On Neo-Classical Liberalism and Race

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I just finished reading a book called ‘Race and Liberty’ which was written by the independent institute. This book was about the history of classical liberalism and race and I found it to be very informative because it taught me a lot about the history of liberalism and shed a new light on modern self proclaimed ‘classical liberals.’ While I have a problem with classical liberalism and the way it handled race back then, I have even more of a problem with it now and I will enlighten my readers on exactly why this is the case.

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Common Classical Liberal Talking Points: The Issue of “Racial Preferences”, individual freedom, and color blindness

A common theme that one hears from self-identified classical liberals and conservatives on youtube is the idea that racial preferences, or race based laws, or raced based politics, no matter their purpose or effect, are inherently wrong. However, without addressing the argument itself with counter arguments, I would like to point out some internal inconsistencies. The argument is made based on the history of racial collectivism in this country and how it (along with race based legislation) have been used as a tool to subjugate others, however the history of this country also shows that the dynamics of racism changes across time and space—thus the methods for fighting it must change as well. Not only that it’s advocated for under the pretense that it violates individual freedom and equality. No evidence or adequate justification is ever given to support the idea that we actually live in a society with equality of opportunity; furthermore it makes little sense to advocate for the idea that we should put the individual over the group in the spirit of collective racial equality, especially when this supposed individual freedom comes at the expense of efforts toward progress for the group.

Neo-classical liberals are so stuck on opposing racial preferences for the sake of equality that they are willing to gloss over the fact that equality has not actually been achieved. One cannot claim to be for equality but only advocate for it when race conscious efforts to achieve it are being put forth.

Finally, classical liberals cannot be for the equality of racial groups but also be for the absolute freedom of the individual. When individual freedom and self-concern come to dominate the thinking in societies, it always comes at the expense of the larger group, or at the expense of various sub-groups. The social disparities that are brought forth as a result of this self-concern come at the expense of the individual—thus undermining both the individual and the group.

Neo-classical liberalism, at least when it comes to race and possibly gender, is a self defeating ideology; it’s a self defeating ideology that once held a lot of merit because it’s alternative, blatant white supremacy, was no better. However, in a world where injustices occur despite the wide spread adoption of these ideals, such ideas no longer serve an important function, and merely serve to perpetuate oppression by placing the blame on a mass of randomly coordinated, socially unaffected, and mentally isolated individuals, rather than the structural forces at play, as well as foster a sick sense of apathy.


Sources

Dr. King Said It: I’m Black And I’m Proud

Bean, Jonathan. Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader. University Press of Kentucky, 2009.

King, Martin. Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos Or Community?. New York: Harper & Row, 1967. Print.

Hall, Jacquelyn Dowd. “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past.” The Journal of American History 91.4 (2005): 1233-263. Web.
https://www.jstor.org/stable/3660172

Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, “Framing Affirmative Action”, 105 Mich. L. Rev. First Impressions 123 (2006).
http://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr_fi/vol105/iss1/4/

Fleegler, Robert L. “Theodore G. Bilbo and the Decline of Public Racism, 1938-1947.” Journal of Mississippi History 68 (2006): 1-28.
https://www.mdah.ms.gov/new/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/bilbo.pdf

Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department, United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, March 4, 2015
http://tinyurl.com/jpk4bjb

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#MessageToFeminists

Hi, it’s been a while since I made a video and I wanted to start making them again with something that’s simple, short, and to the point.

I was tagged into the #MessageToFeminists challenge by the youtuber “positive improvement” and I happily accept this challenge; furthermore I will be using this challenge to kick off my reemergence back into this debate. The goal of this challenge, as indicated by the video I linked, is to give a one sentence message to feminists on whatever issue you choose. The following will be my message, though it may be more than one sentence.

