How Beauty can lead to Genocide


Miss Ethiopia 2009, Melat Yante 4

Can Lead to This.


Believe it.

The picture I have posted above is of an East African woman and the second, young boys dead in the Rwandan Genocide. 

The Rwandan Genocide. Where did it stem from? A Genocide that took the lives of  800,000 people, how did its begin? Who planted the ideas of a superior race into the minds of the Rwandan people? And why does it continue in Congo today? Here is how Beauty leads to Genocide.

Author and Journalist Philip Gourevitch in the the book We Wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be Killed with our families Stories From Rwanda tells us the beginning of the Rwandan Genocide Gourevitch explains to the reader how one of the root causes of Genocide was the “difference” in the appearance of Hutus and Tutsis. This is called Racial Science.  I am quoting this book through out this post.

The Hamtic hypothesis founded by Englishman John Hanning Speke in 1863 says that “all culture and civilization in central Africa had been introduced by the taller, sharper-featured people, whom he considered to be Caucasoid tribe of Ethiopian origin, descended from the biblical King David, and therefore a superior race to the native Negroids.” ( 51) Basically, white looking Africans will introduce civilization to black looking Africans.

Speke kept a journal, Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile, this journal was devoted to and used biblical references to explain why dark Africans are inferior to the white human being. In a journal called Fauna he says, “…take man–the true curly-head, flab-nosed, pouch-mouthed negro…How the negro has lived so many ages without advancing seems marvelous, when all the countries surrounding Africa are so forward in caparison...the African must soon either step out from his darkness, or be superseded by a being superior to himself.” (52)

So while in Africa, Speke discovered a “superior” set of people. these people had “Fine oval faces, large eyes, and high noses, denoting the best of blood of Abyssinia( Ethiopia).” During this time, it is important to note that The tutsis were a tribe in Ethiopia. Speke liked these peoples bridged noses- he labeled them lost christians and suggested with training they can be superior like the English people.

“Few Rwandans would deny that the Hamatic myth is one of the essential ideas by which they understand who they are in this world.” (53)

So this is how the story goes. After Speke, there was justification among Europeans to enslave, colonize and rule over the dark man. After European powers held a conference in 1885 to divide the African states which they would colonize, ethnic groups were designated a state to which they did not have a say in belonging to. Rwanda was awarded to East Germany and soon after WWI, Belgium colonized Rwanda.

Colonization takes strategy, Europeans did not simply come into Africa with guns and try to enslave the people. No, they came in calm, smiling, “worked” with the current leaders to attain what they want. In Rwanda, Belgium used the Speke analysis of the dark man to name Hutus and Tutsis different ethnic groups, differentiate the two by having scientists measure their noses, and administered Tutsis to be their chiefs. They encouraged Tutsis to exploit and degrade Hutus and placed one group above another. Rwanda wasn’t Rwanda anymore, it was a country where the law of the land declared Tutsis better than Hutus.

Long Story short, in 1957, a group of the” inferior” race, Hutus, published the Hutu Manifesto which argued for a majoritarian democracy- embraced the Hamatic myth- argued the Hutu people were the original the rightful leaders of the nation since bridge nosed Tutsis were from Ethiopia. They wanted their country back. decades later, 800,000 Rawandas would be killed so Hutus can Rule Rwanda again.

all of this because one white man liked one persons nose better than another persons nose.

I write this post not to only share the history of the Rwandan Genocide, but to show you, how labeling something more attractive than another can lead to preference, which as seen above leads to tragic events such as genocides. East Africans from countries such as Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia are often praised for their Eurocentric beauty. But should we proud that we were labeled beautiful by a white scientist that caused ethnic conflict and deaths of thousands of people? Should we proud that this very notion is what justified slavery, and rape of  women, in North America 300 years ago? Is it fair to leave out our sisters in these countries that were not praised by Mr. Speke? You tell me, are East African women now colonized through prostitution in placed like Dubai? Is it colonization that leads dark women to bleach their skin in hopes of making it lighter? Do we perpetuate and use Spekes lies  in our personal lives? We need to ask and answer these questions for

 beauty leads to Genocide and it has the power to lead to Genocide again.




