Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Roots Of Slavery & The Race Hustlers' Holy Grail - Reparations

Update: The following short blog entry and video provide a spot on introduction to this post. This from Black Educator:

Here's a brief summation of the history of Arab enslavement of African Peoples. It is important to know this history in order to understand both the evolution of Western capitalism's slave trade and the current atrocities against Africans (by Africans) unfolding in the name of Islam and/or "Arab Civilization.

Islam & slavery by BLACKMUSICS

Prof. Henry L. Gates, a Prof. of African American Studies at Harvard and late of Beer Summit fame, is chasing the Holy Grail of the race-hustling industry – reparations for slavery. Writing in the NYT, Gate's defines reparations as “the idea that the descendants of American slaves should receive compensation for their ancestors’ unpaid labor and bondage.” As Gates notes:

There are many thorny issues to resolve before we can arrive at a judicious (if symbolic) gesture to match such a sustained, heinous crime. Perhaps the most vexing is how to parcel out blame to those directly involved in the capture and sale of human beings for immense economic gain.

Prof. Gates has no problem “parcelling out the blame” for slavery on this side of the Atlantic. It is, he tells us, the “whites.” So under Gates's theory, if you are a white American, you are born with the sin of slavery hung about your neck. What troubles Gates is the fact that the historical record shows that the people on the supply side of the African slave trade – the people selling African slaves into bondage - were not the evil white skinned devils, but rather black Africans themselves. To solve that conundrum, Gates wants the intercession of President Obama:

. . . [I]n President Obama, the child of an African and an American, we finally have a leader who is uniquely positioned to bridge the great reparations divide. He is uniquely placed to publicly attribute responsibility and culpability where they truly belong, to white people and black people, on both sides of the Atlantic, complicit alike in one of the greatest evils in the history of civilization. And reaching that understanding is a vital precursor to any just and lasting agreement on the divisive issue of slavery reparations.

The issue is not divisive at all. It's ludicrous. Those who took part in slavery in America are long dead. It is a fundamental aspect of our legal system that people are held responsible for the wrongs they personally commit; responsibility for those wrongs does not follow down blood lines. But, as Prof. Gates would have us, let us leave that fundamental issue aside. Even so, over 145 years having past since the end of slavery in America, there are a host of issues associated with who should owe what to whom such that every aspect of Gate's call for reparations passes into the surreal. Obama himself perfectly encapsulates some of this.

You will note that Gates glosses over Obama's parentage in the paragraph quoted above. He does so for good reason. Obama is the child of not merely an American mother but a white American mother. Since Obama is half white, does that mean he is entitled to only half of the reparations, or no reparations at all? Actually, it gets even more convoluted. Obama has no American slaves in his family tree, though his wife, Michelle, does. Obama's father was from Kenya – one of those areas heavily involved in the African slave trade in the 16th through 18th centuries. Indeed, it is quite possible that Obama's lineage includes people who captured and sold other blacks into slavery. Where does that leave Dr. Gates and Obama? Does our President now have to make a personal mea culpa for the sin of slavery and pay reparations to Michelle? Is Obama really, as Gates posits, "uniquely positioned" to pass on the relative culpability for the African slave trade to America? If not him, then who?

Those are only a small part of problem with Gates's call for reparations. That Gates would slander all white Americans living today with the original sin of slavery is at least as surreal and, indeed, historically myopic in the extreme.

Slavery didn't begin with the African slave trade. To the contrary, slavery, as an accepted practice in the world, ended with the African slave trade. Slavery began with the dawn of civilization and it has involved virtually every race. Indeed, unless Gates is historically illiterate, he must know that slave based agrarian economies have been the norm throughout much of the world's history.