Dear feminists, while I agree with the prospect of challenging anti-feminists and taking the time out to educate the public on what feminism is and what feminists believe, I also believe that it’s crucial for any movement (especially online) to have internal dialogue and to look inwards; the reasons for this are the following:

  1. It allows outside observers to see and to understand what the differences amongst feminists are, which may motivate them to stop treating feminists as a homogenous entity
  2. It helps us to not only understand our own beliefs but it helps feminists and non-feminists alike to actually understand the differences on our ideological stances; this understanding can and will help foster deeper thought and thus strengthen our own positions
  3. It can be used to root out the radicals in the movement and therefore discourage other feminists from picking up those radical beliefs, as well as show others that many feminists are not as bad as popularly portrayed
  4. It can sometimes be a lot more productive because you are more likely to engage with someone who is not dead set against social justice as a whole, thus enabling real conversation and real intellectual growth to occur
  5. It can help dissolve the us vs them boundary that pervades this debate by outlining the real ideological spectrum, which will help everyone in the end
  6. Lastly, this is an area where some of the most important questions lie: like on the sources of oppression, or how remove them, or how much various groups overlap in certain areas; discussing these questions, in my opinion, is sometimes preferable to and more important than engaging in non-stop arguments about whether these issues exist in the first place.

I tried to make it one sentence grammatically but if I didn’t succeed then I apologize.

Now, with that out of the way, let me close with one last thing.

As I said earlier I have little issue with what you guys are doing at the moment but we also need to have a conversation amongst each other for the reasons I have just given. While I do not believe that many feminists will hear this message it is my hope that this may inspire at least a few to engage in this much needed dialogue.

I now nominate the following people for this challenge…

I thank you all for watching, and thank you (positive improvement) for tagging me into this challenge; it was an honor. This was the obaofbenin and have a good day.

My Thoughts On ‘Progressive Black Masculinities’

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For the past month I have been reading (as indicated by the title) a fabulous book on the intersectionality of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation that was edited by a scholar named Athena D. Mutua. This book is a collection of very insightful essays on the intersection between institutional racism and other forms of oppression. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in institutional racism or wants to get a more complex picture of it’s workings because like all issues, it’s highly complex and multi-faceted. I would also recommend this book if you have an interest in other social issues like gender, class, lgbtq rights, and want to learn about these issues from a different angle.

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Before I go into some of the highlights of the book I want to first go over what intersectionality is and what it’s purpose is. The source that I will be using for this information will be Kimberle Crenshaw’s landmark 1991 paper “Mapping The Margins.” In this paper intersectionality is defined as…

“The recognition of the many strands that make up identity; for example, the ways in which sexism and racism are intertwined in the identities of women of color.”

Intersectionality, as demonstrated in this paper, highlights the ways in which the different facets of people’s identities and social circumstances interact; and in this essay she goes on to demonstrate that these identities often interact in ways that can compound each other, and mix to create unique experiences that can’t be understood as the simple layering of it’s ‘separate’ components. Crenshaw gives numerous examples in her work which include how structural racism and economic deprivation make it harder for black women to find shelters; how language barriers and immigrant status make it nearly impossible for some women to get help; and how unemployed and poor women of color are less able to depend on others for financial support during these struggles.

She also goes out of her way to speak on identity politics which really dispels the notion that intersectionality theory and identity politics are essentially synonymous.

“The problem with identity politics is not that it fails to transcend difference, as some critics charge, but rather the opposite-that it frequently conflates or ignores intragroup differences. In the context of violence against women, this elision of difference in identity politics is problematic, fundamentally because the violence that many women experience is often shaped by other dimensions of their identities, such as race and class. Moreover, ignoring difference within groups contributes to tension among groups, another problem of identity politics that bears on efforts to politicize violence against women. Feminist efforts to politicize experiences of women and antiracist efforts to politicize experiences of people of color have frequently proceeded as though the issues and experiences they each detail occur on mutually exclusive terrains.”

With that being said I want to highlight some of the most interesting things that I read in this piece and share my thoughts with whoever may be reading this blog. So the first thing that I learned was that…

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Gender Is An Inseparable Part Of Racism

Racism by it’s very nature is gendered, meaning that the type of racism that one will experience due to their membership in a certain racial group will be funneled through the lens of gender. Take for example the common and racist stereotype that African Americans are aggressive. The application of this stereotype to blacks as a whole is common amongst racists but this aggression is often seen to take the form of verbal abuse and narcissism amongst black women, and amongst black men this aggression is seen to manifest through things like physical violence, and other nasty things.

