Haile Selassie described himself as a Caucasian, was not quick to abolish slavery and was the West’s ‘moderate’ dictator of choice. As Marcus Garvey said, the Emperor was just an ordinary man.

Look to Africa, when a black king shall be crowned for the day of deliverance is near

The West’s Favorite Dictator

On March 8 in 1964, the New York Times ran a story on the Emperor with a long, convoluted title that ironically betrayed the publication’s goal to confuse the reader into believing a despotic slave-owner could be the best thing that ever happened to Africa. “An Emperor Tries to Unite Africa; A generation older than other leaders. a moderate among radicals and Africa’s last feudal monarch, Haile Selassie has taken on the task of forging Pan‐African unity,” so went the title. The article admitted that Selassie was not the father of African unity because Kwame Nkrumah had preceded him.

However, Nkrumah’s urgent message of African unity was reduced to an impractical dream of an “egocentric hothead” while Selassie became the reasonable “moderate”. In what could have easily been mistaken for a glowing obituary, the article read, “The Emperor is imperturbable and he is a good negotiator. As a conciliator, he works on each disputant separately, winning his confidence, and explaining to each what he has to gain from a proposed compromise. He speaks carefully and never suggests radical change.” The key lay under the rubble of flattery: He never suggests radical change. That is why they preferred him to “hotheaded” Nkrumah.

Robert Hariman, in Political Style: The Artistry of Power, thus concluded that, “At once African and darling of the West, Selassie appropriated the traditions and mythic history of a monarchy to maintain a modern dictatorship, and while portrayed as a model of royal prerogative, and African independence, he served the interests of European imperialism.” Similarly, Gérard Prunier, a French author said of Selassie, “Foreign powers were well aware of the reactionary, unbearable and oppressive nature of the Ethiopian Solomonic dynasty but they all had favorite dictators – and the emperor was a magnificent one.” Ethiopia was especially close to the United States of America and the country only pivoted to Russia after the revolution that deposed Selassie.

An ordinary man

“I am not a Negro at all; I am Caucasian,” is probably the most unfortunate manifestation of a schizophrenic identity crisis in recorded history. To ice the irony, it was the black savior himself, Emperor Haile Selassie who made the clarification to pan-Africanist, Benito Sylvain. Since the Emperor thought of himself as something other than a Negro, it is quite unsurprising that he was slow to outlaw slavery. In fact, after much pressure from abolitionists in Britain, the Emperor had said slavery was a traditional economic institution in Ethiopia and if Ethiopians would read the articles written of it, a revolution would break out.

The Emperor, therefore, sat on the issue for so long that Italy used that inertia as an excuse to invade Ethiopia in 1935. Upon the invasion, Marcus Garvey justifiably accused Selassie of being a slavemaster. Attacking Haile Selassie’s contrived divinity, Garvey said, “After all, Haile Selassie is just an ordinary man like any other human being. What right has he to hold men as slaves?” But maybe the problem has always been that he has been treated like the god he is not. This is, after all, the same Haile Selassie who annexed Eritrea in 1962 in indefensible circumstances that went against the United Nations imposed federation.

A lot more could be said about the Emperor, the Negusa Nagast (King of Kings) and the Messianic figure whose mythos has overshadowed his true legacy. Hidden in the puffery and unsustainable pan-African legacy are some truths: He indeed managed to get African leaders together (albeit on conciliatory and more placatory terms to the world order than Nkrumah would have done). Once one accepts he was no god, it is easy to appreciate his complexity as an ordinary human being without the trappings of perfection that are expected of deities. Let Haile Selassie be an ordinary man like any other human being for his mistakes prove that is all he was.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Well, the writer looks agitated.Further, Hailesselassie never said , he was a Caucasian, he said he was niether black nor white, He was just an Abyssinian.

  2. Yes Haile Sellasie was an ordinary man but what you accuses of him as a slave master is absolutely wrong. Also you try to repeat the CBS news anchor statment who created a big misunderstanding about his blackness my dear Haileselssie never said I am not black but he doesn’t believe classifying humans by the color their skin as Humans are one race. Brother read history that is factual and true.

