Despite the claims of some who know nothing about Egypt other than that it had pharaohs and pyramids and is on the African continent, the Egyptians were not black. The peasants were closer to the Levantine peoples in terms of their genetic makeup and the pharaohs, after Alexander the Great’s conquest of Egypt, were Macedonian. So Cleopatra, who was of the Ptolemaic dynasty, which started with Ptolemy, one of Alexander the Great’s generals, was Macedonian, not black.
Despite that, Jada Smith made a documentary for Netflix called “African Queens: Queen Cleopatra” in which she is Cleopatra. That means Cleopatra is presented as being black in the movie, a patently false representation of classical history.
The Egyptian government is furious about that falsification of its history. In a statement released by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Egypt, it accused Netflix of “falsifying Egyptian history” by presenting Cleopatra as black in the documentary.
In fact, the statement called the pseudo-documentary “a falsification of Egyptian history and a blatant historical misconception,” saying, “The film is classified as a documentary and not a drama, the order that the owners of its industry have to investigate accuracy and refer to historical and scientific facts in order to ensure that the history and civilizations of peoples is not falsified.”
The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities included, in its statement, images of coins and artifacts along with the statement, which they argue show that Cleopatra had “Hellenic (Greek) features, in terms of light complexion, drawn nose and fluffy lips.”
Jada Smith, for her part, described Cleopatra as black in a ridiculous statement, saying, “We don’t often get to see or hear stories about Black queens, and that was really important for me, as well as for my daughter, and just for my community to be able to know those stories because there are tons of them. The sad part is that we don’t have ready access to these historical women who were so powerful and were the backbones of African nations.”
Similarly, the show’s director said, “Why shouldn’t Cleopatra be a melanated sister? And why do some people need Cleopatra to be white? Her proximity to whiteness seems to give her value, and for some Egyptians it seems to really matter.” Indeed, historical does matter to some people.
Netflix, in its article on the show, pretended that Cleopatra’s ethnic heritage is up for debate, saying, “The creative choice to cast an actor of mixed heritage to play Cleopatra is a nod to the centuries-long conversation about the ruler’s race. During the time of her reign, Egypt’s population was multicultural and multiracial. Cleopatra’s race was unlikely to be documented, and the identities of her mother and paternal grandparents weren’t known. Some speculate she was a native Egyptian woman, while others say she was Greek.”
That is ridiculous. The Ptolemaic dynasty was Macedonian and, to keep its blood free from outside influences, siblings married each other. As they were siblings descended from Macedonians, Cleopatra could not have been anything other than Macedonian, and certainly was not black.
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