The narrative today is that all of white America must practice penitence for the past sins of their forefathers. Slavery is America’s Original Sin, and it can be argued that Derek Chauvin was on trial for a lot more than just questionable policing. He stood in for white America as a whole.
Now, it doesn’t matter a whit that that many whites have no connection whatsoever to any of this. In fact, 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. Whether your ancestors got off at Roanoke or came from Estonia last week, you are white and therefore privileged, guilty, and whatever else. Nor does it matter that 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.
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All whites should be punished by all blacks for crimes committed over 150 years ago because of racism. Institutional racism. Structural racism. Systemic racism. Foundational racism. Apparently COVID was racist. CNN published a 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. Perhaps 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. Shame on black folks for pushing this, but double shame on white folks for accepting it. The book White Fragility has been a number one seller. That’s a lot of white self-hatred 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, individuals 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 or how not all blacks hate Asians or are violent criminals. It cuts both directions.
Are whites really that bad? Are blacks really that victimized? Are whites really responsible for all of this hate? And are blacks so innocent? A telling answer can be found where blacks have been in similar situations of colonization, as it were. In other words, if blacks were more responsible civic leaders, did not practice slavery, and did not oppress the people underneath them, then maybe it’d be time to revisit policy. After all, Winston Churchill said “democracy is the worst form of government except for all others.” Maybe there’s a better idea out there. Let’s take a look at a few nuggets from history, courtesy of a page on Wikipedia called Slavery in Africa.
To no one’s surprise, it turns out that the history of slavery in Africa is not very complicated. 1) Africans had slaves. 2) They had a lot of them. 3) They were all black.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the practice of slavery had already been in effect for centuries. Millions were enslaved within nations, millions more sold to Arab caravans heading east, and eventually 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 Wikipedia, 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. Just for comparison, that is the same year that the U.S. Constitution was ratified.
Both continents practiced chattel slavery. That is, they viewed and treated slaves as property. Cruelty and family separation occurred in both places. However, America abolished legally the practice slavery in 1865. 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. France even conquered parts of West Africa in the early 1900s and freed one million slaves. 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, Niger in 2003, and Mauritania in 2007, 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 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.
Perhaps an even more obvious rebuttal of the whites-are-evil narrative is a look at how freed black colonizers from America treated their so-called “brothers” when making a return voyage home to the African continent. As written on a Wikipedia page about Liberia, there is a fascinating tale of how groups of people can feel superior over another.
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.”
This is quite an indictment. We don’t have to imagine what would happen if the word ‘Americo-Liberians’ were replaced with ‘white Europeans.’ On any given day, there is universal condemnation for the pillaging of land and riches from the Native American population. Columbus Day is gone and Thanksgiving is next. Black Liberian settlers imposed the exact same measures as the very same black community decries today. The exact same – including removing birthright from native-born peoples, reeducating in special schools, outlawing inter-community marriages, and identifying as a superior race.
History shows that there is no shortage of evil among men. America, with its slave past, Jim Crow era, and other episodes is certainly not free of its own sin. Yet, who among the history books or contemporary world is? The few comments on African history in this article represent at least much evil as anywhere else. To be sure, the insight into African slavery does not rid America of its own failures, though it does provide perspective on human nature. We should be able to appreciate how far we’ve come before trying to tear it all back down.