13 thoughts on “How Beauty can lead to Genocide

  1. Barite says:

    This is very inspirational. Keep up the good work, Luleteye!

  2. Alyssa says:

    “Is it colonization that leads dark women to bleach their skin in hopes of making it lighter?”
    Colinization physically does not, occur today. It has now moved to media colonization of the mind. From the moment we are born, women are told what is beautiful and what is not. The choice is not left of to the eyes of the beholder. Society has created and fabricated what the perfect women is, and if you dont fit that criteria you are an outcast to the world of “pretty people”. Women of all cultures see the beauty standards created by the media in magazines, commericals, and billboards, which in turn leads them to do such things as, bleach their skin, have cosmetic procedures, and go to the extreme to achieve a slender figure. We need to teach our little girls, that beauty is indiviuality, flaws, curves, black, white, tall, plus size, and everything that makes you unique. Don’t alter who you are in order to fit societies standards.

    • Sampson says:

      I’m particularly interested in the science that justified the subjugation of darker Africans. Its disappointing to hear of individuals buying into this type of shabby science; this point is especially perverse because in order for certain Africans to accept this science as true they must also accept their own so called inferiority. For no matter where you fall on the black spectrum you are black nonetheless so any reminet of the color means inferiority to anyone whose ancestry to the continent is less obvious. I’m sure there were real benefits for individuals willing to accept these truths and that no doubt motivated individual to accept this bad science. This unfortunately it’s still true today. Africa is still in a position where it must look to the west for validation in order to secure some much needed assistance. I believe African Nations must take western ideas with a grain of salt and begin incorporating their own truths so that our systems and bodies of knowledge aren’t the sources of our demise. Any science that requires you to accept inferiority is bad science.

  3. Good article to read. I like how you presented it. But I don’t agree with all of it. Your thesis on one hand empowers dark women, but on the other hand seems to disempower or even worse make lighter women feel guilty of who they are. I think you started out well explaining what happened in Rwanda, but then you went ahead and made sweeping generalizations at the end of your article. That can make your argument a fallacy—using one event to make assumptions about others.

    The light vs dark issue is a complex one; and each region or country has its own history of it. For example, way before the white colonization, I have read somewhere a history of preference for lighter skin in pharaonic Egypt—one needs to investigate why; and for that matter in the bible itself, for its reference of good as light and evil as dark—which perhaps, for example, explains the Christian Ethiopia’s perception of skin color before the whites came to the kingdom, and after that we can also look at the impact of the Italian occupation on the psyche of the people.

    I salute you for your effort to touch upon the Rwandan case. But my honest advise is for you to avoid making generalizations that can disempower one group in an attempt to empower another.

    I agree also with Alyssa’s comment as it focuses what is actually happening today that is causing black women to feel less worthy or inferior because of their color, and provides alternative.


    (P.s. Here is a poem I wrote on Bleaching that you may like:

    • luletem says:

      Elyas. Thank you for your comment and for reading the article. I did not intend or feel that I have disempowered the light woman. I am just shedding light to a different perspective to the praised beauty of the East African woman and its implications. While I plan on doing more research on the origins of skin complexion differenced in Egypt, I would argue that the skin dilemma in Ethiopia does not come from religion but from colonization of surrounding countries and the nations move to westernization. Ethiopia is half muslim and half christian so to place the issue in the bible does not seem inclusive to me. The Italian occupation on the psych of the people is a perfect example of how influence has lead to a divide between people. I apologize if it seemed that I was disempowering the light woman for I am a light woman myself and feel that every woman is equally powerful. My intension was to raise a much needed subject from a different angle. I have read and enjoyed your poem on Bleaching- I hope that you will continue to visit this blog!

      • Thank you for your response, Luletem. I understand that your intention might not have been disempowering lighter-skinned women, but somehow reading your piece it compelled me to think that way. Sometimes what we write and what we intended originally may diverge without our conscious decision.

