The narrative today is that all of white America must practice penitence for the past sins of their forefathers. It doesn’t matter a whit that for many whites, the likes of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln weren’t even their forefathers; it is estimated that 40% of Americans can trace an ancestor to Ellis Island, which was open only between 1892 and 1954. But by the racist standards of the left, white skin is white skin, regardless of where it originated or when it arrived here. Black immigration to America since the Civil War tells a similar story. At least 4 million black Africans have immigrated to the United States since 1980 alone, accounting for as much as 15-20% of the entire black population in the United States.
But all whites should be punished by all blacks for crimes committed over 150 years ago because … racism. Institutional racism. Structural racism. Systemic racism. Foundational racism. Apparently, COVID was racist. CNN shared a recent story about environmental racism. What’s next, being nice and treating everyone decently is racist? Oops.
To think that all of this racism prevented Oprah Winfrey from acquiring more than her current $2.6 billion net worth, or how Nike’s Michael Jordan brand just earned $1 billion in a single quarter. Can you imagine how much richer they’d be if it weren’t for all of the racism out there? And how much more popular would Don Lemon of CNN be or how much more widely read Charles Blow of the New York Times would be if it just weren’t for racism. Maybe we’d have two million black millionaires in the United States instead of just one million. Perhaps too, we would have more sold-out sports arenas, but fans are too busy being racist to cheer their teams or buy their jerseys. And Barack Obama could have been president for three terms if it weren’t for the racist Constitution!
It’s amazing that this narrative is consumed and accepted so readily. The book White Fragility is a number one seller. That’s a lot of white self-hatred and self-loathing. And historical ignorance. Now, this isn’t to say racism doesn’t exist and it hasn’t affected undeserving people, because it does and it has. However, individual losers of any race that are racist shouldn’t reflect poorly on an entire population. That’s absurd. It’s kind of like when we are repeatedly told not all Muslims are terrorists. It cuts both directions.
Is the white guilt and hatred directed toward them right now deserved? Are whites really that bad? Are blacks really that victimized? That this question is asked with sincerity is telling of the times we live. But, as an honest thinker who asks honest questions, I am willing to delve into that. Are whites really responsible for all of this hate? And are blacks so innocent? The most telling answer should be found where blacks have been in positions of authority. In other words, if blacks were more responsible civic leaders, did not practice slavery, and did not oppress the people underneath them, that might make me more acquiescent to get on board with the Black Lives Matter narrative. After all, Winston Churchill said, “democracy is the worst form of government except for all others.” Maybe there’s a better idea out there. I doubt it but humor me. Let’s take a look at a few nuggets from history, courtesy of a page on Wikipedia called Slavery in Africa.
It turns out that this history is not very complicated. Guess what. Africans had slaves. A lot of them. Just like every other culture in the world. Prior to the arrival of Europeans for the purpose of populating the New World with slaves, the practice had been in effect since societies emerged. Millions were enslaved within nations, millions more sold to Arab caravans heading east, and the well-known Atlantic slave trade took millions more. An estimated 90% of slaves sold to Europeans were captured by fellow Africans, who themselves were enriched off the practice. No doubt, they had motives of finance and regional power when dealing with the Arabs, too.
One particular practice stood out during my perusal of the Wikipedia page, called The Annual Customs of Dahomey, in which hundreds of enslaved humans could be sacrificed at a single time to the spirits and ancestors of the tribe. In one year, it is estimated that 4,000 human sacrifices were performed for these and other reasons. The death of their king in 1789 prompted the sacrifice of 1,500 individuals.
Based on that precis of the Wikipedia page, let’s assess the issue of slavery in America and slavery in Africa. On the one hand, the Europeans did indeed select Africans as their go-to source of labor because they looked down upon them as inferior. On the other hand, it seems likely that African tribes also looked down upon their rivals. How else to explain selling off millions of continental hombres to white and Arab traders? It just wasn’t race as ostensibly race-based.
Both continents practiced chattel slavery. That is, they viewed and treated slaves as property. Cruelty and family separation occurred in both places. However, the practice of human sacrifice wasn’t the standard practice in America, but as seen in one standout excerpt, it occurred with regular frequency. It hardly seems logical to suggest that human sacrifice was limited to one specific tribe out of tens of thousands. Given that human sacrifice also played out in the New World, we are once again exposed to the reality that like slavery, this was another universal norm. However, it was not universal for America.
America abolished the practice of slavery in 1865 legally. Britain and other European countries did so a few decades earlier. The British Empire in 1833 and both France and Denmark-Norway in 1848. The British actually created what was called the West African Squadron, which between 1808 and 1850, stopped the passage of over 1,600 ships carrying 150,000 illegal slaves. These slave ships embarked from West African countries being ruled by complicit African leaders. In fact, the British deposed a Nigerian king in 1851 after he refused to abide by the anti-slavery treaties.
