'Is It not Sufficient to Be a Human Being?' Memory, Christianity and White Identity in Africa

in Religion and Theology
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Abstract

Within a hierarchy of senses where sight dominates, race constitutes a regime of visibility with whiteness as the master signifier in the Western world. The essay explores the impossibility to think beyond race in a world that is still deeply racist. Racism is not undone once people have seen through it. In illustrating the performativity of race in terms of white identity issues, the discussion starts with a brief look at what constitutes identity and what is memory's function in constructing particular identities. The argument then turns towards an understanding of Africa's specific memory of Christianity's racialising mission by focussing on how the binaries of Spirit / Flesh became a racial binary of black and white that apparently continues in a post-modern empire without colonies. Subsequently, the essay focuses on an example of this entrapment, namely Bernal's book Black Athena and the ensuing debate where African and Western identities became markers of each other. Lastly, the discussion looks at the way Bernal's construction of memory in President Thabo Mbeki's challenge of Western hegemony and the role of whiteness in our thinking. The essay concludes that whiteness needs to be exposed in terms of the religious roots of its assumed naturalness, eternity and truth that went with its power.

'Is It not Sufficient to Be a Human Being?' Memory, Christianity and White Identity in Africa

in Religion and Theology

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