Exodus: Gods and Kings continues Hollywood's lineage of prejudice

african kings

Exodus: God’s & Kings has people pissed…

Taking his cues from Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 Ten Commandments epic, English director Ridley Scott takes on the Biblical account of Moses leading the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt in his newest film, Exodus: Gods & Kings.

So why are people (black people particularly) so mad?

Scott’s choice of predominantly white, European actors to play the title roles of ancient Egyptian kings and queens (Ancient African royalty) — while electing to have people of African descent play lesser roles of slaves, peasants, assassins and thieves — screams of racism. The casting plays to the tone of Hollywood’s long-lasting tradition of whitewashing films of antiquity and subordinating people of color to their white counterparts on the silver screen.

All over the Internet, the casting has sparked acute levels of controversy. Online petitions have popped up and disgruntled comments seem to flood everywhere this movie is mentioned.

Detractors may argue, “Aren’t most modern day Egyptians Arab or white-looking anyway?”

To them, my response would be, “What does the race of modern people have to do with the ancient, native inhabitants of these lands?”

The facts: 

Modern scientists, anthropologists and scholars have by and large all dismissed the theories of “Dynastic Race,” which asserts the Ancient Egyptian rulers were people from the Mediterranean or Mesopotamia, and have agreed the Ancient Egyptians were an indigenous black African people from the Sahara region who moved northeast, inward, towards the lush Nile Valley as the Sahara region was destroyed by climate change and desertification.

TheGrio | Hollywood ‘re-whites’ history again with Exodus: Gods and Kings (OPINION)

Bioarchaeologist and anthropologist, PhD. Cornell, Nancy Lovell states the following:

There is now a sufficient body of evidence from modern studies of skeletal remains to indicate that the ancient Egyptians, especially southern Egyptians, exhibited physical characteristics that are within the range of variation for ancient and modern indigenous peoples of the Sub-Sahara and tropical Africa. In general, the inhabitants of Upper Egypt and Nubia had the greatest biological affinity to people of the Sahara and more southerly areas.

Echoing those findings, a provocative set of studies released by DNA Tribes, a biotechnology/genealogy company in 2012-2013, discovered that the mummies of Pharaohs Amenhotep III, Tutankhamun and more recently Ramses all contain the highest genetic affiliation with people from the African Great Lakes region and other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa — more than any other groups in the world.  

This information substantiates arguments that Ancient Egyptians were a native African populous. However, it can’t be denied that Egypt was a highly cosmopolitan empire, and over time, Egypt diversified and changed its genetic makeup.

In its over 3000 years of existence, Egyptian civilization had heavy amounts of cultural and ethnic intermixing and shifts in power by several “foreign” conquerors (Hyksos, Nubians, Assyrians, Greeks and Romans).

 

In more recent millennia, the spread of Islam by the Ottoman Empire and migration of Arab tribes through North Africa lead to a whole new lasting religious, linguistic and ethnic shift in the region, which drove many natives out or forced them to assimilate (leading to Arabized Egypt), but it wasn’t until the arrival of Europeans in the 19th century that Egypt essentially lost its “blackness.” The Egypt of today, therefore, looks very little like its ancient counterpart.

The problem:

Racist Egyptologists like George Reisner discount the idea that any part of Egyptian fine art, politics or archeological accomplishments could have been achieved by anyone of the black race — despite evidence to the contrary. They insist on attributing Ancient Egypt’s successes to “lighter-skinned” races.

Ideologies like these, perpetrated by racism, the indoctrination of slavery and the devaluation of African peoples have skewed much of early scholarship, and this general perception has been amplified by modern media.

This lineage of prejudice is dismally illustrated, in our time, by Newscorp & 20th Century Fox Founder Rupert Murdoch, when he took to Twitter to assert his ill-informed defense of Exodus: Gods & Kings to the impressionable world.

Ridley Scott also joined the fray to defend his Exodus casting choices in an interview with Variety Magazine.

“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. So the question doesn’t even come up.”

Scott’s egregious comments are quite telling of his views on racial diversity in film and send a clear indication of the value he puts on accurate representation of people of color.

What Rupert Murdoch, Ridley Scott and many others in mainstream media are doing has to stop now! With so few films presenting black culture and civilization in antiquity, but rather using images of slavery as the dawn of our existence, the racial defacing presented by Exodus: Gods & Kings is not just as simple as ill-informed perspective or artistic liberties. It perpetuates perceptions of racial hierarchy stemming from European colonialism.

What they (Murdoch, Scott, mainstream media) choose to present to the world distorts what modern people believe about who the Ancient Egyptians were and what their contributions were to the world — and it disenfranchises people who are racially associated with them in modern society.

Africa has been raped of many indigenous things for the financial profitability of others for centuries — its resources, its animals, its people. Let’s not let them steal its history as well.

BOYCOTT Exodus: Gods & Kings