Perhaps because of all the publicity over Twelve Years a Slave or because it’s Black History Month, I’ve been thinking about slavery and a number of points that I seldom see raised, if ever… and probably, by the time I’ve mentioned them, no one will be pleased, but since no one else seems to be pointing them out, most likely because each one will offend someone deeply, someone really ought to… and I appear to be the only one foolish enough to do so.
The first point is that virtually every black person enslaved in Africa was originally captured and sold into slavery by other blacks… and that virtually every slave purchased or kept in slavery in the United States was purchased or owned by a white person, usually a white male. The institution of slavery would not have been possible without both groups. I’m not excusing anyone, just noting a fact that seems to be overlooked.
The second point is that slavery existed in what we today would call a “free market,” that is, there were originally [not until the early nineteen century when Great Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807 and then slavery itself in 1833] no restrictions on the sale and purchase of slaves. Slaves had no rights and no legal protections. Sellers and buyers negotiated with complete freedom from outside interference. In that sense, slavery was the logical extension of totally free markets, where even human beings could be bought and sold, and even killed, for whatever the market would bear. So, all you free-market types, think about that when you preach about the need for “free” markets.
Third, given the diversity of the original slaves, who came from many different groups and tribes, those American blacks descended from slaves do not have a single “history/culture” predating the institution of slavery in the United States, except perhaps the shared misfortune of losing out in local African warfare, which resulted in their being enslaved in the first place. Their shared “history” is that of slavery, which is a failed and despicable culture. For this reason, I have to admit I frankly don’t understand the emphasis I see among many blacks from this background on finding their “culture,” because there isn’t a single one that all have in common prior to their ancestors landing in North America in a state of enslavement. Add to that the fact that any of the truly great African cultures had collapsed well before the beginning of the American slave trade, and a search for “history” and culture is more like poor whites seeking a history in Greek mythology than a particularly fruitful or worthwhile effort.
Fourth, over the past centuries and even into the present, many of those who opposed rights for blacks, almost entirely those of Caucasian backgrounds, cited the need for racial purity or opposition to “mixed races.” Come again? DNA studies show that every racial group besides “pure” African blacks [and some recent DNA testing even raises questions there about interbreeding with yet another undiscovered human species/race] has DNA confirming that their ancestors interbred with Neanderthals and Denisovians, both of whom failed to survive. That’s not exactly a hallmark of “purity”… or even good judgment on the part of one’s distant ancestors. Caucasians and Asians already had a mixed-blood background, even while some whites trumpeted their untainted blood. So let go of the damned racial purity argument. All of us are mongrels in some way or another now.
Fifth, in the end, at some point, we have to acknowledge what was, ALL of what was… and then get on with improving the future, no matter how one group denies what was and another dwells on it excessively, because we can’t change what was, only what will be.