Friday, May 19, 2023

There Are Many Black African Queens in History: Here's Two.

Queen Mantfombi Diamini-Zulu

Richard Mellor
An opinion

If Jada Pinkett Smith wanted to make a movie about a leading female figure in history who was black or African she could have easily found one. Two years ago this month Queen Mantfombi Diamini-Zulu died.  Further back in history there is Moremi Ajasoro the famous Yoruba Queen. 

You can find many African Queens in history, it's not difficult but Hollywood is not interested in historical facts. There are most likely African female royalty who are not black. Not all Africans are black, it's a big continent. Some Berbers and other North Africans are by all accounts white skinned. Malcolm X learned that lesson when he met an Algerian revolutionary in Africa.

Queen Moremi Ajasoro
 The US is the most powerful nation in the world, indeed, in the history of modern nation states. Like any global power, the economic and cultural influence on the rest of the world is enormous. In terms of media power, no country comes close or has ever come as close to the US when it comes to the reach of its mass media.The film industry and being the home to the major tech corporations means the influence of US capitalism reaches even the most remote corners of the world.  

Hollywood is not simply an entertainment center, it is a massive political machine educating the people of the world on the superiority of the capitalist mode of production and so-called free market system. Behind Hollywood, the mighty US military lurks reducing all that resist to ashes that reject what it terms "American Values". Values that are more accurately the values of the most ruthless ruling class on the planet.

I actually stopped watching the Netflix soap opera, The Diplomat because the political message was so evident and so biased. I remember when I was young and British produced films would almost always have a US  (often a Canadian posing as a US) actor in a leading or major role. "Why do that do that?" I would ask myself, not that I had any animosity toward the Yanks. It seems Americans, of the US variety, would not watch a film unless one of "their" guys was top dog; my guess is it was more about influencing consciousness from above than idiocy below. Even today, rather than make foreign films easily available, or promote them, Hollywood does a remake. I always say that the first victims of US capitalism is the US working class.

One would have to be comatose not to be aware of the controversy around the new Netflix documentary about Cleopatra. I haven't seen the documentary but apparently, Cleopatra is portrayed as a black woman. I do not know whether she was black or Greek and light skinned or part Egyptian part Greek whatever. I do know that many people from the Mediterranean area where three continents meet, could be from any of the countries that surround it. They can be North African, Spanish, Lebanese, Greek, Turkish and so on.

I see now that the Egyptian government is suing Netflix for this false, and it seems unsubstantiated claim that Cleopatra was black. Leaving aside the fact that whatever she was, her skin tone is about the last thing that is significant about her as opposed to her legacy, her struggle as a woman and so on. And it would seem unlikely that being black or dark skinned back then was the same as it is today. It's a while ago.

In my lifetime, western media companies, Hollywood in particular, has produced movies, historical dramas and documentaries in which European, white skinned actors played every type of historical figure. In the great Biblical epics almost all the actors look like northern Europeans so I'm not just singling out Black America here.

And now I get to my point. What always fascinates me about many Americans when they want to trace their ancestries back to Europe and more often now to Africa, and lets not lose sight of the fact that the US is s settler state,  more often than not they will find some link to royalty or members of the ruling class in some role or another. So many Irish and Scottish Americans when they talk about relatives they all seem to be related to clan leaders or individuals in leading roles. And Black Americans whose ancestral history is in Africa like to  think their ancestors were chiefs. To be honest, I understand the desire to counter the racist history of the US toward Africans from the brutality of slavery to the portrayal of them (if they were visible at all in the mass media) as lazy, stupid, lesser human beings and so on. But it is a consequence of the selfish, individualistic ideology of the US ruling class that all people feel the need to associate with the exploiting class rather than the exploited which is most of us.

This is most definitely the case with the middle classes of all groups. Jada Pinkett Smith, the director of Cleopatra is from a middle class African American family and the wife of a prominent US actor. Marx pointed how the middle class is a class sandwiched between two powerful class forces, the working class and the bourgeois or ruling class. Those that make up this middle layer are forever trying to increase their role and influence in the capitalist pecking order. This is particularly so of the black middle class or petit bourgeois like Smith as, due to Slavery and Jim Crow this class was almost totally excluded from the economic and social advantages open to most in a normal democratic society, the black middle class was deprived of opportunity and advancement and most importantly capital.  

I was so proud when I discovered a great great grandmother of mine was a servant in a rich household or that a grandfather was a "laborer in a rubber factory". The relatives of the vast majority of us were just ordinary people, peasants, tribal members whatever. We do not need to try and find royalty in our genes. Most of us come from the exploited classes that produced all the wealth.

No comments: