Keyamsha and the end of Afrophobia


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Florence Kate Upton's Golliwogg and friends, in The Adventures of two Dutch Dolls And A Golliwogg, published in 1895. Fashioned after a minstrel doll and described as "a horrid sight, the blackest gnome," he was the introduction to black people for many children.

Florence Kate Upton‘s Golliwogg and friends, in The Adventures of two Dutch Dolls And A Golliwogg, published in 1895. Fashioned after a minstrel doll and described as “a horrid sight, the blackest gnome,” he was the introduction to black people for many children.

Afrophobia is a phobic attitude toward people of indigenous West African, Sub-Saharan African, or otherwise black origin, their culture or ideas. It is often associated with fear of domination or “racial” or cultural “pollution”. Unlike anti-Semitism, Afrophobia is primarily a racial and, to a somewhat lesser extent, cultural phenomenon, lacking a strong religious dimension. However, like anti-Semitism, it has occurred in many societies throughout the world, at varying levels of severity, ranging from personal antipathy and bigotry and societal and informal discrimination to enslavement; societal marginalization, systematic violence and oppression.

A degree of Afrophobic self-loathing has on occasion extended to blacks themselves, leading many in the 19th and early 20th centuries to use skin bleaching techniques and adopt artificially straightened, lye-conditioned coiffures in repudiation of their natural hairstyles. The term “Afrophobia” is sometimes used with this ironic metonymy in mind, using the fear of the Afro as a metaphor for the fear of one’s African heritage.




Word origins

The origins of the term Afrophobia can be found in colorphobia, negrophobia and to a lesser extent pigmentocracy.

Colorphobia has its roots in the antebellum period. Speaker and author Frederick Douglass used the term to describe abolitionists who felt uncomfortable in his presence, William Wells Brown declared colorphobia to be worse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania than in New York and Frank J. Webb‘s 1857 novel “The Garies and their Friends” was the first to address the topic of colorphobia and race relations of urban areas in the Northern United States.

Negrophobia evolved to colorphobia after people of African ancestry began to define themselves as “Negro” rather than “colored”. Subsequently, the conscious awareness of Africa as historical homeland gave rise to the use of the term Afrophobia.

Usually pigmentocracy is meant to refer to social relations where the hierarchical delineations are based on skin pigmentation. Most often it refers to Latin American countries, most notably Brazil, but it also has been mentioned in regard to South Africa as well.


Afrophobia in Europe

Afrophobia, in its modern sense, began as European states began to colonize Africa. Europeans solidified their economic and political dominance with new racial theories. Craniometry and phrenology “proved” the presumptive superiority of whites, and was used to justify the brutal, exploitative treatment of blacks. As late as the 18th century, Europeans debated whether blacks were even human.


Afrophobia in the United States

As in Europe, Afrophobia was heavily associated with the trans-Atlantic slave trade and itself defined the parameters of the institution of slavery; it became a part of the domestic cultural and political landscape that endures to the present day. For the effect of Afrophobia on American history, see Negrophobia.


Afrophobia in Africa

Africa‘s colonial past preserved many effects of European Afrophobia. In countries such as Ian Smith‘s Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and pre-1994 South Africa, whites held power using aggressive minoritarian tactics. The National Party policy of apartheid institutionalized a brutal system of racial discrimination and disenfranchisement that systematically stripped black South Africans of their land and their civil and human rights.

Under Hendrik Verwoerd‘s policy of ‘grand apartheid’, black South Africans were regarded not as South African citizens, but as citizens of Bantustans or ‘homelands’, barren areas of the country in which most had never lived. Blacks were required to carry passbooks containing their photographs and identifying information at all times, could not move freely about the country and were subject to arbitrary arrest and confinement.

Owing to racial segregation, black South Africans experienced considerable discrimination in education, healthcare, business and employment, were denied entry to hotels, restaurants and bars. They were confined to poorly paid and menial jobs, and it was only in 1979 that blacks were able to form their own trade unions.

Apartheid also extended to “Coloureds” (people of mixed race) and Asians, and despite the white minority government’s attempts to co-opt them by giving them more privileges than blacks, they were actively involved in opposition to apartheid.


Afrophobia in Islamic Africa

The arrival of Islam and the Arabic language in different parts of Africa has greatly influenced the cultural landscape of the continent. Beginning with the Muslim conquest in the 7th century AD, some parts of Africa, starting with the northern region, were incorporated into the wider Islamic world. Many Sahel nations, such as Chad, Sudan and Mali, remain divided along ethnic and religious lines, with “Arabs” (or more accurately Arabized blacks) enjoying better land and higher standards of living than their non-Arab black countrymen. In the Darfur region of Sudan, these divisions recently erupted into a violent conflict, as the government-supported Janjaweed militia, recruited primarily from Northern Sudanese tribes, began a campaign against non-Arabic speaking peoples to the south. It should be noted, however, that in the context of the Darfur conflict, the distinction between “Arab” and “non-Arab” is often one of culture and religion, not race. Both parties are predominantly black African.

