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Fighting Black Erasure In History But Claiming Mixed People As Black: The Alexander Pushkin and Alexandre Dumas Cases

Alexandre Dumas père, date unknown

Written by Victoria Kabeya, VKY

All Rights Reserved

The resurgence of social media led us all to a dying point. Though an interesting tool to favor and spread unknown parts of history, that science has been, unfortunately, hurt by the “wokeness” of the 2010s and by the orchestrated black revolts supported by the white US institutions. And for this reason, history as a field has been distorted and submitted to the improbability of recent social issues regarding gender, race and social conflicts, to the point of claiming the ancient Roman civilization to have been black and going as far as asserting a so-called blackness of ancient Roman chiefs just for having been born in North African colonies established by the Romans.

Though the Black American community was always important in the research when it comes to the decolonization of history, with important figures such as Runoko Rashidi or John Henrik Clark whose legacies remain incomparable, the Black Americans also have a colonial mentality as they consider themselves to be superior to other black groups living in the Western sphere. As they were brought to the most powerful country on earth, the United States of America, their status, racial identity, logic and culture must be deemed better, superior and be viewed as the blueprint of all black groups in the Western sphere. A black Peruvian, black Ecuatorian, black Boricua or black Honduran past is not viewed, in the hierarchy of “black history” as being as influential, important and powerful as that of the Black Americans.

Unfortunately, this spirit of superiority follows them in research and history as they still want to ignore the actual social condition of the Africans, whether in France, the UK, or the Netherlands and impose the improbability of the American racial structures. The latter are not valid at all, and were built in and through racism. The white Americans did create the structures of the one drop rule to protect their race and own interests as a dominant white group out of disdain for the Africans. Yet, centuries later, the Black Americans ought to claim that “blackness comes in all shades” in their group following the creation of this rule.

If the Black Americans have all the reasons to structure their society the way they desire, judging by the pain they went through and the exclusion they have been forced to live in, they are allowed to claim their own mixed-race individuals to be black. However, they consider their experience to be more superior than the reality of race faced in Western Europe, the Caribbean or South America where individuals face racism, it is true, but were not raised and shaped in the improbability of the one drop rule. In the 18th century, the Spanish Crown passed the Regla Del Sacar in Puerto-Rico, a time when a black person who could prove a direct white ancestor could be legally be recognised as white.

Singer Mariah Carey in Sweden, 1990. Photographer unknown

In order to understand the creation of these racial rules, one needs to realize that the slavery was a novelty for the Europeans who did not think about its legacy regarding racial admixture and the new classifications which would emerge. As a consequence, African identities were exploited as ways of experimentation by the European powers in order to establish new structures which could protect their own interests.

Whether in the Caribbean or Western Europe, relations to race are not as rigid as in the US, however, the Black Americans refuse to acknowledge it. A white Cuban with African ancestry can display much more attachment to Africa and behave much more like a so-called “black person” than a Black American or a Black Cuban who could feel more European or Cuban than African. In the Caribbean, despite the obvious racial discrimination, identity does not always rely on skin color but rather the lineages as the enslaved Africans were gathered regarding their origins on the African continent so as to help the European Spaniards preserve their privileges and clans.

As they ought to decolonize through the eradication of social realities outside of the US, Western Europe, regarding racism in history, could never be compared to North America at all. Indeed, despite the legacy of 1492, slavery and colonialism, Western Europe was always ambiguous and could either be, at times, much more progressive but also brutal in the treatment of Africans. Both Aleksander Pushkin and Alexandre Dumas, respectively Russian and French symbolized this ambiguity.

Alexander Pushkin

Alexandre Dumas was a quadroon, born to a biracial Afro-Caribbean father while Aleksander Pushkin even less African, for being an octoroon whose maternal great-grandfather was a black African general known as Gannibal and served under Peter The Great. Following this, Pushkin’s mother was a quadroon who married a white Russian man, the father of the author. Both men were white with African ancestry and avant-gardiste authors who shaped the cultural heritage of their country. The two men were born and raised in European societies at a time when Black African people were mistreated, abused and victims of crimes against humanity. Yet, they were saluted, regarded as Europeans but also extremely proud of their African ancestry. In 1843, Dumas published George, probably the only novel through which issues related to racism and racial discrimination have been tackled by the author.

