The Negro Myth is the belief that black people are not as good as whites. And not just in this period of history in certain particular ways, like in weapons or wealth, but in most ways throughout all of history. Because, the myth says, blacks lack brains, morals, reason, civilization, working constitutional government and all the rest.
The myth is so firmly believed that when whites do admit that blacks can equal or pass them in something, like music or art, it is strangely twisted into proof that blacks are less than fully human, that they have more of an animal-like nature.
The myth is so firmly believed that the idea of ancient Egypt being a black civilization seems highly improbable if not laughable. So much so that when archaeologists find the remains of blacks in Egypt or the Middle East they are assumed – without the trouble of a proof – to be slaves.
The myth is so firmly believed that whites saw it as their duty to civilize blacks for their own good – the white man’s burden.
The myth is so firmly believed that that even top black thinkers sometimes believe in it.
Senghor, for example, once said:
Emotion is Negro and reason Greek.
While Cesaire pictured blacks as:
Those who invented neither gunpowder nor compass
those who tamed neither steam nor electricity
those who explored neither the sea nor the sky…
The birth of the myth:
When Egypt fell under foreign rule from about 500 BC onwards, most of Africa became cut off from the rest of the world for 2000 years. Since people there could make a comfortable living with just a hoe, they fell behind in terms of material progress, though they continued to progress in other ways. Constitutional government, for example, was common in West Africa before it was common in Europe.
When Europeans arrived in West Africa in the 1400s they had far better weapons and ships than anyone in that part of the world. They used this advantage to rob Africa of its riches and make its people into slaves.
Europeans assumed that their material advantage extended to morals, society, government and everything else.
They also assumed this advantage extended to all of history.
This caused them to misread history in certain ways. So, for example, when the French scholar Count Constantin de Volney arrived in Egypt in the 1780s he was shocked to find that the people there appeared to be part black – even though he knew his Herodotus.
The myth started out as an understandable misunderstanding of Portuguese sailors of the 1400s. But it proved so useful an excuse for the slave trade and colonization that it got written about and in time flowered into revealed truth, part of the European mindset.