Why do we continue to use the virulent word ‘witchdoctor’?


BY MAYIMUNA NABAGEREKA
This is a toxic word that racist colonialists invented for Africa.For other parts of the world, for the same phenomenon,they use the word ‘shaman’ and ‘medicine men’.For Europe itself they use the term ‘psychic’, ‘diviner’ etc.Let us elevate our discourse.There are certain words that native English speakers in Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand liberally use only for people they perceive to be culturally and racially inferior to them.
witch2
Most English dictionaries define this word as the head of a “tribe” or “clan.” That’s why it’s also rendered as “tribal chief.” Since Europeans—or at least contemporary Europeans—have no “tribes” (see the entry on “tribe” below), they have no “chiefs.” Only nonwhite people do. What Europeans had or have are “kings.” But a little more context is needed to unpack the ethnocentrism of the term. I recently read an 1821 British Foreign Office document titled Correspondence with Foreign Courts Regarding Execution of Treaties Contracted. On page 110 of the document, the reader finds that the British colonial government actually went out of its way to purposively discourage people in their African and Asian colonies from calling their monarchs “kings.” King, the document says, is reserved only for a British monarch. Monarchs in the colonies should just be called “chiefs.” If the chiefs enjoy enduring historic prestige among their people, they might be called “paramount chiefs,” but never kings.

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