Not Black Enough: Tut, Tut
A few weeks ago I was watching this show on television where they found a skeleton and the forensic anthropologist did a facial reconstruction. In examining the skull they were able to tell that it was from a white female and I wondered how they could be so sure that the female was Caucasian and not another race or maybe even bi or multiracial. In the recreated face they gave the woman blue eyes and light hair, hoping someone would recognize the facial features but acknowledging that these things could be completely different.
Which is probably what a lot of the protesters are thinking as they stand outside of the King Tut exhibit. Although Tut has been dead for a few thousand years he’s making his second tour of the U.S., this time with a reconstructed bust that looks eerily real.
African American’s aren’t buying it. They don’t like the way that Egypt is considered an Arab country although it takes up a huge hunk of northeastern Africa. For a long time African Americans have complained they perceived mostly white historians/anthropologists/ have tried to carve Egypt away from the rest of the continent. It’s apparent to them that Egypt is an African country and that Egyptians are Africans not Arabs. So, in following this reasoning, they expect that King Tutankhamun had more color to his skin.
“Whenever our ancient writers, Hebrew or Greek, make any reference to the ancient Egyptians’ color, it’s always black,” Dr. Charles Finch, Director, International Health at Morehouse School of Medicine told NPR. “There was no discussion. There was no debate. It only became a debate in the last 200 years.”
Anthropologist Nina Jablonski sees it differently. “Our best guess is that he was neither lily white nor ebony black, that he was probably somewhere in between,” she said in the same NPR interview. “Modern Egyptians are a very heterogeneous group. Some of them have very Arabic features. Others have very African features. This is because the Nile River was a tremendous byway for the movement of people in the past and in the present.”
Some outside of the black community may be wondering what difference does it make that an Egyptian King who barely made it out of his teens and whose only claim to fame is that he was so innocuous and partially hidden that his grave wasn’t robbed would mean so much to 21st century African Americans. In one word: history. Our history and heritage was taken away from us in slavery, we were taught that Africa had nothing and that it was a mercy for them to take us out of the heathenistic hot land and make us servants to Christ and whites. Many people don’t know of the African civilizations that existed pre-slavery, but the one that garners the most respect in European eyes is Egypt. It stands to reason that if the descendants of slaves can be similar to those who helped build the Sphinx then how could we be inferior?
So we reach into the past for repudation of bound ancestors and for validation of ourselves. But perhaps we don’t need to go looking any further than our own backyard for the greatness of black. It may not rival the Sphinx but the White House was built by African American slaves. With all the things that we have done here in the US (which are too numerous to mention now but is often listed during the month of February) do we really need to make a boy king browner, whether he was or not?