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Many people have fallen prey to Eurocentric pseudo-academic babble by continually using the word Hamite to describe what I assume in a modern context, they mean to be African/ African descended or mixed African peoples.
The idea of the Hamite developed initially from the Hebrew biblical myth of the origins of humankind; what they called the Table of Nations. In it the sons of Noah were said to form the different people that occupied the earth after the flood. This myth on its own was harmless enough. Many different cultures have used the metaphor of an original family peopling the earth to explain their origins. But this is merely allegorical and not to be taken literally. However, to justify the enslavement of the Canaanites and the seizing of their lands by the Jews it was injected into the Hebrew story that the children of Ham were cursed with slavery and were forever destined to serve their brothers, Shem and Japheth.
In the Babylonian Talmud, which reflected the areas where the relationship between the Jews and dark skinned Africans that they encountered was more antagonistic, the idea of the ‘Curse of Ham’ was shifted to include the fact that Ham was cursed with blackness and myriad of other inborn deficiencies as a result of his blackness – sexual unnaturalness, treachery and laziness. What the story does reflect is the attitude of the Jews of that period to African and African phenotype people. This is also the version that has been handed down and remains in the modern Christian biblical stories and that Europeans, especially during the Atlantic slave trade used to justify African enslavement. In light of this alone I find the idea of denoting a specific racial group by a word derived from a racist and politically motivated myth, not just poor scholarship but actually quite offensive.
The concept of the Hamite shifted in the 19th century with the intervention of not only scientific racism but also the discovery of the wonders of Egypt by French explorers and archeologists in the time of Napoleon. While it had long been considered, (given the fact that European concepts of race and origins were largely Judeo- Christian) that Egypt was a black land and thus “hamitic”, the discovery of the wonders of Egyptian civilization and of course the knowledge passed on the by Greek historians and legends that they owed much of their knowledge to Egypt, meant that there now had to be some real intellectual acrobatics to ‘whiten’ Egypt. The Hamitic Hypothesis was born, and in it the Hamites were now ‘white’ people! At different times they were seen as an invading race that taught the blacks that existed in Egypt everything they knew, and at others they were a miraculously indigenous white race that was the mother of Egyptian civilization! The core of this hypothesis was simply to ‘prove’ that any achievement in Africa had to be as a result of an invading white or near white race. The Hamite went from being the cursed father of African people, doomed to slavery, to being some superior, civilizing white or near white race in order to rationalize the presence of ‘civilization’ in Egypt.
The Hamitic concept flip-flopped many times further in this period. During the rise of German nationalism the Hamites even became Germans who ‘civilized’ all ‘inferior’ parts of the world where any inexplicable trace of civilization could be found. As anthropology and archeology advanced a bit more and it was too ludicrous to assume that these people could have been full white Caucasians they settle for them being a brownish race that was not Negroid, and then somehow a Hamitic- Semitic people emerged who again were sort of brown but were somehow also Semitic. Never mind the fact that there is no ethnic group that can be called Semitic as this word refers in the strictest sense to a group of language types and not race or ethnicity.
In the final analysis, the word Hamite began in allegory, continued in racism and pseudo academia and should end in nothingness. It has been marred with so many historical inaccuracies, political schemes and racist pseudo scholarship that indeed it is not a word that applies to anything at all except a hallmark of Euroccentricity. The word has been bandied about so much that I think those that use it may not necessarily be racist but just really uninformed of its real history. This is just a brief overview of the words origins and uses over the years but there are many more details that can be gone into. I am sure we will find when people begin using more realistic and anthropologically correct words to describe ancient peoples, the picture of the origins of humankind will be crystal clear to those for whom there may be some ambiguity or misconception.
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