This gendered racism borrows heavily from hegemonic systems of masculinity that emphasize things such as dominance, aggression, wealth, heterosexuality, gender conformity, etc, etc. However, because hegemonic masculinity in the United States centers itself around whiteness and black culture is seen as deviant, black masculinity joins the ranks of the subordinated masculinities and this helps to form the foundation of racist ideologies in this country. When it comes to addressing institutional racism against black people in this society one must also address gender roles and pay special attention to the different ways racism impacts both black men and black women, as well as trans individuals.

Now considering all of this and the fact that feminists claim to be inclusive and for gender equality, these facts provide further incentive for feminists to fight against the sexism against men in our society. Doing so is not only essential for combating discrimination against minorities but it will help men in general as well.

Anti-Racist Efforts Are Highly Androcentric

Intersectionality, as expected, is basically in the periphery of mainstream anti-racist activism and because of this anti-racist activism disproportionately focuses (unwittingly) on black males, which allows discrimination against large swaths of people to fall through the cracks. This is especially a problem for black women.

In the words of Kimberle Crenshaw in an article she wrote for the Washington Post…

While white women and men of color also experience discrimination, all too often their experiences are taken as the only point of departure for all conversations about discrimination. Being front and center in conversations about racism or sexism is a complicated privilege that is often hard to see.

The example that she uses in this section is a case of sex and race segregation that occurred at General Motors in 1976. The company, according to Crenshaw, segregated it’s workforce by race and gender. The black jobs in this case were men’s jobs and the female jobs were only for whites and this led to a situation were black women were completely unable to even be considered for the job. Not only that but when the black women filed a suit against General Motors in the same way that the white women, and black men did, they were denied due to the fact that the court rejected their claims of being discriminated against on multiple fronts. The reason given for this was their supposed inability to prove this multi-faceted discrimination. Such stories shed some serious doubt on the popular narrative that race and gender can and should be considered separately when tackling these issues because as this case shows, doing so is impractical and highly irresponsible.

So not only will black women face discrimination because of both their race and their gender—creating unique experiences, but this multi-faceted discrimination can also make it much harder for their unique experiences to be addressed when the causes of it are addressed separately. This will more often than not lead to their issues being ignored.

There Is A Very Interesting Relationship Between Race and Space In American Institutional Racism

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One of the essays in the book named “Reasonable and Unreasonable Suspects” by John Calmore, it outlines the relationship between race and space and how racism sometimes shifts depending on the social context. Sounds simple enough, but when you really think about it this shows that racism itself depends heavily on the socio-economic status of the groups in question.

The example used to illustrate this point in the essay was the City of Memphis v Green case of 1981. In this incident the officials of an all white neighborhood set up a road block that lead to a low income black neighborhood—effectively making access to this neighborhood, via vehicle, more difficult and limiting the flow of traffic between the neighborhoods. In this case they ruled that there was no evidence of discrimination because it was only a mild inconvenience and that it has to be proven that the same would not happen if it was an all white neighborhood.

Though many scholars say that this case was more than a mere inconvenience and stands as a monument to racial hostility.

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Now in that essay it talks about how in America, because of the large prevalence of racial segregation, that white America has been able to take advantage of this racialized space (e.g., the ghetto, the hood, inner-city, etc, etc) to further disenfranchise the black community and express racism in race neutral terms—effectively making it harder to both identify and fight racial discrimination.

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Additionally, because public encounters on the street are very brief, people are usually forced to make judgements about people very quickly with very little information. With very little information available to make such judgements people often have to resort to very superficial observations like race, sex, class, public demeanor, style of dress, and their activities in order to determine whether a person is a possible threat. Race is one of the most easily recognizable features of a person and because of this black men and boys are often framed as dangerous and suspect; as someone who has the burden of proof for proving their decency; and “as something to be apprehended, prosecuted and sent away.” Such feelings can lead to things such as hatred, fear, avoidance, and in rare cases—violence. The disastrous consequences of this cultural tendency has been seen in action with cases like that of Trayvon Martin.

