by WorldTribune Staff, June 18, 2020
The kente cloth scarves worn by several congressional Democrats for a photo op last week, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Check Schumer, are linked to an empire that sold and traded enslaved Africans, according to a USA Today fact check.
While wearing the scarves, the group of Democrats knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the duration a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on the neck of George Floyd.
USA Today was fact checking a June 9 Facebook post which noted:
A little lesson in history. Yesterday the Democrats wore kente scarfs and knelt down for their photo op.
So check this out, Kente cloth was worn by the Ashanti. It’s made of silk so the affluent wore it. The Ashanti were also known as slave owners and traders. Huh? The Ashanti’s long-time ally, the Akwamu, were among the first ones to profit from the slave trade with the Europeans. Their captives were almost always prisoners of war, but they were not above to selling Akwamu men who offended the chief. They also kidnapped able-bodied men from other tribes and sold them in the coastal slave markets.
This makes me wonder why they chose to wear this particular tribe’s garb. So many questions!
USA Today said while the Facebook post’s history was correct, it “ignores the broader cultural significance the cloth has to West African and African American culture.”
Nonetheless, USA Today rated the claim as “True”:
We rate the claim that kente cloth was historically worn by the Asante people of Ghana, who were involved in the West African slave trade TRUE because it is supported by our research. Although kente cloth does have ties to slavery, it is more widely recognized as a modern symbol of pride in African American culture and pride in cultural ties to West Africa.
Several Twitter users accused the Democrats of cultural appropriation.
Author Obianuju Ekeocha posted a video telling Democrats to stop “virtue signalling” by wearing African cloth in the Capitol.
“Excuse me, Democrats,” Ekeocha wrote. “Don’t treat Africans like we’re children. These fabrics and these colorful things that we have within our culture and tradition, they all mean something to us. I know you look at us and you say, ‘Oh, Africans are so cute in all of your colorful dresses.’ Well, some of those dresses and patterns and colors and fabrics actually do mean something to us.”
Frederick Joseph, a former surrogate for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, tweeted: “If anyone can’t understand why Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and them dressed up like they’re trying to sneak into Wakanda is disrespectful and appropriative you have a great deal to learn,” referring to the fictional land where Marvel’s “Black Panther” takes place.
Meanwhile, the kente cloth scarves were brought up by Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican and key author of the Senate’s police reform bill.
Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois dismissed Scott’s bill as a “token” approach.
Scott responded by tweeting: “Y’all still wearing those kente cloths over there @SenatorDurbin?”