Stop Using Hotep as an Insult

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For those who don’t know, hotep is an ancient Egyptian term that means “to be at peace.” This is why it’s distressing to me when I see people trying to use hotep as an insult—some of the writers at the Root are especially at fault for helping degrade the term hotep. These people either do not know what the term means or they know and are deliberately trying to demean African history and culture. The term has been coming up a lot lately in regards to Umar Johnson. Umar has been in the headlines because he is currently under investigation and faces losing his psychology license. Umar has also been caught up in a feud with Tariq Nasheed, the director of the Hidden Colors series.

Damon Young gave this definition of hotep:

Over the past decade or so, the working definition of “Hotep” has morphed into an all-encompassing term describing a person who’s either a clueless parody of Afrocentricity—think “Preach” from Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood—or someone who’s loudly, conspicuously and obnoxiously pro-black but anti-progress.

As African people we have been subjected to having our history and culture degraded, distorted, and destroyed for centuries now. The people who have bastardized what hotep means are contributing to that problem. Take Michael Harriot, for example. Harriot is a writer at the Root and he is constantly using his platform there to criticize Umar Johnson. Some of these criticisms have merit, but other times they have gone so far that Harriot himself has had to apologize and admit he was wrong. In his latest article on Umar, Harriot ironically mocks Umar as being a “Hotepologist” and miseducator, even though Harriot is operating as a miseducator himself by distorting what the term hotep means. Another article mocks the fight between Umar and Tariq as being “The Real Husbands of Hotep”. Hotep means to be at peace, so how does that term fit in with the discord that we have seen being displayed between Umar and Tariq. When Umar and Seti had their feud in 2016, another writer at the Root described it as a “Hotep Hoedown”.

I’m not saying that we do not have people within our communities that are exploiting the Pan-African struggle for their own personal benefit, but surely we can find better names to describe such people. Among Europeans names like Benedict Arnold and Brutus are associated with a person being a traitor because those two men were traitors. In Egyptian history hotep was the name of the great physician and the designer of the first pyramid, Imhotep. Hotep was also the name of some of Egypt’s greatest pharaohs, such as Amenhotep I, Amenhotep III, and Amenhotep IV (who later became Akhenaten). The use of hotep as an insult has been directed at Umar Johnson very frequently, but Umar himself also has no issue with using hotep in that same negative context. The term hotep should be associated with its rightful origin, rather than being used in a derogatory manner. The real hoteps were great thinkers and great rulers, not the fools and frauds that some of us are trying to associate the term hotep with.

Dwayne is the author of several books on the history and experiences of African people, both on the continent and in the diaspora. His books are available through Amazon. You can also follow Dwayne on Facebook.

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