The Gathering Of My Name

Following yesterday's laugh, Commenter Quizfan decided to do the knowledge on my name:

All of the lands south and southeast of Egypt (sometimes also including the northeast) the Egyptians called, Ta-netjer, "God's Land." Within this great region, the Egyptians located the different countries and people of Nubia. From the Old Kingdom onward, in addition to Ta-Seti, the Egyptians applied the name Ta- Nehesy as a general designation for Nubia (n.b., nehesy means, "nubian;" Panehesy, "the Nubian" becomes a common personal name, developing into the Biblical name, Phineas). At the same time, Egyptians gave the name Wawat specifically to Lower Nubia. This name derived from one of several Nubian chiefdoms which were located in this region during the late Old Kingdom. A generic designation of the desert nomads of Nubia was the term Iuntiu or Iuntiu-setiu , "Nubian tribesmen (lit. 'bowmen')." The names which the Egyptians used to refer to the various parts of Nubia and its different peoples usually changed depending upon the era and the particular tribal group in a given area.

Yeah basically. I've been meaning to call up some Egyptologists and really get some more info. As you can see the spelling and pronunciation is different than the one I use. I don't really know why. It's the one my Dad gave me, so it's the one I use. More to the point, the spelling is different than the actual pronunciation, and though I like to have some fun at the expense of critics who misspell it, I'm more forgiving of people who mispronounce it.

Something else though--Anyone with a passing familiarity with black historiography knows that that Nile Valley civilizations hold a special place in the heart of a lot of African-American historians--particularly lay historians. In the late 19th and early 20th century, much of the history and science held that black people were stupid, had always been stupid, and would always be stupid. The notion that, say, Egypt's 25th dynasty was "black" (Note the quotes. There was no "black" back then--not as we think about it.) had a special resonance. The whole idea of earnestly referring to a black woman a "Nubian queen" comes out of that. The group Brand Nubian takes their name from that whole ideal.

It's funny, I was a history major at Howard. I had a pretty tight crew of budding intellectual friends. Before I dropped out, we'd spend hours debating the relative "blackness" of this dynasty or that--sometimes in class, sometimes out. Thinking back on that debate now makes my head hurt, mostly because I care so little, now. I understand why people had to battle in a particular framework, but I guess I reject it in its entirety, now. I don't really look to history to justify the humanity of black people, and I don't really respect those who use history to justify their superiority.

It should be said that I'm filled with respect and, frankly, reverence for folks who came before me and had to do battle with incredibly racist scholarship. Moreover, I'm filled with respect for my professors, and friends, at Howard, for engaging me on those questions. As a younger man, my thinking was just much more racialized. I took that "Who is the Tolstoy of the Zulus" question really seriously, back then. Now I feel like it's like asking "Who is the John Coltrane of the Upper West Side?" It just doesn't mean much to me.

My name is rooted in a particular struggle to which I'll always be connected, and indebted. But it's come to mean something different to me. Something more like, "He who is tall and black but can't play basketball" or "Proud contributor to the black out-of-wedlock birth-rate," or "Sits in airports laughing his authentic ghetto ass off."

OK, that last one was good...