Black Men Who Are Socio-Economically Well Off Are De-Raced and White-Washed

Going back to the “Reasonable and Unreasonable Suspects paper,”  Calmore explains that black men who make it out of the lower rung of the socio-economic ladder are disassociated from their own ethnic groups and treated largely as individuals—meaning that white acceptance of the ‘upstanding black male’ is the result of him being distanced from the usually negative cultural understanding of what blackness means. This cultural framework, along with the concept of “color-blindness”, allows white America to accept individual black americans who meet white, middle-class criteria for decency and still hold largely negative views about anonymous black men and black americans in general. Basically he and many others are treated as black until they succeed and abandon their identity and culture. However, he says that once he takes off his suit, stops being the professor, and assumes the normal role that he will fall back into the paradigm of the anonymous black male.

He also goes on to say that he, as a middle-class, educated, black man is forced to hold on to his black identity and black culture and not turn his back on the blacks that are less privileged than him. However, attempts to bring this up are met with denial, and accusations of ‘whining’ or ‘playing the victim.’ This cultural system masks the reality of institutional racism under the cloak of class, perpetuates it, excuses it as the result of black cultural pathology, and allows it to continue unchallenged.

There is a lot more but I don’t want to make this any longer than it already is so I will finish up.

In Closing…

As previously stated, I would recommend this book for feminists looking to expand their horizons on the systems of oppression in this country and how they connect with and often reinforce other forms of prejudice. I would also recommend this book for anti-feminists if you want to familiarize yourself with the scholarly literature and arguments from black feminists such as myself and thus actually make decent and informed arguments against my beliefs.

As for me this book revolutionized my outlook on social justice issues and in a sense it made me both sympathetic to men’s issues and gave me more legitimate reasons to work with white, middle-class, mainstream feminists. At the same time though it lessened my view of their beliefs because this book exposes the complexity of manhood and helped me realize that it makes little to no sense to view men as some monolithic, dangerous, privileged, and oppressive group. We all need to look for a more nuanced view of these things because in reality these issues are always more complex than they appear. Thanks for reading.

Archives & Citations

Mutua, Athena D., ed. Progressive Black Masculinities. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Sunny Buffulo Law School Faculty Directory, Athena D Mutua, 12 April 2016 http://archive.is/yMZ5u

Crenshaw, Kimberle. “Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color.” Stanford law review (1991): 1241-1299. http://tinyurl.com/jv6q5mg

Swami, Viren. “Mental health literacy of depression: gender differences and attitudinal antecedents in a representative British sample.” PLoS One 7.11 (2012): e49779. http://tinyurl.com/jpctpzt

Crenshaw, Kimberle. “Why intersectionality can’t wait.” Washington Post. The Washington Post., 24 Sep. 2014. Web. 12 Apr. 2016 http://archive.is/N9iiK

Calmore, John. “Reasonable and Unreasonable Suspects: The Cultural Construction of the Anonymous Black Man in Public Space (Here Be Dragons).” Progressive Black Masculinities. Ed. Athena Mutua. New York: Routledge, 2006. 137-154. Print. http://tinyurl.com/zqzwd99

Linder, Doug. “MEMPHIS v. GREENE, 451 U.S. 100 (1981).” Exploring Constitutional Law. University of Missouri-Kansas City., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2016 http://archive.is/OJwGY

Buermann, Eric. “Greene v. City of Memphis: Is Intent the Sine Qua Non of Discrimination Claims.” U. Miami L. Rev. 35 (1980): 131. http://tinyurl.com/zuhde2v

Demissie, Fassil. “Book Review: American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass DOUGLAS MASSY and NANCY DENTON Cambridge: Harvard University Press 291 pp., $23.50.” Urban Studies 31.7 (1994): 1232-1234. http://tinyurl.com/j8kesjh

Goodman, Melody. “White Fear Creates White Spaces and Exacerbates Health Disparities.” Institute for Public Health. Washington Univerity in St. Louis., 16 Aug. 2002. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. http://archive.is/AAU4j

Devah, Pager. “Marked: Race, crime, and finding work in an era of mass incarceration.” Chicago, IL: University of Chicago, 2007. Print.