        Regarding the ‘Christian Ethiopia’ reference, I meant to focus on those regions that were historically Christianity dominated. I just needed to clarify that. I do agree with you that Ethiopia is not just a country of Christians. But has been dominated by Christian rulers w/ Bible as the primary source of inspiration for most things practical such as identity and the eventual seeking out of the West for inspiration or modernization, which in turn could have resulted in the “superiority complex” over other groups or ethnicities in the region.

      • P.s. I do believe that the skin dilemma has as much root in religion as it does in colonization. We may agree to disagree w/ that. If you allow me, perhaps I will soon explain my position. 🙂

  4. Mbula Mutua says:

    Our obsession with anything and everything white is appalling. Colonization is psychological, physical, structural, name it! The question should be how we decolonize our psychological, physical , strutcural chains!

    • luletem says:

      Interesting, you tell me, how can we decolonize? We can start a list perhaps on here? Thank you for your comment, I hope that you will continue to visit this site Mbula.

  5. yehualashet werkneh says:

    Hey , you raised a very important issue and i enjoyed reading your article. The stories of ‘the oppressor and the oppressed ‘ follow the same trend regardless of the place and the time they happen. Ethnic rivalry , colorist , racism, sexism, class struggle etc they are all inter connected and they stem from the same source , WHITE MAN ….lol They are all directly or indirectly introduced by white men. I believe they result from power struggle between sexes and races and they were basically used by white males to ensure the permanent control over the other races through a system that is manifested by denial, discrimination followed by self distraction and other actions that promotes the dominance of white people .

    The genocide in Rwanda is another example of a situation where colonizers (white people) introduced racial categories that are based on visible traits , features of the face and the shape and size of head and body. They misinformed and divided the society by legitimating the race concept .As you clearly described this categorization created rivalry and ended up in a deadly genocide.

    “Europeans did not simply come into Africa with guns and try to enslave the people. No, they came in calm, smiling, “worked” with the current leaders to attain what they want.” I found this line very interesting and it amuses me when i reckon how they play with the minds of the natives. “They encouraged Tutsis to exploit and degrade Hutus and placed one group above another”.White men seem to remain silent after they set up the system in a way that would continue to maintain their supremacy when their enemies are weakened by internal conflicts . Even during the Rwandan genocide the entire world including the UN was very slow to react ; because they dont really care!!

    I always laugh when people post on facebook comparing who is more beautiful between the East Africans and west Africans and people doing all kinds of things as if Eritreans and Ethiopians have monopoly over beauty. “should we be proud that we were labeled beautiful by a white scientist that caused ethnic conflict and deaths of thousands of people? “My answer is obviously no!! we are beautiful people but we shouldnt forget that there are tones of other beautiful people in other African countries and across the globe. We should not also forget the big picture , why colonizers came up with this idea!

    One common out come of oppression like the situation in Rwanda is the conformity to the prejudice by the oppressed groups.The people confirm to the prejudice and feel bad about all kinds of non-existent but seemingly justified traits that are attached to their facial features . I think that is what causes deep hatred to the oppressors and to oneself too. That is when genocide happens !!

    • luletem says:

      Thank you for your comment. I have enjoyed it tremendously! Please continue to visit this blog site and provide your point of view yehualashet

  6. Sariyu Omolara says:

    Interesting article, i found the title a bit distracting in the sense that its contradicting the point the author is trying to make. By saying how ‘Beauty can lead to Genocide” the author is implying that the image of the young women is more beautiful than the victims of the genocide which is the point of the argument. Other than that i thought it was very insightful and definitely an issue us as young african women should be aware of.

    • luletem says:

      I see what you are saying clearly. I guess when I said Beauty I meant what we, as a society, perceive beauty to be, not that it is accurate. I will take note of the contrast between my titles and arguments going forward. Thank you for you comment Omolara, I hope that you will continue to visit this site!

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