The recent conversion of many African Americans to Islam further complicates this issue. The Nation of Islam, the largest organization representing African American Muslims, is widely regarded as a heretical sect by mainstream practitioners of Islam. Most denominations of Islam, including Sunni and Shi’a, believe that Allah would not manifest himself as a human being. However, the divinity of Wallace Fard Muhammad is a central tenet of the NOI. Mainstream Muslims also believe that Mohammed was the final prophet; no other prophets would appear after him. The fact that Muslims and Arabs are ethnically heterogeneous and hence unreceptive to the supremacist tendencies of the NOI is perhaps a further impediment to NOI-oriented black Muslim integration into mainstream Islamic society. Among Muslims, the NOI is generally viewed as parochial and deviant, particularly in its claims about Fard Muhammad. In response, many NOI members have accused Muslims of insensitivity to their circumstances. They argue that because of the unique experience of the oppression and degradation of slavery, NOI leader Elijah Muhammad was forced to use unique methods to introduce Islam to his people.


Afrophobia in Asia

In Asia, Afrophobia stems from ignorance of Africa and Africans, as there are relatively few trade and political links between the two continents, and the lack of exposure to African culture has meant that prejudice and racial stereotypes now considered unacceptable in North America and Western Europe have endured. Africans studying at university in China have experienced racial abuse despite the Chinese government’s abhorrence of racism, while in Japan, there are similar allegations of racism.

In Southeast Asia, one of the most popular brands of toothpaste was Hong Kong-based Hawley and Hazel’s ‘Darkie’, which featured a grinning black man in a top hat as its logo. [1] In 1985, Hawley and Hazel was acquired by Colgate, and following protests from US civil rights groups, Darkie was renamed ‘Darlie’, with the man’s ethnic origins being less identifiable.

In the 1980s, a Japanese doll called ‘”Dakko-chan’, which was black and had fat lips, was sold overseas as ‘Little Black Sambo’ but was later withdrawn after many complaints from people in the US.


Afrophobia among Blacks

Self-hate among blacks has generally occurred since they first came into contact with foreign powers. Slave owners frequently enlisted the aid of black intermediaries. The enthusiasm of tribal leaders to sell their people has often been presented as a justification for the exploitation and colonization of the African continent, on the false basis that blacks are not capable of forming cohesive, lawful societies. Many have suggested that the attitude of these black collaborators was grounded in Afrophobic sentiment.

On plantations of the Southern United States, resentment often brewed between outdoor field slaves and indoor domestic slaves, who were perceived to be closer to the white plantation owners. The latter, in turn, often developed an Afrophobic outlook. The stereotype of the Uncle Tom, an obsequious, servile black who submits unreservedly to white authority, remains in use to this day.

Following the American Civil War and the exodus of blacks to cities of the Northern United States, many new forms of black self-loathing came into existence. Though no longer rigidly confined to a servile position, African Americans as a group nevertheless remained politically and socially oppressed, not to mention economically destitute. There was nevertheless the potential for individual success, which had never existed in the era of slavery. Many successful black professionals have since been accused of Afrophobic behavior, not necessarily because of their success, but because it is supposed that they had to collaborate with and submit to white society, in effect “selling their souls“, in order to achieve material prosperity. Targets of this characterization have generally attributed it to jealousy and sour grapes. See also tall poppy syndrome.

The stereotype of the sell-out black professional, regardless of its basis in reality, has made a significant impact on popular culture, and can be found throughout literature. In Raisin in the Sun, for instance, the character of George Murchison embodies both success and self-loathing. Though professionally successful, he is obsessively attentive to white fashion and cultural mores, strenuously objecting to the Afro hairstyle. More recently, on The Simpsons, the character of Dr. Hibbert exhibits many stereotypical Afrophobic qualities.

Many black public figures on the political right have been accused of Afrophobia, including the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Clarence Thomas, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, her predecessor Colin Powell, and politician Alan Keyes.

It has even been suggested, by journalist John Carlson, that gangsta rap culture is an expression of Afrophobia. In his view, the tendency of rappers to portray black women as “bitches” and “whores”, whilst glorifying violent behavior in black men, succeeds only in reinforcing racist stereotypes about African-Americans.


See also



  • Immigrants in Chains: Afrophobia in American Legal History, 76 Oregon Law Review (1997)by Dennis Greene Professor of Law University of Dayton school of Law
  • Writing Marginality in Modern French Literature: From Loti to Genet” by Edward J. Hughes
  • “The Not-so-dark Continent ” and “America loses its Afrophobia”, pp. 18, 23-24, The Economist (April 26, 1997).
  • The Rising tide of color against white world supremacy by Lothrop Stoddard

External links

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.