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Blackwashing

Evelyn Corr explores the weird world of historical revisionism.

egmondcodfried

If you haven’t come across Egmond Codfried in your internet adventures, you should probably reassess your life choices. Otherwise known as the ‘Dutch Mega Troll,’ this majestic bard has been banned from just about every message board, blog community or website he’s ever blessed with his gifts of ineffable wisdom. His scholarship has been shunned, jeered and outright deleted by amateur and academic historians alike. To summarise his work: picture every notable historical figure you came across in the high school history textbook you only opened twice each year. Now, picture them all as black.

Jane Austen? Black. George Washington? Black. Anne Boleyn. Beethoven. Elizabeth I. Shakespeare. Immanuel Kant. The entire nation of Iceland. All black. In fact, according to Codfried, Europe was ruled by black nobility until 1789, before being overtaken by the white serfs. His theory, Blue Blood is Black Blood, provides a major counter narrative to the myth of a monoracial European origin. According to Codfried, white supremacy is the conspiracy written into history books and painted over portraits so well that we cannot fathom a time when it wasn’t there. Meanwhile, contemporary racism is a manifestation of the fear that black people will once more rise up to make shoes out of white people. (To Codfried’s credit, this isn’t a far stretch from the fear mongering, conservative bigotry you might have read in Rupert Murdoch’s papers.)

In spite of the considerable effort poured into his research, Codfried is yet to receive his Nobel Prize. I’ve only found two blogs that haven’t shot him down as a provocative gnome, and one of them was mine. Surely there are historians and Fox News eccentrics out there who would celebrate Codfried’s theory for exonerating the atrocities we know to have been committed in the name of white supremacy? Surely white identity cannot be so caught up in the horrors of war, slavery and imperialism, so as to be threatened by that erasure? Someone had to buy The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, after all.

Despite the hilarity of his research, and although I will always embrace anything that challenges the myth of Europe’s pale origins, no matter how ridiculously. I am painfully aware of the trauma erased by his counter narrative. Too many atrocities have been committed before and after 1789 to be denied for the sake of a joke. To say that the Trayvon Martins of our world died because white people are afraid of being turned into shoes is to give far too great a service to their murderers. But, perhaps this is the crack in the dark mirror Codfried wants us to see. Perhaps it is his intent to question the origin of the fear that breeds racism; to ask what panic can inspire genocide, slavery, and institutionalised inequality?

In the context of historical debate, Codfried’s work would be firmly situated in the category of satire, whether he knows it or not. It is entirely possible that this is some social experiment, testing the response his research receives in order to arrive at a grand conclusion about the marginalising elitism of academic culture, or the treatment of any scholarship attempting to undermine white supremacy. Perhaps by pinning the fear that inspires racism down to such an unrealistic origin, Codfried is exposing the ridiculousness of its contemporary manifestations. If he’s a troll, he’s the best of trolls, satirising racial superiority at the expense of a privileged majority, so long as we remember the horror lurking beneath our feet. If nothing else, we should not too harshly criticise the work of a man so determined to cry out “We were here, even from beneath his troll bridge.