Drake Marshal and White Racism

I. Does Historical vindication entail some initial provocation? If so what was the specific provocation the case of Drake? Explain.

Historical Vindication does entail some provocation, as had been discussed that the steps to vindication were that firstly, vindication is provoked by someone or an institution asserting something to be the case against someone or a community, thereby illicting a response. Secondly, that refutation begins with asserting that if that someone or institution is wrong about a given issue, what else are they wrong about, and thus that their thinking in general must be wrong.

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Drakes provocation comes in his refutation of the works of Carl Degler, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian on the faculty at Stanford University, and his Manichean conclusion made in his book Neither Black nor White: Slavery ad Race Relations in Brazil and the United States, along with Kenneth J. Gergen and his article, Daedalus. With the Degler-Gergen Propositions, termed for their report at the Copenhagen conference in September of 1965, Drake argues that “the Degler-Gergen Proposition speculates about human propensities to contrast light and dark, black and white, or the universality of early life experiences that lead to the derogation of ‘blackness.” (Page 121) The Degler-Gergen theory is that Blackness is a universally negative stigma, to which dark-skinned people blacks want to be light-skinned, and light skinned blacks want nothing to do with Black as all. Drake’s thesis is that there cannot be a just one gross simplification that if one domain is negative about blacks cannot hold true for all domains and “question whether its true that Africans (even those who never made contact with white people) naturally dislike “blackness” and want a lighter skinned body image than their own?” P121

II. In responding to the provocation, what sort of evidence does Drake marshal to make his case?

Drake goes about refuting the Degler-Gergen Manichean theory by dealing with the black experience before European expansion into the Western Hemisphere, and that, in fact compromises the thematic substance of his book. He provides evidence to prove that the idea of “black as inferior” was not always the case; not in ancient Africa or even during medieval Christiandom. Color symbolism in ancient Egypt shows no correlation with the Manichaean principles. Statues of their royalty show that they exhibit characteristics, which anthropologists would describe as “True Negro” (283). Here, Drake challenges the Degler-Gergen theory that Blacks have always occupied low-status social positions by providing examples of powerful black leaders. Some Egyptian dynasties with black pharaohs had some of the greatest outpourings of creativity and academic work concerning medicine and philosophy disproving the theory that Blacks are mentally inferior. Blackness, in relation to the color white, did not signify sin. White did symbolize purity but blackness was not seen as an opposing color. At any rate, black was not a color symbolically connected to negativity and it did not “carry over” to human beings, as suggested by the Degler-Gergen theory.

In chapter 3, Drakes discusses Djoser, an Old Kingdom Negro Pharaoh, considered an intelligent King. Furthermore, his minister Imhotep was glorified as a philosopher, physician, scribe, and architect by ancient Egyptians,( and even immortalized as the lead villain in 1999’s the Mummy and 2001’s the Mummy Returns) Both these Egyptian scholars were black, and drakes illustrates their accomplishments to undermine Degler-Gergen proposition that blacks are always perceived as cognitively deficient. Black mythological and cult figures also received high status from Blacks and non-Blacks alike in Egypt. African religious characters proliferated outside of the continent, to the Greek and Roman empires. The Greeks respected their. The polish people venerated the Black Madonna of Czestochowa as a symbol of nation unity (p.212) The image of the Christian-African military leader and martyr, St. Maurice was used by German emperors as its symbol of the Holy Roman Empire. People refutes Degler and Gergen, that dark-skinned color was not portrayed as negative or evil in ancient or medieval times, as non-Blacks exhibited no problem in incorporating black icons into their own worship-even on a national level.

III. Is there a counter-argument that drake develops which goes beyond the parameter of the initial provocation?

Drake’s counter argument is that prior to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, racism and slavery did not exist based on race or skin-color. Prior to the massive Judea-Christian, and Muslim influence, there had been no generalized skin-color prejudice nor was there discrimination toward the Negroid physical type in Egypt. Christianity may have introduced color prejudice into Kush after the fall of Meroe. It was then reinforced after the coming of Islam in the 7th Century. Drake goes into great detail in Volume two and argues, although there were instances of color or even racial prejudice, modern institutional racism did not exist before the Trans-Atlantic slavery system. With the advent of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, along with the race to claim land in the new world of the Americas for production and capitalism, slavery evolved from a multi-racial slave system, to a Blacks as Slaves system. Around the 15th century, as sugar plantation was moving west to the Caribbean islands for an economic boon for European nations. Nearly a hundred years later, in 1591, the Songhay Empire, largest and most stable of the black Sudanic kingdoms, was defeated by Morocco and disintegrated into a group of small warring states. The way was thus opened for eventual French and British imperial penetration (p.297 volume II.) With the defeat of the Songhay, there was no organized resistance once it was recognized that Blacks in Africa could be enslaved and used for labor in the West.

Drake’s counter-argument is that blackness had not always been generally correlated with inferiority, it did not transfer over to people, and Blacks were not always discriminated against. Black Madonnas and Black warrior saints were not allowed un the American colonies. Portugal demonstrated the esthetic prejudices against the Negro physical type, but not the dark skin color, whereas Spain rejected the Negro physical type also, but religion was the enemy to the Spanish, not the skin color. Britain, who had no previous contact with Blacks in Africa, became first exposed to Blacks in their country as slaves. It remained isolated from the Western Europe cultures that displayed positive images of blackness and black people during the middle ages. As the racial slavery began to grow in the west, derogatory attitudes toward Blacks began to grow rapidly.

With growth of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, Black became a symbol of subordinate status and an inferior culture, whereas it previously stimulated only esthetic, erotic, and mystical/religious connotations. Once the Negro stereotype became rooted in the culture, people had the initial tendency to react to their preconceived ideas of what a black person was, or even looked like, rather than to the person.

IV. In your opinion, does Drake succeed in achieving his stated goals in Black Folk Here and There?

Yes he does. Throughout the two volumes, Drake has repeatedly shown that negative attitudes displayed toward blacks are a recent phenomenon or evolution from color prejudice. Drake doesn’t drop the ball, and even raises the question as to why White American is unwilling to accept positive images of Blacks in Europe, Africa, and throughout the world, as to do so would be to go against their bible. One of the arguments Drakes discusses that offers a rationale and justification for the enslavement of Blacks, was the story of Noah and the curse he placed on Ham’s son Canaan:

Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren, but blessed be the Lord God of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant.” (P. 17, Volume II)

Not only would viewing blacks as equals, go against the culture, but also against their religion and bible.

Drake goes on to show that White Racism developed to reinforce colonial imperialism in Africa, Asia, and Oceania. Black Folk Here and There conceptualizes slavery, skin-color prejudice, and racism as three quite distinct phenomena. None of which , Drake denies or refutes had existed separately from the other prior to the period of the great European overseas explorations, but which became the driving institution in the western hemisphere in the new African Diaspora as part of the racial slave system culture.