Contrast and CriticalAssessment of the Perspectives on Afrocentrism and Eurocentrism as Presented Asante, Lefkowitz, and Bernal

Contrast and CriticalAssessment of the Perspectives on Afrocentrism and Eurocentrism as Presented Asante, Lefkowitz, and Bernal

Eurocentrism and Afrocentrism are two opposing historical views that have been a subject of debate among historians. While Eurocentrism posits the centrality of Europe in history, Afrocentrism maintains anemphasis on Africa’s centrality. Some of the great scholars actively engaged in the debate on which perspective accurately represents history include Cheikh Anta Diop, Martin Bernal, Stephen Howe, Mary Lefkowitz, Robin Walker, Claude Ake,and Molefe Asante. Both perspectives have demonstrated proof in support of theirviewpoint but without any consensus.This paper critically contrasts the viewpoint of various scholars who represent the two viewpoints of Afrocentrism and Eurocentrism, and other scholars-Lefkowitz-who want to portray themselves as neutral on issues Afrocentric and Eurocentric, although their Eurocentrists’ stand is apparent. Specifically, the paper looks at the works of Asante[i], Lefkowitz[ii], and Bernal[iii]contrasting their perspectives on world history.The paper concludes by giving a brief critique of both perspectiveswhile positing that neither of the two perspectives can be overlookedwhen examining and interpreting world history

Perspectives on Afrocentrism and Eurocentrism

`     In recent years, the assumption of European centrality in the human history has been a pervasive feature of western thought. However, it has come under critical attack, not only as a symptom of cultural ignorance but as a distortion of empirical records. Lefkowitz[iv] is one of the scholars who put a case for the Eurocentrism ideology. However, scholars, mainly in support of Afrocentrism have risen against this widely moralized perceptions arguing for a more Afrocentric viewpoint. Key to their argument is the position that Eurocentrism is founded on subjectivefacts, and a manipulation of history to advance a particular end- theglorification of European culture and perpetuation of the power of white people. As Asante[v]posits, the ideology of Eurocentrism is simply an advance form of cultural arrogance, a distortion of empirical evidence which should be the basis for any scholarly assertion. Paradoxically these are the same accusations that Eurocentrismmaintainswhile arguingthe fallaciousness of Afrocentrism.

Asante(1998), is one of the major proponents of the Afrocentrism ideology. According to Asante,Afrocentrism is a philosophy and program of community building activism that seeks to express African values which have been excluded and marginalized in the popular and academic culture of the west.Asante’s view is founded on a unitary African identity, where a core set of values and traditions underlie an African identity, rather than the notion of race as the basis of African identity. He emphasizes on culture as the basis of African identity, giving an example of Laws being tools for restoring communal balance in the Africancontext while being used as tools for punishment in the western world.According to Asante, Eurocentrism and Afrocentrism are distinct, equally valid cultural traditions. He contrasts the two perspectives by stating that while Eurocentrism expresses an Anglo-European civilization founded on the western knowledge from ancient Greece that informed modern sciences, Afrocentrism is anchored in early civilization, placing the African experience at the center of its worldview.

Mary Lefkowitz concentrates on subliminallyjustifying Eurocentrism or a subtle form of it. Lefkowitz(1996), attempts to demystifyevidence thatformed the basis of Afrocentrism using what she refers to as distorted empirical evidence. She argues her position on the falsities presented by Afrocentrism by demystifying commonly misrepresented facts of Afrocentrism, with an emphasis on the Egypt-Greece relationship. According to Lefkowitz(1996), while Afrocentrism can by itself be a justifiable standpoint, its justification by stripping Greece off its feats,and their transferenceto Egypt is flawed. Lefkowitzposits that the Afrocentric view is filled with infactualities which if subjected to logical argument, objective academic scrutiny, and open debate will be invalid and perverse. She views Afrocentrism as an approach that is sealed in intellectual ghetto, impervious to outside information and lacks truth, put forward simply for feel-good value.

Lefkowitz(1996)presents evidence to invalidate dogmasheld by Afrocentrists. For example, Lefkowitz presents empirical evidence against Afrocentrism claims that contrary to common belief, ancient Egyptians were black, as were Socrates, Cleopatra and other important cultural figures in the ancient world. The author further rebutsAfrocentrism claim that Greek religion and mystery stemswere based on Egyptian prototypes and what was referred to as Greek philosophy was, in fact, the secret wisdom of Egyptian lodges of a masonic type.Lefkowitz(1996) demystifies the arguments that were presented by afrocentritists stating that they were supported by gross errors of facts, in effect, the author presents a case for Eurocentrism perspective.