  3. Jackass of the year article without apology….. obviously the writer who wrote it has no historic evidence of anything and has no historic etiquette. Besides he spent more time trying to make someone disbelieve that the man is God that now is even that more obvious that he is…. when 72 Nations bow to your feet and start calling you King of Kings Lord of lords conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah elect of God…. it is more than obvious. I’ve never seen Queen Elizabeth bow down to anybody else. What a mighty God we serve and when I say we I mean the African people and the collective of the world.

  4. There’s a flood of knowledge, ignorance is a choice .Just as the divinity of Jesus is rejected by his fellow Jews and yet still has many followers. So we children of Emperor Haile Selassie I will love HIM till the end of never. We shall not be distracted by dogs barking at the flying birds. Selassie I JAH Rasatafari!!!!!

  5. This article is a lie. We already know that He is God. We need not yet discrediting the Man. It’s the story of Christ’s all again. He was not known by His own Nation. The most archaic meaning of Ethiopian is a black person and He is the Ethiopian King. We accept them wholeheartedly as a Father of modern and ancient Africa

  6. Menelik himself even stated that he was a ‘Caucasian’. This non-African identity was also stated by Haile Selassie.

    Quote:
    ‘I am not a Negro at all; I am a Caucasian’ the Emperor Menelik told the West Indian pan-Africanist Benito Sylvian who had come to Addis Ababa to solicit the Emperor’s leadership in a society for the ‘Amelioration of the Negro race.’ Haile Sellassie confirmed that view in a declaration to Chief H. O. Davis, a well known Nigerian nationalist, stating that the Ethiopians did not regard themselves as Africans, but as ‘a mixed Hamito-Semitic people (2006, John H. Spencer, p. 306)

    When Halie Selassie was invaded by Mussolini’s Italian forces in 1935, he had offered to sell large chunks of Ethiopia off to Italy for one and a half milliard Lira. Halie Selassie even offered to have Italian advisors to direct his policies, effectively offering to be a vessel, in return to hold on to some form of power. However, this last ditch effort to hold on to power was rejected by Mussolini.

    Quote:
    In his desperate act to hold power, Haile Selassie now made a secret peace overture to Mussolini, sending a former Ethiopian Minister in Rome to contact the Italian consul in Djibouti. He offered to sell a large part of Ethiopia to Italy for one and half milliard Lira and to appoint six Italian advisors to direct the policy of his government. Mussolini sent sourteous reply to the intermediary, expressing his pleasure that the Negus had at last decided to negotiate directly with him; but he said the offer was unacceptable.” (1997, by Jasper Godwin Ridley, p.270)

    After Haile Selassie fled to London, he snubbed the black nationalist Marcus Gravey because he was black.

    Quote:
    When Haile Selassie fled to London, Gravey tried to contact him but was snubbed, and it was reported that “the emperor did not desire any contact with ‘Negroes.'” (1963, Harold Robert Isaacs, p. 153)

    Unhappy with the being snubbed, the famous Marcus Gravey wrote the following quote about Halie Selassie:

    Quote:
    Mussolini of Italy has conquered Haile Selassie of Abyssinia, but he has not conquered the Abyssinians nor Abyssinia. The Emperor of Abyssinia allowed himself to be conquered, by playing white, by trusting to white advisers and by relying white Governments, including the white League of Nations.We can remember in 1920 inviting the Government of Abyssinia to send representatives to the International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the world in common with other Negro Conventions, the Abyssinian Government returned the communication unopened. Its policy then, as during the Italo-Abyssinian war, was no doubt to rely completely on the advice and friendship of white people. They ignored Negro relationship[s] from without and throttled Negro aspirations from within. The result was that they dragged along without any racial policy, except that of the ruling classes, believing themselves white and better than the rest, with a right to suppress the darker elements which make up the tremendous population. (2009, By Girma Menelik, p.57)

  7. Your are here to defaim HaileSilase for your poletical agenda. There is no single true in all your wright ups except your full of hate words. HIM is world class individual who have served all his times for liberity of african nations. Beyond that he have strugled & worked hared for the implacment of rule of law & collective system globaly through estabilishment of Leag Nation. I can’t mention all his good doings here. In general he was beacon for the survival of Africans. Thus I advise you to correct your biased attiudes towards him.

  8. Re read your history and u gonna know who Selassie is….its a shame that black some black people don’t know their own history…but u have been forced to memorize the white man’s history

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