Anderson, Elijah. Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race And Civility In Everyday Life. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011. Print

Excavations At Gao (Cisse et al, 2013)

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A while back I read a paper which detailed the findings of a recent excavation at a site in Mali called Gao Saney and Gao Ancien which I found to be particularly interesting. While reading this paper my respect and expectations for the early cultures of the Western Sudan have been dramatically raised. The goal of this essay will be to try my best to summarize the bits of the study that I found to be most interesting. While I did my best to summarize and condense the interesting and important bits of the article, the script of my video still turned out to be long and detailed in the end. Now because of this I know for a fact that I will bore a lot of people so I apologize in advance. As done in some of my previous scripts, to make it easier to digest I broke this up into separate topics which are listed in the order that they will be presented. The topics will be the function of the site and its dimensions, the chronology of the site, the diet or subsistence economy of the inhabitants, the material culture, the ethnicity of the inhabitants, and finally the trade networks. So here we go.

Overview

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Mamadou Cissé and others did an archeological survey of the Gao Saney mound and they published their findings in the Journal of African Archaeology. Gao Saney is a medieval archaeological site in Mali which is thought to be the historic town of Sarneh, one of the dual towns of Gawgaw of the Gao Kingdom described by al-Muhallabi in the tenth century, as well as the dynastic center from which the 12th–13th century Muslim kings and queens buried at the nearby cemetery ruled. The settlement mound of Gao Saney is a whopping 32 hectares. This archaeological survey provides new information on the function of the site, the subsistence economy, material culture, spatial differentiation, and chronology. This research also highlights the significance of its participation in extensive trade networks that stretched all the way to Egypt, Tunisia, Spain, and the Middle East.

Along with Ghana, the Gao kingdom was a considerable regional power which was characterized by the Arab geographer Yakubi in the 9th century as “the greatest of the realms of the Sudan, the most important and powerful. All other kingdoms obey its king”. In the year 985 a.d, the Egyptian chronicler al-Muhallabi wrote of the two towns of Gawgaw and described Sarneh as a market town and another royal town which contained a mosque and a palace where the elite lived. Presumably the palace was the locus of the kings treasures. Reports by al-Bakri in 1067 described a population that was still pagan, and was ruled by a muslim king, and that salt was used as currency.

There are other early sources for the early history of Gao which are oral traditions, the timbuktu chronicles of the Songhay empire such as Tarikh al-Fattash, Tarikh al-Sudan, and finally, the funerary stele in this kingdom.

Between 1972 and 1978 Colin Flight surveyed the cemetery and conducted an excavation of nearby sites and uncovered several fired brick structures. During this excavation he hoped to find the royal palace of the Gao elite and during this search he found and mapped out the foundation of a massive building that had been covered in white lime and red plaster that was still intact.

Function of the Site and Dimensions

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The evidence that Gao was primarily residential and elite has been expanded by other excavations. These excavations have revealed two extensive buildings in stone which were adjacent to the previous building, and both of these buildings appear to have a complex construction and use history, with lots of evidence for multiple building phases. The smaller of these two buildings is constructed with schist slabs and has a central room measuring 5.5 x 7.6 m with eight stone pillars. Radiocarbon dates from the floor level of the central room gives dates from the 9th to 10th centuries for its construction. Five dates of the overlying deposits gives dates from the early 10th to 11th centuries. Two rooms on the southern end of this building have also been excavated, each measuring 3.1 x 2.2 m. Treasures of considerable quantity have been found in this building such as over 6000 glass beads, an iron sword inlaid with brass, fragments of imported lustware, several dozen glass bottle fragments, copper based objects, and two small gold fragments. All of this is reminiscent of the findings documented on the Swahili coast.

At Gao Saney, the evidence of manufacturing debris, such as crucibles, slag, and crescent-shaped copper “ingots” prompted some researchers to conclude that the town was a manufacturing center like the historic town of Sarneh. In nearby trash pits other manufacturing debris such as melted glass, iron, and copper were found as well as fragments of banco bricks.

