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Africa - What Is Oprah Missing?
Friday, June 17, 2005 By: Mahone Dunbar
Oprah - a Zulu?
"I went in search of my roots and had my DNA tested, and I am a Zulu."
Oprah Winfrey at a seminar in Johannesburg
Poor, poor Oprah Winfrey. The mere thought of her plight makes me lachrymose. It was reported in the press this week that in spite of all the glory and wealth she has accumulated from the 'slave society' of America--she is so popular she is known by one name, she has her own TV talk show, her own magazine, can give away 276 cars to a studio audience and is reputedly (as of 2004) worth $1.1 billion dollars--Oprah yearns to a Zulu. And wishes she had been born in South Africa, because . . . (sigh) . . . they have a cute accent.
Damn, woman! Get a reality check.
Oprah has everything--except a suitable ancestral pedigree. And tracing your ancestry back to the Zulus is apparently the African-American equivalent of a Mayflower pedigree.
Oprah reportedly has DNA proof that her ancestors were Zulus. (Let me sarcastically note that though members of the black community consider DNA matches good enough to establish a genetic link a thousand years old for Oprah, or associate the lineage of a black American family with Thomas Jefferson several hundred years after the fact, hours - old DNA samples weren't considered good enough to convict OJ).
At Shakaland Zulu Village in South Africa Oprah makes herself at home
and lends a hand with the quaint tribal custom known as "The shelling of the beans."(Mahone Studios)
Professor Himla Soodyall of South Africa's National Health Laboratory Service benignly sprinkled a little doubt on Oprah's claim to a Zulu pedigree, noting that her testing involved mitochondrial DNA, which is a linkage through female ancestors only and is imprecise without DNA samples from specific (Zulu) individuals who have already been tested and made part of a database. Furthermore, Zulus are not a distinguished genetic type that is discernable by DNA testing, but a linguistic and cultural sub-group. And, lastly, most American slaves came from Western Africa, not South Africa. The final thorn in Oprah's Zulu pedigree is the fact that, according to most historical accounts " . . . the Zulu nation was consolidated only after the departure of slaves from west Africa to the Americas." (Ibid. BBC).
Oprah can be forgiven. It is probable that, in one form or another, we all have a yearning for mythic ancestral realms that rival Oprah's. The Egyptians had The Elysian Fields, The Vikings Valhalla, The Christians New Jerusalem, The Jews Miami Beach, and . . . well, I guess for some Africans in America it's a mythical Mother Africa, as personified for Oprah in Zulu land. And, certainly, Mythical Africa is better than the reality.
We will bypass for the moment the attempt by Afro-centrists to kidnap the history of the Ancient Egyptians (who were essentially, a Semitic people, culturally and racially) and substitute the achievements of Pharaohic culture for the missing glory of the indigenous sub-Saharan peoples of Africa. When speaking of Africa, per se, we are speaking of sub-Saharan Africa.
In a mythical Africa, the African heaven, I suppose, there would be tribal singing, conga-playing, dancing, and cooking yams around the campfire - all without the intrusion of evil un-rhythmic ice people - those genetically affiliated with European ancestry. (BTW, if you are absolutely unsure of the dominant genes someone carries - African or European or Oriental - just ask them to clap along with a song: When the African gene pool dominates, the individual will clap on the up beat (quarter notes, two and four); when European genes hold sway, they will clap on the down beat (one and three); and the Oriental will clap randomly and began singing bad Karaoke.)
Here are a few events, most of which took place in the 21st century, that represent the cultural diversity of the real Africa that Oprah years to associate herself with.
- Winnie Mandela is from South Africa and rates high in popularity polls: throughout most of her career Winnie's idea of political persuasion was to give "necklaces" to her political opponents, that is, have a gasoline-filled tire placed around their neck and then set it on fire. Only slightly more vicious, and obvious, than Hillary Clinton. "It takes a village to necklace a child?" Nuff said about that.
- In June of 2005 a rabid hyena attacked a village in the Chilikumwendo area, killing nine and injuring thirteen. After police and game rangers shot the beast to death the villagers "jubilated." Though rangers identified the beast as a hyena, upset villagers insisted it was not a natural beast but a spirit of one of the villagers who had resurrected. (National, "Dedza beast shot dead 8 victims buried in mass grave" Joseph Langa)
- African culture is spreading its wonderful diversity around the globe. In English communities comprised primarily of Africans, the beating of children, particularly those accused of witchcraft, is common. Concerned about such child abuse, authorities recently opened a dialogue with the minority communities, using a social workers and race relations experts who were sensitive to "cultural differences." There are also claims that African children were being smuggled into the community to serve as slaves for other Africans - and also for the practice of being used as sacrifices for rituals that, to be effective, require a male child who is as yet unblemished by circumcision. (BBC News: Boys "used for human sacrifice")
- These stories - someone being killed after being accused of using witchcraft to render some old man's penis inoperative (don't we all wish we had that excuse? "I'm sorry, honey. Bob from next door must have put a spell on me.") are so common in Africa that I'll only cite one of the more recent: In September of 2004 a mob in Nigeria beat up a government official after he was accused of causing a man's penis to disappear. The victim, Na-Allah, was traveling to Maiduguri and stopped to ask directions to a restaurant when he and his three companions were attacked. One member of the mob suddenly shouted that his 'penis was missing,' and that Na-Allah and his homies were responsible, causing the mob to attack. (And if you thought someone could make your penis disappear, would you attack them?). Na-Allah was severely beaten. The article does not mention whether or not the man's penis re-appeared. (AFP "That politician stole my penis")