A VIKING OF A DIFFERENT COLOR 2
Continuing my review of True Myth: Black Vikings of The Middle Ages by Nashid Al-Amin
It is Al-Amin’s theory that Northern Europe was settled by a black race and that the black races were still in dominance in Scandinavia during the Viking Age. He backs up that assertion by factual, but his theory is frustratingly both very thought-provoking and highly jingoistic. The book cannot be accepted as unvarnished truth. Whether these points has any influence upon the validity of Al-Amin’s interpretation is another matter, but they must be stated.
His constant (justified) attacks on Christianity followed by his protests that he is not being antiChristian reminded me of all those racists who will make statements about the watermelon-eating commnyist tearing apart the Constitution and then piously assert “But Ah ain’t no racist…” Not racism here but an obvious prejudice against faith.
The title and supposed theme are to a great deal simply come ons. However, for Al-Amin, it is more of a hook upon which to hang his racial theories. Whites can do no right. Blacks can do no wrong. Although he condemns Christian imperialism, he either ignores or praises Muslim.
He often thinks with a modern ideals and suppositions and tastes.
The persistent use of phrases such as “the thirteenth century (i.e., the 1200s)” and a tendency in many cases to say “perhaps more conjectural than factual” aside, Al-Amin writes often with a witty and ironic voice—not to say understated since he is often screaming his message. A strange excursion into films that seems more concerned with racial politics than with the history depicted in the film. For example, he is concerned with “The Norseman” and ” The Long Ships” but more so with racial portrayals in “King Kong” and “Star Wars.”
Some of the worst writing—simple errors about the culture and not mentioning possible items—is jarring. Al-Amin ignores items that go against his theories. The Bayeux Embroider, which theoretically shows the faces of character and is all white. Is not mentioned ( on the other hand the embroidery can be used to justify purple horses). He loves to cite art when it supports his theories but is just as likely to ignore them if they contradict them. He has a tendency to state interpretations as if they were cold facts, so you have to read this with a skepticism and not just accept things. But in many instances, this becomes a matter of over-preaching and spreading the concept a bit too thick.
The book is a bit labyrinthian and erratic, and Al-Amin states and restates many of the same points over and over again, as if repeating something many times will make it true. One gets the feeling that this book contains enough information for a decent-sized paper but has been padded and repeated into a book size.
Al-Amin slings around phrases cavalierly, an indication of certainty that many reader will immediately employ as a barricade between their minds and Al-Amin’s ideas. After a while, Al-Amin ceases his polemics, and for a time the volume becomes yet another standard overview of Norse exploration, trade, raiding and creation of an empire. Still he prefers to deal with matters from an anti-Christian manner that will infuriate them as easily as the theme of the book will offend racists. He especially likes the phrase “Eurocentric” (a claim which many Eurocentric scholars will immediately deny or ignore). And he also has a preference toward popular and secondary sources, which to me is worse than using a popular phrase or stark revisionism. But he also uses primary sources, both graphic and literary, that are eye opening and provocative. To a good extent his veracity seems to be the fodder for another questionable History Channel documentary, and it does duplicate any of the methods, but it seems to have more detail and proof at its core! The book deals more with polemic ranting and logical constructs. And some of the arguments come awfully close to the specious conspiracy arguments that attempt to connect the Egyptian and the Mayan pyramid builders!
At times, the book becomes a simple recitation of facts—mostly adequate but riddled in places with errors and misinterpretations but certainly not as vivid and passionate as parts of the book that Al-Amin really cares about. Does this mean that his other interpretations are suspect? Probably. But next week, we look at some of the more positive—and convincing—points in the book.