5 Reasons Race Still Matters in Religion

Posted: July 7, 2014 in Politics, Religion
Tags: , , , , ,

The Curse of Ham

The Curse of Ham is the biblical story where Noah’s son, Ham, finds his father drunk and naked. He tells his brothers, Shem and Japheth, who proceed to cover their father without looking at him. The concept is misnamed because when Noah finds out what happened, he doesn’t actually curse Ham. Instead he curses Ham’s son, Canaan, saying he shall be ”a servant of servants.”
The Bible does not explicitly identify Ham as Black. However, some religious scholars interpret the references to Ham’s sons, Cush (Ethiopia), Mizraim (Egypt), Phut (Somalia) and Canaan (Phoenicia) to mean he was the father of Black people.
In later centuries, the narrative was interpreted by many Jews, Christians and Muslims as a curse of, and an explanation for, “black” skin and a religious justification for enslaving Black people during both the Arab and Trans-Atlantic slave trades.
Benjamin Braude, professor of history at Boston College, writes in his 2003 publication Collective Degradation: Slavery and the Construction of Race:
“In 18th and 19th century Euro-America, Genesis 9:18-27 became the curse of Ham, a foundation myth for collective degradation, conventionally trotted out as God’s reason for condemning generations of dark-skinned peoples from Africa to slavery.”

Race Matters in Christianity

Fox News television host Megyn Kelly told viewers on her Dec. 11 broadcast that Jesus and Santa are both white men. ”Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change,” Kelly said. “Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?”
In response to Kelly’s statement, antiracist scholar Tim Wise wrote in his 2013 article, Dreaming of a White Jesus (and a Real Santa): Reflections on Conservative Derangement, that the TV host’s words should not be a surprise being that most of us have been inundated by an image of a white Jesus. He cited the fact that painter Warner E. Sallman’s most famous work, Head of Christ, has been reproduced more than 500 million times.
In his book, The Black Clergy’s Misguided Worship Leadership, writer and lecturer Christopher Bell Jr., who has a doctorate in education, argues that ”‘Jesus worship’ is equivalent to ‘white male worship’ and is detrimental to the mental and emotional health of black people.” He asserts:
“The Jesus worshipping (white male worshipping) culture of the black community subliminally afflicts many black people with a deleterious white superiority syndrome that leads to low self-esteem, self-hate, psychological dissonance, and emotional and spiritual depression resulting in aberrant and self-injuring behavior or self-limiting beliefs such as low academic achievement motivation among black adolescents, mutual alienation between black men and women, increased feelings of hate toward whites and other blacks, and increased stress and other health related problems in black males.”
Bell adds that “the Jesus worshipping” also “reinforces the oppressive racist notion of white male superiority in the same ways as white racial discrimination and racial aggression.”

Race Matters in Islam

There is significant evidence of racism in Islamic literature and culture. At the foundation of the bigotry is a common belief in the superiority of Arabs and their divine right to impose their culture upon others.
In The History of the Prophets and Kings, Vol. 9, p. 69, a historical and religious chronicle written by Muslim historian Ibn Jarir al-Tabari (838-923), the author writes:
“Arabs are the most noble people in lineage, the most prominent, and the best in deeds. We were the first to respond to the call of the Prophet. We are Allah’s helpers and the viziers of His Messenger. We fight people until they believe in Allah. He who believes in Allah and His Messenger has protected his life and possessions from us. As for one who disbelieves, we will fight him forever in Allah’s Cause. Killing him is a small matter to us.”
There are also several racially disparaging words aimed at Black people in some of Islam’s most rigorously authenticated traditional texts or hadiths, such as in the Sahih Bukhari, where it is written ”You should listen to and obey your ruler even if he was an Ethiopian (black) slave whose head looks like a raisin.” — Sahih Bukhari 9:89:256
Also the Curse of Ham mythology is interpreted in al-Tabari’s text as the following:
“Ham [Africans] begat all those who are black and curly-haired, while Japheth [Turks] begat all those who are full-faced with small eyes, and Shem [Arabs] begat everyone who is handsome of face with beautiful hair. Noah prayed that the hair of Ham’s descendants would not grow beyond their ears, and that whenever his descendants met Shem’s, the latter would enslave them.” – Al-Tabari, Vol. 2, p. 21, p. 21

Race Matters in Judaism

Like other religions, Judaism is not free of racist ideologies. The Jewish concept of divine “chosenness” predates the one found in Islam, and may have influenced it. This idea is first found in the Torah (the first five books of the Tanakh, which are also included in the Christian Bible) and is elaborated on in later books of the Hebrew Bible and in rabbinic literature.
Rabbi Moses Maimonides, considered by Jews to be the greatest in regards to religious Jewish philosophy, espoused the inferiority of Black people in his work Guide for the Perplexed, book III, chapter 51, stating that:
“Their nature is similar to mute animals, and in my opinion, they do not reach the level of human beings; amongst existing things, they are inferior to the man but superior to the monkey because they possess in bigger measure than the monkey the image and resemblance of the man.”
As stated before, the racism behind the Curse of Ham is rooted in the interpretations first put forth in early Jewish literature. In his dissertation, The Ebb and Flow of Conflict: A History of Black-Jewish Relations Through 1900, Harold David Brackman, Ph.D., of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, writes.
“There is no denying that the Babylonian Talmud was the first source to read a Negrophobic content into the episode by stressing Canaan’s fraternal connections with Cush … The Talmudic glosses of the episode added the stigma of blackness to the fate of enslavement that Noah predicted for Ham’s progeny.”
Brackman explains the Jewish version of the myth in the paper, writing:
“Ham is told by his outraged father that, because you have abused me in the darkness of the night, your children shall be born black and ugly; because you have twisted your head to cause me embarrassment, they shall have kinky hair and red eyes; because your lips jested at my expense, theirs shall swell; and because you neglected my nakedness, they shall go naked.”

Race Matters in Hinduism

The ancient Hindu caste system is one of the most blatant forms of religious racism to date. In his book series Dalit: The Black Untouchables of India, journalist V.T. Rajshekar describes the plight of dark-skinned Indians under the repressive Hindu caste system. He argues that the Hindu caste system was invented in order to protect the white Brahmins from polluting their sacred whiteness with black blood.
Racism in Hinduism can be traced back to the Rigveda, the ancient scriptures of India, which referred to two classes of people, the white-skinned Aryans and the black-skinned Anasahs. Indra, the god of the Aryans, is described as “blowing away with supernatural might from earth and from the heavens the blackskins, which Indra hates.” The story continues with how Indra “slew the flat-nosed barbarians, the Anasahs. Finally, after Indra conquers the land of the Anasahs for his worshipers, he commands that the Anasahs are to be flayed of (their) black skin.”
Even human rights icon Gandhi fought to maintain the caste system because of his devoutness to Hinduism. In essence, his fight for equality did not include the Blacks of South Africa, but only the Indian upperclass.
Forced to share a cell with Black people, Gandhi is quoted in one of his writing as saying: “Many of the native prisoners are only one degree removed from the animal and often created rows and fought among themselves.”
He was quoted at a meeting in Bombay in 1896 saying that Europeans sought to degrade Indians to the level of the “raw kaffir (a derogatory term for Black people in South Africa), whose occupation is hunting and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with, and then pass his life in indolence and nakedness.”

From Atlanta Black Star

Posted by John the Revelator

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