Upon the colonization of African kingdoms by Europeans toward the end of the 19th century, the issue becomes a little murkier, given that both the newly-arrived colonizers and their African allies needed to amass certain control and riches, but when France conquered parts of West Africa in the early 1900s they freed one million slaves, and when they took control of Madagascar, they freed half a million more.
When did slavery finally come to an end in African countries (ruled by Africans)? Ethiopia is cited as abolishing slavery in 1932, Mauritania in 2007, and Niger in 2003, although censuses revealed that fully 20% of the Mauritanian population and 8% of the Niger population are still enslaved. According to Wikipedia, “slavery has never been eradicated in Africa, and it commonly appears in African states, such as Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, and Sudan.” A one-off link to a page called Slavery in Contemporary Africa Africa reveals that slavery exists in other parts as well, including the diamond mines of Sierra Leone and Liberia. It is a page worth reading on its own.
The current conditions in Africa are appalling. As we all belong to one race – the human race – each of us should be outraged by child labor, sex trafficking, and every other form of dehumanizing and deadly slavery. Not to comment glibly on such heinous realities, but by comparison, the black community in America largely condemns white America for oppressing them and enslaving them in modern forms of slavery. In light of all of the new learning we encountered, it hardly seems appropriate. Lebron James, Colin Kaepernick, and every other “mistreated” millionaire athlete, among others, would do well to commit to rebuilding these African nations before tearing our own country down.
To reiterate, slavery was a widespread practice in Africa. Although records don’t support it, one could argue that it became more common after (first) Arab traders and (second) European traders made it lucrative, but that doesn’t still explain how slavery persisted once those influences departed. If it is whites that are so bad, why didn’t their evil ways go with them? Between the persistence of slavery without white influence, and certainly as evidenced by a willingness of blacks themselves to capture and sell fellow Africans, a stronger case becomes that blacks, like whites, like all civilizations, simply vie for power and control. The last case represents this perfectly, as written on a Wikipedia page about Liberia.
In 1822, the American Colonization Society (ACS), which was founded by Quakers who believed blacks would have a better future in Africa as freedmen rather than in America with its slavery and racism, sent its first wave of repatriated blacks immigrants. A few decades later, the group had managed to establish a community 13,000 strong of Americo-Liberians.
Problems arose instantly. For one, the American-born and American-culturized blacks did not fit in with their “primitive” neighbors. While they appreciated an American political identity and Christian background, the indigenous bush people did not. The settlers neither knew of the language and customs and likewise cared little to learn about them. Settlements were often raided by the bushmen in retaliation. Sound familiar to anything?
Most incredibly, the black American settlers who came to Liberia imposed upon the indigenous communities the exact same colonialist structure as was imposed by the earliest European arrivals to the New World. It reads:
“Believing themselves different from and culturally and educationally superior to the indigenous peoples, the Americo-Liberians developed as an elite minority that held on to political power. They treated the natives the way American whites had treated them: as inferiors. The natives could not vote and could not speak unless spoken to…”
“Just as American Blacks were prohibited from marrying or having sexual relationships with white women, the natives could not marry Americo-Liberian women. Even when some natives became educated, they were excluded from government positions, except for a token few. Indigenous tribesmen did not enjoy birthright citizenship in their own land until 1904. Americo-Liberians encouraged religious organizations to set up missions and schools to educate the indigenous peoples.”
Let that sink in for a while. We don’t have to imagine what would happen if I replaced the word ‘Americo-Liberians’ for ‘white Europeans.’ There is universal condemnation for the pillaging of land and riches from the Native American population, and certainly on a larger scale, but what of these conquests? Do they not demonstrate that perhaps more than a reductionist explanation of racism, that human nature is compelled toward control and power? Black Liberian settlers imposed the exact same measures as the very same black community decries today. It was exactly the same – including removing birthright from native-born peoples, re-educating in special schools, outlawing inter-community marriages, and identifying as a superior race.
So what does all of this mean?
For starters, none of it excuses what happened in the past. America specifically has its sins, and they are recognized. That blacks were the primary form of slave labor, in parts all over the world is a terrible reality, but most countries’ politics and practices have evolved. It seems the debt has been repaid in the opportunities now present for all in decent societies. Above all else, it also means that human history is complex because human nature is universally flawed. Most people might be decent enough, but that only makes it easier for the strong, powerful, and evil-inclined among us to create horrible situations. It happened in Africa, it happened in Europe, it happened in Asia (stay tuned), and systems of evil persisted even in the Americas. But the unique difference is that America’s founding set it on a course to do right. The founding wasn’t perfect, but it was better than we have seen before, and it allowed for positive change. This change didn’t happen overnight, but it happened. Can we say the same about the moral epicenters of Africa known as Mauritania and Niger?
But Trump is the bad guy …