Almost twenty years ago in the days before I read a book and reviewed on Amazon (there was a time when I was a top 1000 reviewer over there) that outraged me titled Not Out Of Africa: How “”Afrocentrism”” Became An Excuse To Teach Myth As History.
What outraged me was not her daring to book pointing out that Cleopatra was a white Greek that was simply telling the truth, what irritated me was that so called scholars where trying to re-rewrite history for political reasons. Here was my Amazon review in full from 2001 with the hindsight of spellcheck that believe it or not I didn’t use back then.
I can think of nothing more insulting to the Black community than the need of some Afrocentric “experts” to literally steal the history of another country (Greece). It implies that Africa doesn’t have a rich enough culture to be proud of and that is a shame. It is a crime that Mary Lefkowitz needed to write such a book, however since it has to be done she does it well. Step by step she gives actual evidence to refute claims born out of rage and inadequacy. The best arguments involve (in my opinion) pointing to the lack of a propaganda attack on Cleopatra for her race by her & Ceasar’s foes. It is a fine example of how people and politics don’t change only the technology they use does. She points out not just the factual errors but the inherent dangers of spreading a fantasy and believing a lie for political purposes. Those who do are made of the stuff of those who don’t care for those they incite and exist only to destroy. All of the greatest tyrants used such tactics as the basis for their rule. Such illusions are usually shattered at a great price. Lets hope that we as a society and particularly the young African American community don’t to pay it.
As you might guess in the pre-twitter/facebook days the resulting persecution of her for un-apologetically speaking and teaching the truth didn’t go viral but resulted in a 2nd book. History Lesson: A Race Odyssey that was a chronicle of the ordeal she was put through for daring to challenge the religion of race hucksterism in the name of truth. My Amazon review from 2008 again corrected for spelling which improved considerably over 8 years:
The story of Mary Lefkowitz and her experiences over the last decade and a half is very important not only in terms of the facts, but as a story of how the culture wars are fought.
How a scholar of ancient history whose only concern was the teaching of facts, became a flash point in the race game is an object lesson in what happens when you ignore important principles in order to get along. The critical points in the book are early as she shows how in order to avoid confrontation people with authority choose to empower those who eschew fact, evidence, scholarship, procedure and decorum. The enablers, more than the hucksters, are the real villains of this book. Their cowardice should be a source of personal and professional disgrace as teachers and administrators. It is an excellent illustration of the cost of appeasement.
Her writing seems rather naive at times; almost as if she doesn’t realize why this is happening. In the end she decides that facts were being suborned for the sake of a desired result (empowerment and pride). She argues that a noble motive doesn’t justify the use of untruth and myth. It demeans those who the users would hope to empower. Lefkowitz’s essential innocence to actual motive is almost incredible to read, but is no more odd that the media’s unwillingness to condemn a certain reverend’s from Chicago incredible statements before a select group until he publicly made those same statements in front of a national audience.
This is the book’s one weakness. She doesn’t realize that this is in effect a religion and its “preachers” goal is to empower not the follower but themselves for the sake of status, influence and financial reward. This can only be done if the rubes are kept angry and dependent. Her fact based argument was and is a threat to this. Thus she was attacked.
In terms of readability this is as dry as one might expect from one whose main concern is literal fact. Lefkowitz is no Shelby Foote or Will Durant but she doesn’t have to be, the story itself is compelling and topical enough not to require such an author.
This fault aside this book is vital reading. It is important to reward truth and those who will stand up to it but its also a reminder to others that the price of silence will eventually have to be paid with interest.
Her story is one of the reasons why the culture war needed to be fought. That our society didn’t take her lessons to heart is the reason why you have the outrage mob, supported by an entire generation taught junk history in order to feel better about themselves, are going nuts over the possibility that a new movie about Cleopatra might have a white actress playing a greek.
The whole concept that it’s an actors job to play something they’re not is a debate for another day but what really outrages me is that you literally have millions people upset because they have been taught a myth as fact to feel better about themselves. And those that taught that myth will exploit it to the fullest because it’s a lot easier to do that then to solve the actual problems facing the black community such as black on black gang violence that continues to kill their community.
You want to talk about exploitation? That’s exploitation!
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