In the New York Times today is an article on the overwhelming evidence that our first human ancestors were from either southeast or southwest Africa, and they resembled the San Bushmen. In other words, they were black.
More than a decade ago, there was a rather well received book (among professional academics) called Not Out of Africa in which a classicist scholar (Mary Lefkowitz) methodically dismantled the racially and politically motivated Afrocentrist movement’s assertions that ancient Egypt was a black culture led by predominantly black Pharaohs, and that Greece owed it’s intellectual and cultural innovations to black Africa.
Some cried foul, and suggested that it was insensitive and unbecoming of a white academic to so thoroughly and painstakingly point out the obvious: that a racist ideology with its own eccentric mythologies and interpretations of history, and impervious to well established facts, was making outlandish historical claims, easily refuted.
Lefkowitz, no racist herself, insisted on the importance, if we are to live in a rational world, of absorbing the facts of history as they are—and not as we would like them to be. In other words, we might have our own opinions about the facts of history, and what they ultimately mean, but a rational person does not make up his or her own facts out of thin air simply because he or she thinks that they might advance some racial, religious, or cultural movement.
I believe that there is an exact racial analog to Afrocentrism functioning within the white Evangelical and fundamentalist community. That analog is young earth creationism, in which there is an assertion that the first people in history came out of Mesopotamia, from a once existing garden paradise (the Garden of Eden) along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and not out of Africa (as scientists and linguists emphatically assert).
But most white Evangelicals and fundamentalists not only believe that humanity’s first parents came from Mesopotamia, they also take for granted that Adam and Eve’s ethnicity was conventionally “white.” Below, for example, is the model of Adam and Eve shown to people visiting the young earth Creation Museum in Kentucky:
If there was an equivalent Afrocentrism Museum built somewhere that so grossly misrepresented what historians and scientists have learned about our human history and ancestry, there would no doubt be a great deal of derision heaped upon the museum. And while it is true that the young earth Creation Museum in Kentucky has received its (thoroughly deserved) share of intellectual pillorying on the grounds that it contradicts evolution, one element that has been politely sidestepped is its blatant racism.
To assert, in the 21st century, that humanity’s first parents did not come out of Africa is no less ridiculous (and ultimately racist) than to assert that the history of Greece and Egypt was dominated by the achievements of black Africans. In other words, when white Evangelicals and fundamentalists show picture books to their children depicting Adam and Eve and all the early humans (such as Noah) as white, it is no different from Afrocentrists teaching their kids that all great Egyptians were black, and that Egyptians gave Greece their intellectual and cultural innovations. In both cases, children are being taught racist and ahistorical nonsense. Our earliest human ancestors looked like the San Bushmen of southwest Africa, and may have even used a click language like the San people do now. These are facts, (as the New York Times today so thoroughly surveyed). The evidence is simply overwhelming that the ancestors of all modern humans living today came from either the southeast or southwest part of Africa, and were most closely related to the San people of southwest Africa (who are still living there today).
Put differently: “Adam and Eve”—or the first modern human ancestors of all living people today—whatever name you give them—were black—and not white. Period. And to deny this in the 21st century, and to teach something otherwise to your children, is not just a gross distortion of history, but racist.
That’s my opinion. What’s yours?
Below is an image of a white Adam and Eve, in Mesopotamia’s Garden of Eden, from a children’s book:
And here’s a nineteenth century racist depiction of a white Noah (the father supposedly of all humans after the Great Flood) and his apparently all white family. (It makes you wonder where the artist supposed that black, brown, and Asian people came from):