I don’t care what color the ancient Egyptians were, but then again, I’m not an Afrocentrist. But if one day in the distant future after a series of debilitating strokes I were to become an Afrocentrist, it would be necessary for me to picture the ancient Egyptians as black. I’ll explain why in a minute.
Irascible octogenarian multibillionaire media oligarch Rupert Murdoch says that Egyptians are white. He also says you need to calm down if you disagree. Twentieth Century Fox—one of Murdoch’s many long, slithering, pipe-snaking media tentacles—will be releasing the biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings on December 12, and already the howling uteri of the social-justice battalions are squalling that the film is by its very nature racist since Caucasian actors portray the main Egyptian characters.
According to the film’s director Ridley Scott, the Caucasoid cast was neither a stab at racial revisionism nor an attempt at historical accuracy; it was a matter of financial expediency. Scott told Variety:
I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such. I’m just not going to get it financed.
Still, this didn’t stop the complaints. Nothing ever stops the complaints. Sometimes these days it seems like the only thing that could possibly stop the complaints would be bullets, but that’s a subject for another article entirely.
Responding to the complaints, Murdoch caused a minor Twitstorm on Friday with a series of three tweets:
Moses film attacked on Twitter for all white cast. Since when are Egyptians not white? All I know are.
8:07PM 28 Nov 2014
Everybody-attacks last tweet. Of course Egyptians are Middle Eastern, but far from black. They treated blacks as slaves.
8:22PM 28 Nov 2014
Okay, there are many shades of color. Nothing racist about that, so calm down!
8:53PM 28 Nov 2014
Apparently it’s an emotionally charged topic for a lot of people. Since Egypt was one of the greatest ancient civilizations, it’s understandable that competing modern ethnic groups would try to call dibs on it.
Wikipedia has a whole page devoted to the “Ancient Egyptian race controversy,” and if you squint hard enough to read between all the disclaimers about how race isn’t real and that all respectable modern anthropologists will tell you it doesn’t even exist, it covers the spectrum of popular hypotheses and theories about the genetic makeup of ancient Egypt’s movers and shakers. These range from the Black Egyptian hypothesis (they were full-blooded black Africans); to the Asiatic Race Theory (they were descended from Middle Easterners); to the Caucasian/Hamitic hypothesis (they were white Euros); to the Turanid race hypothesis (they were Mongols); to the Dynastic race theory (they were an elite set of Mesopotamian conquerors).
Their “Population history of Egypt” page gets a smidge more specific with the science. Modern Egyptians, at least, possess a “non-recombining portion of the Y chromosome…[that is] much more similar to those of the Middle East than to any sub-Saharan African population.” It also avers that “blood typing of dynastic mummies found ABO frequencies to be most similar to modern Egyptians.” It adds that one famous DNA study concluded that “Ancient Egyptians were indeed most similar to people from Western Asia”—Western Asia being a fashionable new geographic term for what used to be called the Middle East.
If that’s the case, then Ol’ Rupert was half-right—while probably not “white” in the Nordic sense, King Tut and his ilk definitely weren’t “black” in the Ferguson-rioter sense, either. The ancient Egyptians were most likely somewhat Middle Eastern in appearance, and I can live with that. I don’t have a sphinx in that fight—nor an Anubis, for that matter.
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