Chronology

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The earliest levels currently excavated at these sites give a calibrated date range of 680-980 CE which suggests an initial settlement of around the eight century CE. Within a very short time, the extent of the area currently surveyed was 300 meters East to West. In short, the current chronology for the eastern part of the main Gao Saney mound is between 700 and 1100 CE.

Subsistence Economy

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Over 140 seed, fruit, nutshell, and other botanical fragments were identified. The dominant domesticate is pearl millet, which accounted for more than a third of the seeds recovered. Rice was also found as well as the bones of cattle, caprines, and fauna. Along with the domesticates, a range of sahel specific tree fruits were identified like baobab, desert date, jujube, as well as some edible species of wild plant like greens of false sesame. Surprisingly though, despite the fact that this site is located next to a river, very few fish was found. All of this hints at the possible diet of the population.

Material Culture

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809 copper based artifacts were recovered and of these 809 copper artifacts, more than 400 were pieces of copper crescents. Due to their regular shape, it has been suggested that this were used as currency as well. If researchers happen to find patterns of standardized size and/or weight categories this idea will have robust support. The fragmentary condition of these crescents however make this difficult to ascertain. Also, 54 additional copper items were identifiable which included rings, wires, vessel fragments, rods, nails, and bells. The leftover 350 pieces were unidentifiable bits of copper sheet. On the upper parts of the excavated levels 150 small copper crucibles were found and many of them had greenish vitrified residues on them, which suggests that copper smiths were engaged in the smelting and casting of copper in this area.

The current isotope analysis and plasma mass spectrometry data for the copper crescents suggests that Tunisian ores are a strong candidate for the source of the metal used to manufacture these items. Similar data drawn from sites in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria suggests the same thing, although isotopic analyses of the copper wires and sheet metal indicates likely sources in Morocco.

Two separate excavations conducted in 2001 and 2009 recovered 800 glass beads, two thirds of which come from the lowest occupation levels, dated to the eighth to tenth centuries. One quarter of the beads were melted, malformed, or unfinished and most likely represent glass manufacturing debris. 168 vessel glass fragments, most of them unidentifiable, were recovered. Most of the beads were blue and green in color and shaped like thin cylinders or oblates and shaped by drawing and cutting a class cane. The large quantity of remelted beads and fragments suggests that the beads were reheated to smooth and round the cut ends.

The earliest glass, which was found in Mesopotamia, was produced using soda plant ash. Various shifts from soda plant glass and mineral glass occurred in the Mediterranean and the Middle East throughout these region’s history but by the 3rd through 7th centuries CE soda plant ash was used in the Sassanian empire. Now, knowing this, if the arab invasion caused the fall of the Sassanian Empire, the muslim expansion may have served as the catalyst for the diffusion of soda plant glass from the middle east to the rest of the mediterranean which made it the dominant type again by the 8th century, which possibly diffused to West Africa. Plant-ash soda lime-glass has been found at many West African sites such as Jenne-jeno, Gao Ancien, Es-Souk, Kissi, and Igbo Ukwu. Mineral soda glass has also been reported in Gao Ancien, Igbo Ukwu, and Es-Souk.

Other imported goods include carnelian, possibly carnelian beads, cowries (which came from the Indian Ocean), flint, and granite grinding stones. Researchers have also found 11th-12th century Spanish lustware. (Insoll 1996: 65).

Ethnic Movements and Cultural Connections

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Some historical figures claim that Gao Saney was settled by North African Berbers during the second half of the eleventh century but very little evidence supports this claim and the ethnic signature provided by the pottery shows evidence for a local Niger River based population at the site. It matches the first millennium CE assemblage found along the Niger Delta, the Timbuktu region, Ansogo region, Bentia region, the Gao region, and surprisingly the Lakes region as well (RAIMBAULT & SANOGO 1991). Some variation may exist but the prominence of red, black, and white paint without red slip remains constant, and pottery excavated in this region was dominated by a single vessel type, which were organic-tempered jars with long, funnel-like everted rims decorated with broad parallel channels.