Though their African and Afro-Caribbean ancestors were born and raised outside of Europe, their lives mirrored one another. Pushkin’s mother was the daughter of Hannibal, a military African man kidnapped from Cameroon by the Ottomans and who was raised by Peter the Great. Thomas Alexandre-Dumas, father of Alexandre Dumas, was born in 1762 in modern Ayiti. The son of a noble man and an enslaved Afro-Caribbean woman. Interestingly enough, both Hannibal and Thomas Alexandre-Dumas were African descendants whose identity was crushed by the slave trade, deportation and shaped by military values. Both men married and integrated within European white society marrying Russian and French women. They also marked the history of Europe at the time for their military skills and devotion, surely.

As a consequence, though both Alexandre Dumas and Aleksander Pushkin were always proud of their African ancestry they never denied, as a second generation of mixed individuals, there lied a reality African-American scholars refuse to acknowledge. Both authors probably had little to no connection to African or Afro-Caribbean culture as they were truly European in culture and essence. Both Hannibal and Thomas Alexandre-Dumas were shaped by European military institutions, hence an attachment to Europe they transmitted to their children. As a consequence, Western Europe was rooted in slavery and colonialism but had no issue recognising two mixed race men as the fathers of their literature.

Yet,the absence of rigidity of the one drop rule in Europe which is a pure US product, bothers the Black American scholars so much so that the obvious Europeanness of Pushkin is erased, the latter being called a “black man”. How could a white man with 75 to 85 per cent of European Russian blood, living in a Russian reality, writing following Russian codes be reduced to the 25 or 15 per cent of African blood he possesses, not knowing anything about African culture at all? If Pushkin wrote an unfinished biography of his great-grandfather African ancestor entitled The Moor of Peter The Great, it would be wrong, when it comes to the anti-colonial fight to claim a mixed white man as being black. Worst. Alexandre Dumas was a real quadroon, born to a biracial Caribbean father. However, Aleksander Pushkin was even less African than Dumas, for only being an octoroon, Hannibal having been his great-grandfather.

Yet, due to the toxicity of blackness politics which only concerns the Black Americans, the heritage of both Alexandres has been attempted to be understood through the modern improbable concept of the one drop rule. Their European reality has been erased in the name of racial progress and simply attached to Africa or the concept of Blackness when the two men were in no shape or form attached to African culture in their daily lives, but rather European.

The obsession of the Black scholars who want to claim these two geniuses of literature as black works against the principles of history and should be interpreted as fraudulent. Mixed individuals with African ancestry should belong to their own category and should also, at times, be recognised as white. Indeed, the criteria which were designed to classify mixed individuals only rely upon slavery, colonialism and the one drop rule, but never upon logic and freedom. If some mixed people feel closer to the black group and would like to be recognised as such, others should be embraced as being white. In his literature, and as an octoroon, Pushkin was proud of his African roots but saw his African ancestry as being distant from his daily Russian life. Pushkin saw his great-grandfather as the African but not himself as such. One could even wonder if Hannibal did not already see himself as a European despite him being African? Due to the deportation in his childhood, the latter had little to no attach to the African continent at all.

Yet, by imposing the one drop rule again, the Black scholars only want to fulfill political agenda by refusing to let the mixed people exist outside of the black clan. As victims of constant colonial disdain, Black Americans fear disappearance and by including and claiming mixed people among their ranks they can maintain the interest of the white gaze. However, how can one pretend to fight against Eurocentrism which whitewashed ancient African culture but support racist policies which structured society upon a lack of logic? How could one claim to fight against the erasure of blackness all the while asserting that a quadroon and octoroon are fully black, thus erasing Europe and European identity?

Interestingly enough, excluded and despised even by the Western Blacks whether in the US or Europe, the African approach of race towards the mixed group is much more logical. In any African country, whether in Rwanda, Ghana or Tanzania, a clear distinction can be made between a mixed and black person, the mixed group being called “white” and recognised as “the children of the White men”, despite their brown skin.

As a consequence, the legacy and identity of both authors should be analyzed through the political relations between Africa and Europe at that specific time, and mostly be studied through the European gaze regarding race and ethnicity. Both men belonged to Europe but were also the products of Africa through deportation and slavery. Yet, out of spirit of revenge and racial rage, Europe is taken away when real historians and scholars can not indulge in racial revenge while studying one’s reality at the time.

Both Pushkin and Dumas belonged to one specific category of mixed white men with African ancestry living in a European spectrum. They were European first, then African due to their ancestry. As a consequence, it would make no sense to understand them through Africa only for they were the racial products of both continents.

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