Analysis and Commentary

It is worth noting that Afrocentrism does not repudiatethe validity of Eurocentrism in its western context as Lefkowitz(1996) does of Afrocentrism. The point of departure arises from Eurocentrism claims to be valid in all societies and to the imposition of European-based values and perspectives on non-western peoples. This is further disputed where Eurocentrism assumes that western culture and institution are superior, non-western ways of knowing are ignored or interpreted as socially backward or primitive, obliterating African traditions as inferior. In rejoinder, Afrocentrism challenges western symbolic imperialism and strive to give a voice to African people.

While Lefkowitz(1996) presents a convincing argument for Eurocentrism, evidencing the fallaciousness of attributing Greece achievements to Egypt, she presents or rather ignores other more credible proof that evidences the presence of a superior race in Egypt who could have informed Greece civilization.For example, Lefkowitz fails to explain the application of Pythagorean triangle in the building of Egyptian pyramids years before Pythagoras was born.Also, Archimedes ‘balanced scales’ and ‘screws’ were used in Egypt centuries before the Greek scientist was born.This points to,at aminimum, thevalidity of the Afrocentric belief that Egypt played a central role the Greekrenaissance, contrary to Lefkowitz(1996) Eurocentric position. These proofs of Afrocentrism are also echoed in Bernal(1987)Ancient modelof Greek origin as put forward in Black Athena. The Ancient Modelof Greekorigin evidences how travelers from Egypt, Phoenicians, and other Asiatic came to Greece and build cities, established dynasties and introduced religion and the mysteries.These developments alongsideopportunities granted to Greeks to study in Egypt, and importing philosophy, mathematics, and science,contributed to the advancement of Greece. This furthers the standpoint of Afrocentrism. Therefore, Lefkowitz(1996) postulation that the Afrocentrism perspectiveholds no ground especially with regards to Greece-Egypt relations cannot be regarded as truth as well.Further, the dismissal of the Afrocentric approachby Lefkowitz(1996) was not informed by the decipherment of hieroglyphics but for ideological reasons. That is, Eurocentrists against the Afrocentric approach felt it unfitting for Greece, viewed as the cradle of Europe, being seen as having been civilized by Africans and Asians, who were known according to the new ‘racial science’ to be categorically inferior (Bernal 1987). However, this does not necessarily discredit evidence that Lefkowitz(1996) presents in support of Eurocentrism.For example, Afrocentrism postulation that Aristotle robbed the library of Alexandria when history points otherwise. Thus, while the two perspectives are valid in some parts, in others, they are both highly exaggerated.

Lastly, while the Afrocentrism and Eurocentrism perspectives are opposing, it is impetuousnot to note that they are two sides of the same coin. Afrocentrism is simplyEurocentrism turned upside down. While theAfrocentric view chooses to concentrateon Egypt and ignore the rest of Africa and African history, Eurocentrism has a prejudice against cultures without writing.It raises questions about the legitimacy of speaking of Africa or Europe as if they represent one coherent idea. For example, France and Germany may be part of the continent of Europe, but in what sense should they be understood as expressions of the same civilization? On the same note, Egypt forms a minor section of the African continent and a minor contribution to the Afrocentrism view.While its contribution to the believability of the Afrocentric approach is considerable, there are other African nations whose history points towards and evidences the validity of the Afrocentristsperspective. Another commonality between the two perspectives is the tendency to greatly overstate their perspective’s influence and underestimate the other’s genius.


The two perspectives are not without criticism. According toLewis and Wigen[vi](1997), both perspectives are inadequate in providing a global framework that looks at the contribution of all societies. The two perspectiveshave limited themselves to a few regions, ignoring the contribution of other civilizations in world history.This, according to the authors is a major shortcoming.  The perspectives have also been criticized for largely exaggerating the achievement of their approach, while being very selective in their use of historical evidence, as well as relying largely on outdated and discredited sources to further their perspective.However, these criticisms notwithstanding, Carter[vii]states that the two perspectives are equally valid world views, distinctlypresenting the most defensible account of world history.


In an attempt to calm down the debate on the two perspectives, some scholars have opined thatexaminingthe creative use of Greek thinking and civilization is more important that establishing the source. In addition, the debate can be pacified by proponents from both sides not using the experiences as ammunition in present social and political debates, as Afrocentrists and Eurocentrists are after allboth historians.


Asante, Molefi Kete. The Afrocentric Idea. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998.

Bernal, Martin. Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1987.

Carter, Robert T. Handbook of Racial-Cultural Psychology and Counseling, Training and Practice. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2004.

Lefkowitz, Mary. Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History. BasicBook Publishers: New York, NY, 1996.

Lewis, Martin W, and Kären Wigen. The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1997.

[i]Asante, “The Afrocentric Idea”

[ii]Bernal, “Black Athena”

[iii]Lefkowitz, “Not Out of Africa”

[iv] Ibid

[v] Ibid

[vi]Lewis and Kären,:The Myth of Continents”

[vii]Carter, “Handbook of Racial-Cultural Psychology and Counseling, Training and Practice”

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