Polychrome pottery is present in West Africa, farther from the river, in the first millennium but relatively rare at Es-Souk, Akumbu in Mema, Oursi village and Kissi 3 in Burkina Faso. Polychrome pottery in Gao Ancien or Saney doesn’t appear before the seventh century but it does appear in Koima. It also appears in the Niger Delta and Lakes region up to Timbuktu in 100-300 CE, and at Tombouze around 100-650 CE. Another possible regional ancestor for Gao Saney has been identified at Oursi. At Oursi, pottery in iron age sites dated to around 100 BC to 200 AD shares a mat impression motif with Gao.

From the evidence its clear that the early Gao Saney assemblage differs a lot from the earlier polychrome of the Lakes region and Niger Delta area, areas likely to have been inhabited by the Mande speaking Bozo, and Soninke. It is also different from the pottery found on sites occupied by berbers, like at Es-Souk for example. At Es-Souk, the most common pottery type in the later portion of the first millennium CE are large undecorated jars, and painted decoration is rare.

While the community of Gao may have been heterogeneous, containing a mixture of Songhay and North African travelers, the earliest ceramics was stylistically homogenous throughout the early period. This means that either not much cultural exchange or influence occurred at the beginning or that the North African merchants and travelers came later. The same ceramic styles created by the artisan/merchant population at Gao Saney was used by the elites who began to construct the Pillar Structure at Gao Ancien at 900 CE.

Spatial Differentiation

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Insoll in his pioneering 1996 paper, showed a complex urban configuration that went further than the two town dichotomy of the historical archives. The urban configuration consisted of multiple heterogeneous communities, in which religious allegiance, political power, and economic power were distributed according to unknown patterns. These patterns remain unknown due to the limited excavated sample.

Manufacturing and Trade Networks

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The evidence from Saney situates the site within an extensive trade network. The presence of similar pottery near Timbuktu, Gourma Rharous, and Bentia clearly show river-based cultural exchange along the Niger. Gao Saney joins the growing number of archaeological sites that document a fast increase in the movement of exotics interregionally between the Sahara and Sahel, and the Sahara to North Africa. 30 years ago, discoveries at Jenne-jeno of locally organized regional and interregional trade networks in the Western Sudan shows that this practice predates the trans-Saharan trade. (http://tinyurl.com/zqjfo96)

The large evidence for the manufacturing of glass beads as early as 700 CE from a likely glass source in the middle east suggests that the demand and trade for glass was well established by this date. These glass beads are regularly found in graves dating from 400-1000 CE at Kissi, which was composed of soda plant ash. One of the beads was found in a grave that has a calibrated date of 5 BCE to 430 CE (MAGNAVITA 2003, 2009), which shows the early movement of glass. At Tombouze, the glass beads were found in levels dated between the 2nd-7th centuries. The beads at Kissi had a chemical composition that was similar to the beads at Gao-Saney, Gao Ancien, Es-Souk, Marandet, Azelik, and Igbo-Ukwu. Segmented glass beads are found at Gao Ancien, Es-Souk, and Tegdaoust (VANACKER 1984: 34). Over 200 fired glass segmented beads found at Gao-Saney appear to to imitate the beads mentioned previously. Segmented clay beads are also found at Kissi.

The tests for the source area by chemical composition of the carnelian for the carnelian beads have been inconclusive so far but the case for local bead manufacture from imported carnelian is indicated by the presence of carnelian debitage at Gao Saney. Some of the beads could likely have been imported in finished form though. The sources for the flint and granite were available in Adrar des Ifoghas.

Other imported items have been found at the lowest levels. Which means, Gao was participating in long distance trade from the beginning. The sheer quantity of copper and glass, plus the evidence of their secondary processing at different periods, is consistent with a sector involved in crafts, trade and marketing of imports, supporting the identification of Saney with the historical 10th century trade town of Sarneh.

Based on the data it can be said that the eastern region of the Niger was involved in long distance trade by at least 400 CE, and by around this time a very large copper trade network had developed which extended from North Africa through Marandet, and later, the manufacturing centers of Gao, which went south to Igbo Ukwu. Among known sub saharan sites, the scale of the trade that Gao Saney and Gao Ancien was involved in was exceeded only by Igbo Ukwu.

