way Africa has uncritically blended into the second-fiddle position shaped for it by supposed title-rolenations.

In this shape-shifting project, Ashimolowo combines the roles of historian, Pan-Africanist, statistician and Pentecostal preacher to propel his people to a maximised destiny.

Such a set of roles ensures that Ashimolowo anchors his sunny optimism on scholarly rigour but also shows the staggering extent of the problems to be confronted.

“What is Wrong with Being Black?” an important contribution on the question of race, Christianity and culture, is as scholarly as it is spiritual, widely researched and single to the purpose of lifting the black man’s burden.

The book is divided into two parts, “His Glorious Past” and “Conformations and Pathologies”, starkly contrasted but feeding into each other between the lines.

The opening segment is meant to invalidate the claim perpetuated by slave drivers, colonial masters, revisionist historians and the cultural agencies of imperialism that black people are by nature inferior to their white counterparts.

Void as such a notion sounds, it has been advanced as science for more than a century, thanks to Darwinian eugenics, and appropriated by racial supremacists in justification of their inhumanity to the black community.

Ashimolowo’s rejoinder not only affirms the humanity of all races from a creationist perspective but also goes back in history to a time when blacks were the great inventors and architects of civilisation to whom historians of antiquity attribute centuries of cultural and political dominion.

The preaching Pan-Africanist advances the case that blacks are not descendants of Kunta Kinteh but descendants of proud kings, culture elites, architects, inventors and nation builders.

The question as to whether we are descended from slaves or sovereigns requires, according to Ashimolowo, “an urgent, detailed, honest, as well as an historical answer because the dignity of a people cannot be divorced from their history and contribution to the advancement of mankind”.

The latter segment is a rundown of the pathologies afflicting the black community both spiritually and materially, as these are causative from a Christian perspective.

The spiritual set of pathologies features idolatry and superstition, problems which derailed the continent in the distant past and have continued to steer it adrift centuries on.

If the next set sounds like a recycled rundown of stereotypes, it is because there can be no transformation without getting to the root of every problem and evading the drudgeryof political correctness.
Matthew Ashimolowo
The pathologies afflicting the black community from the days of slavery to date include distorted family values, black disunity, black-on-black crime, serial economic challenges, racism, misgovernance, leadership crisis, sexploitation, donor dependency syndrome, colonial heritage, immigration, faulty education systems and self-image problems.

First though, a look at the black man’s historical dominion, for perspective as to what kind of future he is capable once again to secure out of the odds.

Ashimolowo invokes a fascinating range of historians for a window to the glorious past, not so much to revel in history, but to correct erroneous notions about being black which have been appropriated as an explanation for the continent’s perpetual underdevelopment.

“The people whose inventiveness is to be explored and illustrated quite extensively are all assumed to be neither Shemites or Japethites and therefore descendants of Ham,” Ashimolowo cites Arthur Custance’s “Noah’s Three Sons.”

The descendants of Ham, according to Custance, include everyone of Negroid and Mongoloid stock to whom the inquirers of antiquity attribute the beginnings of civilisation in Africa, the Middle East, Africa, the Fast East and the New World.

“Hamites, it can be shown, have been in unexpected ways the world’s greatest inventors though very few people except archaeologists, ethnologists and cultural anthropologists have been aware of it. The acknowledgement of our own debt to them is long overdue,” Custance continues.

Ashimolowo’s historians attribute to the black sons of Ham in Egypt foundational feats as architects, artists, merchants, mechanics, operatives, sailors and agriculturalists.

Whereas the Bible has been faulted as being complicit in the subjugation of the black people, everywhere they appear in its passages, it is with respect to mission or majesty.

Ashimolowo makes an interesting declaration that the curse on Ham, which has been used to justify black people’s exploitation at the hands of slave drivers, even as a colonial thoroughfare, along with Darwinian eugenics, had no bearing on Africans.

“The debate has often been whether blacks were cursed when Ham was cursed. It could not have been, because blacks prospered after the curse was placed on Canaan, a son of Ham. It was not placed on Cush or Mizraim, from who blacks descended,” Ashimolowo argues.

Notable black personalities in the Bible include Nimrod, the founder of Babylon; Keturah, Abraham’s matriarch;Ahmose, the pharaoh who knew not Joseph;Thermuthis, the Egyptian princess who adopted Moses; Zipporah, Moses’ wife; Simon of Cyrene, who bore Jesus’ cross; Simon, the black man at the Last Supper; and Simon the Niger and Lucius of Cyrene, the prophets who set Paul on his commission.

Ashimolowo cites idolatry, from the time of Nimrod to the present, as the great undoing of the black community. Each glorious phase of the black dominion in the antiquities ends with complacency, disorientation, decadence and decline tied to the pursuit of strange gods.

More recent pathologies are immediately apparent. Ashimolowo narrates the tragic consequences of the slave drivers’ war on the black family.

Slave drivers, who did not acknowledge the humanity and dignity of blacks, used men as studs and women as breeders to supplement the labour force such that the family institution was virtually eroded.

Years after slavery, irresponsibility and illegitimacy have remained stubborn features in the black community, from the US to the Caribbean.

Misgovernance and corruption are in many ways at the heart of the continent’s underdevelopment.

New African last month revealed that $150 billion is flown out of Africa, a continent short supplied of the most basic amenities, to offshore havens every year, thanks to our leaders, corporations and oligarchs.

The preaching Pan-Africanist invokes Frantz Fanon to call out this “little greedy caste, avid and voracious, with the mind of a hoxter, only too glad to accept the dividends which colonial powers hand out” and “incapable of great ideas and inventiveness”.

For Ashimolowo, misgovernance, leadership crisis, disunity, black-on-black crime, religious conflict, civil wars, genocide, serial economic challenges, racism, sexploitation, donor dependency, faulty education systems and other pathologies under which the continent is winding down can only be reversed with the transformation of the heart.

“We have a proud heritage; we can rise to that height again with a proper respect for God and for each other,” Ashimolowo says. It is a boldly and distinctively biblical call.

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