Is Morocco African? You decide, but I’ll judge you on your choice
Saturday December 17 2022
Here is a radical proposition: You are African, wherever you are. You just strayed a little bit — or a lot — from the Continent of Origin.
I am siding with Noah Yuval Harari, who covers this when he discusses how Homo Sapiens became the default human genetically in his book, Sapiens. Oh, there were other kinds of humans in the past — Neanderthals, Floresiensis, for example — but Sapiens spread far and wide, with ultimate species success.
If you’re scared of science and the theory of evolution, feel free to ignore this introduction to the idea that debating Morocco’s Africanness is a study in contemporary racism.
So, is Morocco African? That depends: How racist are you? As the Moroccan team progressed wonderfully through the World Cup, I knew the topic would come up — and it has. I listened attentively as fellow East Africans expressed resentment against Morocco. The topic oozed into social media in the guise of anything “except outright racism.” What my college friend from St Croix once told me was evident here: “Black people can’t be racist, that is something only White people do.”
Ha! No, I didn’t tell him about the East African Slave Trade. I was annoyed by his self-serving myopia. Africanists are allowed to disagree. Slavery and colonialism really did a number on us all. Race and racism are socio-political phenomena and I am trained to consider social constructs as just as “real” and powerful as physical phenomena. A lightning bolt can kill you, and so can a racist with a gun. Thing is, social constructs can be examined and dismantled. Gravity will always get you, but you can examine beliefs and discard those that are not useful. I find racism interesting, but I don’t see its utility beyond a certain point.
Also, countries and states are made up entities, no matter how old they might be. Ask a historian. Geography is real, the lines we draw on maps are fiction that we then treat as social facts. We do not have to be slaves to social facts, that is a fact. And, as facts go, Morocco is a member of the African Union and is on the contiguous African continent — unlike Madagascar —and it has its own complicated history with colonialism. They have a dark side: Currently embroiled in a conflict with the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, prone to distancing themselves from Africa when it suits them. Whatever, man. Identity is political and complicated, just don’t hurt yourself or anyone else while you sweat it out.
Read: Hundreds of African routes to take and one airline to fly us all
Not stressed about it
So, is Morocco African? I am not stressed about it; of course, they are African as per the current geopolitical arrangements and agreements. Whether you consider Morocco African is really up to you to decide. Of course, I will be judging you on your choice.
I hope that France wins the World Cup because, as my little Gen Alpha reminded me, sometimes the game has to be about the game, not your boring politics. I paraphrase, but he is wise and smarter about football than I will ever be, and I have a soft spot for France, which I do not care to examine too deeply.
Allez, Les Bleus!