The Yorùbá ‘But’: A Chronicle of Self-Hatred

Walter Laqueur, in his brilliant book on the history of Zionism, exposes a class of Jews who, in the face of 19th-century Germany’s virulent antisemitism, rejected their heritage. These men, the more educated they were, the more shame they felt towards their less fortunate brethren. They craved the empty validation of antisemites, converting to Christianity and churning out disparaging screeds about their own people. Heinrich Heine, for instance, branded Hamburg’s Jews as “a miserable lot” and advised against even looking at them.
Ferdinand Lassalle surpassed Heine in his self-loathing. He branded his people “degenerate descendants… with the mentality of slaves,” undeserving of anything but servitude. Even Karl Marx, yes, the Karl Marx, chimed in with his essay, “On the Jewish Question.” Here, Marx argued (among other insults) that Jewish emancipation hinged on the eradication of Jewish identity itself. In essence, Marx demanded the erasure of Jewish existence.

These men became self-appointed purgers of Judaism’s “anachronisms.” They championed German as the language of synagogues, actively discouraging the learning and teaching of Hebrew. When antisemites like Karl Grattenauer openly lamented that honest Christians were no longer permitted to kill Jews, these men remained silent. When Grattenauer’s disciple, Hundt-Radowski, advocated for the castration of all male Jews, the sale of the females to bordellos, and the disposal of the rest as beasts of labor in British overseas plantations, these self-flagellants blamed their own people. They blamed them for their misery, their ethnicity, and even their supposed “aggressiveness.” Conveniently, they ignored the root cause of their suffering: antisemitism.

Despite their groveling, their Jewishness remained ingrained in the German consciousness. Neither Germans nor fellow Jews ever truly accepted or trusted them. A cuckold, as expected, earns no respect from the bull. As an 1807 journal aptly noted, even the “dirtiest orthodox Jew” held more sway with the average German than these deluded Jewish évolué. Unsurprisingly, less than a century later, neither assimilation nor self-abasement saved their descendants from the horrors of Hitler’s gas chambers.

Now, if you are Yoruba, and if this chilling narrative resonates with the modern-day “Yoruba but” phenomenon, then you understand perfectly. Let me be clear: supporting a candidate of one’s choice is not what makes one a “Yoruba but.” It is your democratic right. Who am I to judge a man for his preferred poison?
The “Yoruba but” I speak of are the myrmidons (thank you, Professor Wole Soyinka) who collude with outsiders in a shameful smear campaign against their own people. These are not those brave enough to challenge bigotry. These are creatures who suffer from convenient amnesia when ethnic baiting escalates to genocidal rhetoric (“We will chase your Obas away! We will displace you from your land!”). These are the Yoruba who gleefully joined recent Spaces where nobodies discussed – and encouraged – the denigration of Professor Wole Soyinka, a Nobel laureate. Each vile condemnation – “Soyinka is an ethnic bigot!” “Soyinka started cultism!” “Soyinka’s a mediocre writer!” – fueled the cheering crowds. Like Lassalle and Heine, these submitted craved nothing but the acceptance of their new maledoms and dominatrix.

These self-styled “de-ethnicized” (whatever that means) castratos readily condemn their fellow Yoruba as lazy, envious, and bigoted. They mistake basic literacy for education and posture as cultured. They cloak their cowardice as a necessary sacrifice for “one Nigeria” while developing a remarkable talent for selective outrage. They forget that those who sell themselves cheap earn no trust. Most importantly, they forget the internet’s unforgiving memory. The videos, the audio, the tweets – it’s all there.
Credit: @tolutee on X