So, it’s February and every year, I do a 30-part series where I give Black History facts as they relate to Spanish and other languages. I love this time of year! I get to share the African descended history that is embedded in language learning!
Every year, I add new information and this year, I decided to add the Moorish history in Spain (stay with me, this context is important to my sophisti-ratchet rant later). I talked about when the Moors arrived, where they came from, yada, yada, yada.
Weeeeeeellllllllllll…..I decided to share this info with the audience for a radio show I appear on weekly and it happened: I got whitesplained in a tweet.
Specifically this is what was shared:
Now, I didn’t share names and such because….why even, but let me break down a few things here and bring this foolishness right back to language!
- The moors are Berbers. This is an ethnic group indigenous to the continent of Africa as far south as the country of Mali. The Berbers can be found in at least 5 different countries on the continent.
- Ayi Kweh Armah wrote a book, Two Thousand Seasons, which although it is a fictional account, it details the intricate, interdependent history that is so complex, to pinpoint an “origin story” is really fruitless. Armah does a great job of appeasing the white gaze’s need for this, but still, this relationship legit pre-dates Jesus, so…..
- The soldier that led the charge from Africa into Spain was from Mali, the southernmost country to hold this ethnic group and furthest removed from the “mediterranean” espoused in the tweet above.
Now on to this whitesplaining thing:
Superficial digging into the poster’s profile reveals a self-identification as “castellano” who also espouses to be a scholar of African history. Why is this important? Well, let’s look at the argument from a scholar who self-identifies as a white woman:
“by denying race, educators are able also deny the ways in which we participate in the legitimation of Whiteness”Castagno, 2008, p.329
She also states:
“most white educators are reluctant to name things that are perceived as uncomfortable or threatening to the established social order.”Castagno, 2008, p. 315
These two quotes are from where I interpret this whitesplaining tweet. Of course, someone who self identifies of being from the dominant group would challenge any assertion that their history comingles with those whom they view as “inferior.” Of course there would be a perpetuation of the longstanding argument that North Africa isn’t really Africa including but not limited to removing the entire country of Egypt and placing it in it the Middle East because “heaven forbid” the cradle of civilization be associated with what you all have deemed “the dark continent.”
And here’s where the language flip comes in:
by giving the impression that Moorish history is Mediterranean history (which news flash, you do realize North Africa meets the Mediterranenan Sea?) instead of inherently African is to provide a way of perceiving Spanish history as absent of African influence which is incorrect and supremacist. If the Spanish-speaking, self-identified African scholar denies the African presence in Spain, what then is the perception of Africanness in the langauge in that same history? I’ll wait while you gather the argument around language that sits in the very white listening position this tweeter has…..
What this tweeter unknowingly (or maybe knowingly, who cares) did in this seemingly “let me school you” tweet was support my arguments around afrocentric language activisim. The white scholar uses the white argument to disprove and silence the Black presence and thereby, continuing to
“imbricate anti-idigenous and anti-Black perspectives”Rosa and Flores, 2017, p.625
I’m calling BS on this tweet. I brought you scholarly support. I even offered books to read beyond the — ahem — helpful text provided in the OP.
Being a Black woman scholar in a white world can be exhausting…..but I will continue to challenge these supremacist perspectives for the good of my people. In fact, I didn’t respond to the dude. He’s not my audience. I came straight to you to do this unschooling. I don’t share this info because I’m waiting for the white scholar to “school me” back to hegemonic prescriptions. I share because my people will suffer from lack of knowledge AND afrocentric language activism
centers the Black students and their history in languages and focuses on the africanisms present in languageI’m quoting myself here
I’m putting us back into history, including in languages. The Moors were African. PERIODT. The tweeter’s discomfort with acknowledging this fully and trying to explain it away in efforts to boost a supremacist ego, no es cosa mía...so I will keep bringing African influences to the center of every single language conversation…….
Oh, and ’cause I’m a BRILLIANT scholar and you need to amp up your library to get this raciolinguistic history:
Castagno, A. E. (2008). “I don’t want to hear that!”: Legitimizing Whiteness through silence in schools. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 39(3) 314-333. doi: 10.1111/j.1548-1492.2008.00024.x
Fanon, F. (1967). Black skin, white masks. New York: Grove Press.
Rosa, J. and Flores, N. (2017) Unsettling race and language: Toward a raciolinguistic perspective. Language in Society 46, 621-647. doi: 10.1017/S00474045117000562