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Correcting Misconceptions About the Rastafari Movement

By Ras Tyehimba
May 26, 2013

The article, 7 Misconceptions About Rastas and the Rastafari Movement, by an anonymous writer aimed to clear up misconceptions of the Rastafari movement but instead, perpetuated even more misinformation. While there is some truth to what the author is getting at in terms of the doctrinal diversity of the movement, there were some disturbing aspects. The author acknowledges that "Rastafari is primarily a Black movement that seeks to reconnect Black people with their African roots and promote Black unity". But he/she seems to only state that as a doorway to proclaim: "Humanity is of the same origin; we are all one family. Rastafari seeks to unite all humanity together in love. Rasta is not exclusive."

Certainly humanity in all its diverse manifestations is of the same origin. However, without addressing the history of what transpired after our common origins in Africa, and all the relations of power and privilege, then persons can easily take the reality of our common origins and reach distorted and dangerous conclusions that perpetuate and reinforce structures of domination. Without addressing the history of various relations of domination and subordination it is easy for people to jump from pointing out our common origins to making arguments for Whites Repatriating to Africa or Race Mixing to End Racism.

It is because of these factors that I am skeptical and distrustful when Rasta is conceptualized as this all-inclusive, one love movement with little mention of the core issues of African identity, reparations, repatriation and the resistance to colonialism, racism and Eurocentricism.

The attempts to water-down and de-revolutionize the militant African-centered Rasta movement into a one love, hippy parade is partly related to the development of the internet, where those who first had access to speaking about Rastafari were not the Rastas in the Caribbean and other parts of the ‘Third World’ who were experiencing the brunt of Babylon but rather privileged whites who were attracted to the movement. So many websites that were created tended to reflect white and western control over the production of information. This is a serious issue that relates not just to the Rastafari movement but to all areas of information.

The Rasta movement emerged in Jamaica as a radical attempt to deal with the inherent injustices of colonial society, false privileges of race, colour and class and to forward an agenda for African liberation which the Emancipation Proclamation had failed to deliver. Given that reparations have not been paid and the psychological and social effects of the last 500 years are still present, these issues must remain on the table to be discussed and addressed.

For those interested in the movement, there is a lot to learn as the same factors that gave rise to the emergence of the Rasta movement in the Caribbean decades ago are still present today in the world. For those interested in learning more about the Rastafari movement I would recommend:

Baba Ras Marcus Speaks

Reasoning with a Rasta woman - Dr. Imani Tafari-Ama

White Supremacy in Black Movements - Ayinde

A New Faculty of Interpretation - By Mutabaruka

No Colorless Rasta Movement - By Ayinde


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