Sources

Cissé, Mamadou. “Excavations at Gao Saney: new evidence for settlement growth, trade, and interaction on the Niger bend in the first millennium CE.” Journal of African Archaeology 11.1 (2013): 9-37. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/qdmjajo

McIntosh, Susan, and Roderick McIntosh. “Jenne-Jeno, an ancient African city” Rice. Rice U. n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/zqjfo96

Video version – https://youtu.be/ll5ccmUcK8o

RACE AND THE POLITICS OF RESPONSIBILITY

13-racism

The idea that racial justice advocates attempt to blame all the problems of blacks on whites when they talk about historical and contemporary injustices and how it relates to modern ills within the black community is an argument that I hear constantly and in this essay (if you can even call it that) I will attempt to very quickly explain the issues that I have with this line of reasoning.

The reason that I object to this idea is that the proponents of this idea are viewing the issues of responsibility and injustice through a one dimensional lens. It is entirely possible to talk about the issues of discrimination while also criticizing aspects of African American culture and advocating certain courses of action for African Americans that will help uplift them. When people talk about racism and how it affects African Americans, its done because these are contributing factors. Identifying these contributing factors can help in solving these issues. Furthermore, there is a tendency to portray the ills one sees in the black community as the result of character flaws rather than a complex and entangled web of social forces, historical forces, and individual choices.

I will try to explain this with a analogy. Lets say that somebody knocks me down by bumping into me. If this person asks me what happened and I tell him that he knocked me down, me saying that he knocked me down does not mean that I’m blaming this entirely on him. This does not mean that I am ignoring the role that I played in this incident. Telling him that he knocked me down does not mean that I am setting myself up to be a helpless victim. I can tell him that he knocked me down and ask for his help in getting up and still acknowledge that I could have helped prevent this by being more careful while I walk. Also realizing and accepting this doesn’t change the fact that he was the one who caused me to fall. This concept is called victim blaming and is the cause of many ills in society. Similarly, talking about institutional racism and its effects doesn’t mean that we will stop trying to help address these issues ourselves. There will be problems with this analogy, like most analogies. The point being, that this is nowhere near as one dimensional as people make it out to be. Helping yourself and someone else helping you are not mutually exclusive, nor should they be.

Second, talking about the role that institutional racism plays may help motivate a team effort which is more than likely necessary due to the massive scale of the issues and the reality that we do not live in an entirely segregated society. What the various racial groups do affects each other and we intermingle all the time so to frame this as a problem that blacks can and should attempt to solve themselves is unnecessary, wrong, and possibly unrealistic. Plus not all of the issues are self inflicted like hate crimes and police brutality and a lot of the self inflicted issues are influenced by attitudes that extend outside of the black community, such as the self hate one finds amongst many blacks.

Third, the problems of the black community are relativistic in nature, meaning that they are framed and depend on the amount of prosperity of other racial groups. This is in large part, if not mostly, the result of the uneven distribution of resources, opportunities, and other advantages along racial lines. This is an issue that can only be solved via a team effort.

When someone pushes another racial group to solve issues that affect them on their own, it shows a lack of concern. It shows a lack of willingness to want to help out others who are in need of that help. The willingness to help others is necessary for a functioning and prosperous society and the willingness to help others is part of what is means to be a decent human being. Furthermore, this idea does nothing but slow progress down and it more than anything speaks volumes about the character of the individual pushing this idea.

With all of this being said I want to close with some final comments on the topic of blame. I largely believe that blame while necessary when it comes to identifying causes, is largely useless when blame is assigned to groups. Pointing fingers, whether the finger is being pointed at whites or blacks will get us nowhere. If there really is a phenomena of some black people blaming all of their problems on whites I wholly object to that. It will only serve to create more politics of responsibility and infighting. Also, assigning blame to groups puts responsibility on the group in general. Not all of blacks or whites have contributed to these issues and thus it will be unfair to put the weight of this on the entire group.

Well, thats my thoughts on the matter. I will most likely expand on this. Later.