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{August 2004, in response to a post on a martial arts forum}

There has been a lot of bad historical scholarship recently about Africa’s influence in history. A number of American black scholars seem desperate to overcome the inferiority complex their society has put on them by re-writing history to be Afro-centric. This is just as rediculous as the history we usually are taught (Euro-centric).

In other words, we went from one extreme to another.

Buddha was dark-skinned, perhaps comparable to someone Italian, or maybe sub-saharan African, maybe anything in between. “Black” is not a true racial characteristic, and has to do more with climate-caused tendency in a population than being a particular bloodline. After 20 generations at the equator, some descendants of a polack like me would be “black”.

So was he African? No.
Was he black? Who cares?

Is there a significan SUB-SAHARAN African influence on oriental martial arts? There are nothing more than theories, or rather conjecture. In fact, all evidence points to “no”.

But when most people talk about these subjects, it isn’t scholarship — it’s personal. It’s about percieved cultural identity. Nothing I said here is personal, or racist, or judgemental at all. Just trying to dispel myth.

(BTW, international slave-traders were most often Dutch buying from African slave-traders, and selling to the British and Irish colonials.)

{follow-up comment}

I don’t think anyone should take OFFENSE about a historical account, accurate or not. If martial arts come from Africa, cool. If I say Christ was or was not “black” can I keep everyone from not being mad at me?

It’s just that the equivocation of today’s racial groups with ancient civilizations is not possible. The Egyptians were racially diverse over the centuries, even from the start … a combination of what we would call “black” people from the older culture of Kush, and the Middle Eastern peoples (Hittites, etc. — Indo-European stock) and there WAS trade with India, and by extension China. When Egypt got swallowed into the “Classical” world of the Romans, it became part of Hellenic culture. Soon thereafter, a diaspora of Jews (possibly fleeing the sudden Mohammedean expansion) followed the coast far south and became a “black” African tribe, barely recognizable from what you would think.

If you’re Spanish, chances are you have some Italian blood in you, and therefore are also a little Greek, Middle-Eastern, and definitely African of some kind. I know Polish people with Negroid characteristics, and Hispanics with Oriental ones. Are we really going to start saying “Broad-nosed people’s contributions of hisroty and culture”?

Modern anthropology is showing “racial” identity is a biological oxymoron. However, I respect a stand on the values of “cultrual” identity. America would be unrecognizable from what it is today without the “Black” contributions to science, music, and literature in these last few centuries. But if this is merely about genetics and not values, then we’re shaking hands with the likes of Hitler. If Blacks are not inferior by “race” (bloodline), then are they superior? We’ve got to put that eugenic thinking away — for good.

But back to the issue …

One cannot deny the possibility that Egyptian wrestling influenced Indian wrestling in the second and first centuries B.C.. But given how little we know about that, and recent discoveries about much older human culture, maybe the Egyptians got it from the Indus Civilization in the third millenium B.C., whcih could have come from China (Longshan Culture) 5,000 years earlier than that?

The possibilities blow the mind.