is the best purpose of education. And even if a myth helps people to gain confidence, it will teach them simultaneously that facts can be manufactured or misreported to serve a political purpose; that origins are the only measure of value; that difference is either a glory or a danger, when in fact it is a common, challenging fact of life; that the true knowledge of customs, language, and literature is unimportant for understanding the nature of a culture.
The Greeks, least of all peoples, deserve the fate to which the Afrocentrists have subjected them. The great historian Arnaldo Momigliano observed that "what I think is typically Greek is the critical attitude toward the recording of events, that is, the development of critical methods enabling us to distinguish between facts and fancies. To the best of my knowledge no historiography earlier than the Greek or independent of it developed these critical methods; and we have inherited the Greek methods" ( 1990, 30). Momigliano was not a Greek. He was an Italian Jew, and a refugee from one of the most terrible political myths of all time, the not very noble lie of Jewish inferiority that provided the justification for the Holocaust. But the rational legacy of Greece belonged to him, too, exactly as it belongs to people of African descent, whatever their skin color or their exact place of origin. Like everyone in both the African and the European diasporas, and like everyone in the American melting pot, they should take pride in the Egyptians, in the Phoenicians, and in the ancient Greeks, and give them each their due for their actual achievements, as well as for their contributions to other civilizations. For all these civilizations, like everything else in the past, belong equally to all of us.
Reprinted by permission from The New Republic, 10 February 1992. I am grateful to Leon Wieseltier and Ann Hulbert for many improvements in the original version of this article.