(He depicts Africans as "non-productive, lazy, unintelligent, slaves,
Neanderthals, zombies, intellectually dishonest, beggars, undisciplined, dumb-assed
idiots, genetically unable to take care of themselves, etc.")
Chika Onyeani's Capitalist Nigger is an open debate on the state of the Black
race. According to the author, the Negroid race is a non-productive race
because, "We are a consumer race," "we produce nothing and consume what others
produce." This state of affairs is due to the fact that Blacks don't posses
"the killer-instinct of the Caucasian Race" and "whatever-it-takes" attitude.
To solve this problem, Onyeani urges Blacks to adopt his doctrine,
'Capitalist Niggerism.' This ideology applies African communitarianism to the modern
economic system; but it rejects the Afrocentrists' cult of the African past and
focuses on the present conditions. The doctrine is at odds with Negritude,
Pan-Africanism, and Afrocentricity. This is the case because of Onyeani's
suggestion that the Capitalist Nigger emulates the Caucasians, Jews, and Asians in
order to achieve the economic success. But beware! "Imitating others all the
time, the chimpanzee cut its throat."
In his introduction, Onyeani expresses his disappointment regarding
post-colonial Africa's conditions. Colonization or 'looting of Africa's natural
resourses by our colonial master (p.XV) has been followed by the empty promise of
independence and more dependence than ever before. Wars, dictatorships,
Kleptocracy, mismanagement, debt crisis, and other evils have proliferated. Instead
of assuming responsibility, Africans "resort to blaming the Caucasians [...]
and others for our misfortune" (p.XVI).
Capitalist Nigger is a controversial book. Throughout it, the author
questions Blacks' intelligence and characterizes them as being nothing but consumers.
Seeing himself as "an Economic Warrior for my people" (p. XVII), Onyeani
urges Blacks to put an end to the blame game, "accept responsibility for the
present state of the Black Race," and practice the "Spider Web Doctrine." Spiders
"build a web, and if an ant or fly dares enter the web, they are not allowed
to come out. The spider closes its web. That is how the Indians have
employed the spider web doctrine to become a major economic force worldwide" (p. XIX).
Capitalist Nigger has both positive and negative sides. Positively, it is a
call for an economic liberation through hard work, self-reliance,
entrepreneurship, and fiscal discipline; a reflection on the state of the Black race and
interracial relations in the "color-blind America;" an open debate on the
African and African-American relations; freedom and responsibility versus finger
pointing, and victim mentality (hell is not always other people!); invitation to
the African-Americans to build better black neighborhoods instead of moving
to hostile white neighborhoods; an appeal for unity, because "When spider webs
unite, they can be a lion" (Ethiopian proverb); a critique of self-destructive
behaviors such as ethnic warfare, dictatorship, black-on-black crime, and
slavery in Sudan.
Ultimately, Capitalist Nigger is a nostalgic exhortation to the black people
to know themselves, because as Timothy Callender put it in The Basis of
African Culture, "What we do for ourselves depends on what we know about ourselves
and what we accept about ourselves."
Negatively, Capitalist Nigger is a pessimist Negrology. It hardly pays
attention to "political correctness" and sexist use of language. The Capitalist
Nigger is always a black male. The book is another version of Johann F.
Blumenbach's human racial classification in which the "Caucasian" is at the top of
the hierarchy and the Black at the bottom (See De Generis Humani Varietate,
Capitalist Nigger is also reminiscent of the French philosopher Lucien
Levy-Bruhl's "primitive" or "prelogical mind", which he originally attributed to the
Africans; Gobineau (1816-1882) who stated in his Essai sur l'inegalite des
races humaines that, "reason is Greek and emotion is Negro;" Hegel's exclusion
of the sub-Saharan Africa from the world history; and C. Murray and R.J.
Hermstein's Bell Curve (1994).
Onyeani believes in the liberating character of the truth. However, he is
unaware of Voltaire's belief that, "There are truths which are not for all men,
nor for all times." Furthermore, Capitalist Nigger is an African person's
contribution to what the British historian Basil Davidson calls "the legacy of
disbelief about Africa [which] permeates European imagination."
Finally, Capitalist Nigger would not be appropriate for the teaching of
Africa because: (1) It contains many insults and images of the "Dark Continent
Syndrome." Instead of confronting old stereotypes about the Africans, it recites
them, thereby refreshing erroenous notions in the reader's mind. The
vocabulary used to describe Africans is as pejorative and objectionable as the one
found in Negrophobic literature. For example, the depiction of Blacks as
non-prodictive, lazy, unintelligent, slaves, Neanderthals, zombies, intellectually
dishonest, beggars, undisciplined, slaves, dumb-assed idiots, genetically
unable to take care of themselves, etc.
(2) The comparison of distinct Asian and other ethnic or national groups -
Chinese, Indians, Russians, Italians - to 'Africans' perpetuates the treatment
of Africa as a country rather than a continent made up of many different
(3) To state that Africans do not produce anything is to turn a blind eye on
the African contribution in such areas as art and subsistence economy, among
others. Moreover, it is a Eurocentric conception of economic development.
(4) Africans must be responsible for their problems. However, there are
also international responsibilities which Onyeani overlooks.
(5) Capitalist Niggerism is at odds with Negritude, Pan-Africanism and
Afrocentricity. The former stresses economic values that Africans do not have
(yet); it is ashamed of Africanity and blackness. It attempts to unify Africans
through the Spider Web Doctrine which is a separatist ideology and anti-racist
However, the language used to promote unity is so offensive that the unity
might come about with Onyeani's ostracism. The latter (Negritude,
Pan-Africanism, and Afrocentricity) stress unity, glorify and are proud of Africa's past
and cultural values.
(6) Onyeani's Herculean* effort to market his book and newspaper (the
African Sun Times) to the "non-productive race" is one of his inconsistencies. I
think he owes an apology to the Black people on his proposed "Day(s) of