A top mainstream fact-checker wrote on Tuesday that the Kente cloths that Democrats wore earlier this month after the death of George Floyd were “historically worn” by an “empire involved in [the] West African slave trade.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, and other top Democrats wore the cloth to an event on June 8 in response to Floyd’s death, which was widely criticized online.
USA Today fact-checked the following statement from a Facebook user:
Yesterday the Democrats wore kente scarfs and knelt down for their photo op. So check this out, Kente cloth was worn by the Ashanti. It’s made of silk so the affluent wore it. The Ashanti were also known as slave owners and traders. Huh? … This makes me wonder why they chose to wear this particular tribe’s garb.
It’s important to note that the cloth has historical significance that extends beyond the slave trade and has “become a symbol of pride for African Americans over the last 50 years.”
USA Today rated the claim “true,” saying that the “kente cloth was historically worn by the Asante people of Ghana, who were involved in the West African slave trade.”
USA Today’s research found:
Kente cloth comes from the Asante, or Ashanti, peoples of Ghana and Ewe peoples of Ghana and Togo.
A popular legend claims creators of kente cloth presented the cloth to Asantehene Osei Tutu, the Asante kingdom’s first leader. Tutu named the cloth “kente,” meaning basket, and adopted the fabric as a royal cloth for special occasions.
Tutu, who lived from 1660 to 1712 or 1717, unified several small Asante kingdoms to create the Asante empire. He is credited with expanding the Asante throughout most of Ghana and introducing his subjects to the gold and slave trades along the West African coast.
The Asante supplied British and Dutch traders with slaves in exchange for firearms, which they used to expand their empire. Slaves were often acquired as tributes from smaller states or captured during war. Some slaves were brought across the Atlantic whiles others stayed in Africa to work in gold fields.
According to the BBC, by the end of the 18th century the region exported an estimated 6,000-7,000 slaves per year.
After Democrats wore the cloth, The Daily Wire highlighted how various reports noted that the cloth typically signified patriotism or was worn to celebrate special celebrations.
Pro-life advocate Obianuju Ekeocha, who lives in Africa, released a video on Twitter condemning the Democrats for “ignorantly using the Kente fabric as a prop in their virtue signaling.”
“I was just looking online today like most of you and what did I see? A bunch of Democrat politicians kneeling down, of which I have nothing to say about that because I am not an American, however, they were all having around their necks this colorful fabric which I’m sure they put around their necks as some kind of mark or show of unity or solidarity with black people,” Ekeocha said. “So, in other words, they put in for the Kente material or this colorful fabric they had around their necks as some kind of placating sign or symbol to show that they are not racist and they are together with black people.”
“Excuse me, dear Democrats, in your tokenism, you didn’t wait to find out that this thing that you’re hanging around your neck is not just some African uniform, it’s actually the Kente material,” Ekeocha continued. “The Kente belongs to the Ghanaian people, mainly the Ashanti Tribe. Excuse me, Democrats. Don’t treat Africans like we’re children. These fabrics and these colorful things that we have within our culture and tradition, they all mean something to us. I know you look at us and you say, ‘oh Africans are so cute in all your colorful dresses.’”
“Well, some of those dresses and patterns and colors and fabrics actually do mean something to us,” Ekeocha added. “Some of them belong to ancient tribes and mean something to them. So why are you using it your own show of non-racism or your own show of virtue? Why are you using the Kente material to signal your virtue? Stop it. We are not children. Africans are not children. And leave our tradition and our culture to us and if you don’t know much about it, ask somebody. I’m sure there would have been something else you could have done to show your solidarity with black people instead of taking the Kente material and making a little show of it.”