Evidence of slavery predates written records, and has existed in many cultures. . . . The earliest records of slavery can be traced to the Code of Hammurabi . . . and the Bible refers to it as an established institution. Slavery was known to occur in civilizations as old as Sumer, as well as almost every other ancient civilization, including Ancient Egypt, Ancient China, the Akkadian Empire, Assyria, Ancient India, Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the Islamic Caliphate, and the pre-Columbian civilizations of the Americas. . . . Records of slavery in Ancient Greece go as far back as Mycenaean Greece. Two-fifths (some authorities say four-fifths) of the population of Classical Athens were slaves.

The first movement to end slavery as an economic model can be traced to the downfall of serfdom – a medieval version of slavery – in England. The Black Death of 1348-1350 so depopulated the nation that labour became scarce and the peasantry rebelled at attempts to keep them as serfs. It wasn't until three hundred years later, with the coming of the industrial age and growing moral abhorrence of slavery as part of the American conservative Christian movement known as Second Great Awakening, that the slave-based economic model fully and finally fell from grace. By 1786, all of the colonies except Georgia had banned or limited the African slave trade, with Georgia following in 1798. This movement crossed the pond, where Thomas Clarkson, William Wilberforce and others famously drove public opinion against slavery in 19th century Britain. Their efforts culminated in Parliament's 1807 passage of the Slave Trade Act, making importation of slaves illegal throughout the British Empire. Thereafter, it was the British that drove the slave trade from the high seas.

But, that aside, lets apply the logic of Gates to the reality of history. If slavery is an original sin that involves the collective responsibility of entire races of people, then who owes what to whom - and on a related note, do the people that ended slavery get a pass on reparations?

Gates first clue should come from examining the origins of the word “slave.” It is a derivation of “Slav” - as in the Slavic people who were enslaved in such number by European warlords towards the end of the Dark Ages and for the better half of the following millennium that their very name came to be identified with "slavery." So can anyone with some Slavic blood get in on this reparations deal? Do they get to reach into the pockets of the Germans, Italians and Celts?

But then what of the Spanish, Italians, British, Irish and Americans of European ancestry? Many were enslaved by African and Arab Islamic pirates who for centuries made raids to capture white Europeans as slaves. The Africans would also enslave the crews of any ships they captured - including American ships:

Reports of Barbary raids and kidnappings of those in Italy, Spain, Portugal, England, Ireland, Scotland as far north as Iceland exist from between the 16th to the 19th centuries. It is estimated that between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by pirates and sold as slaves during this time period. Famous accounts of Barbary slave raids include a mention in the Diary of Samuel Pepys and a raid on the coastal village of Baltimore, Ireland, during which pirates left with the entire populace of the settlement.

One and a quarter million Western Europeans enslaved by Africans during the time frame slavery in America was also in practice? To put this into perspective, note that only an estimated 645,000 Africans were imported into the United States as slaves. That means that Africans enslaved nearly two times as many whites as did whites in America import Africans as slaves. And those European whites enslaved by the Africans never had the benefit of Africans raising up in a civil war to end their slavery. So does this mean that Obama, Gates, and all people of African origin are morally culpable for enslaving whites? Can people of white European stock get two times the reparations from people of African origin today? Taking the reasoning of Gates to its logical conclusion, the answer to both questions should be "Yes."

And what of other people and other lands. The Romans regularly took slaves as they marched across Europe and into the Middle East. If Europeans could trace their lineage back two millennia, probably most of the population of Europe could find an ancestor enslaved by the Romans. Then there were the Mongols and Tartars who enslaved an estimated 3,000,000 people from Poland, Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, I don't think the Mongols have the economy today to grant large scale reparations. Maybe the Poles and Russians can hit them up for some free yurts.

What of the Jews? The Old Testament makes clear that they owned slaves and made slaves of other tribes in the Middle East. But the Jews may have an out. The Jews themselves were enslaved, during various times, by the Egyptians and Babylonians. So can the Jews just tell whomever they owe to pick up the IOU's in Cairo and Baghdad and call it even?

And of then there are the world's most prolific slavers of history – the Arabs. Indeed,the Arabs in Saudi Arabia still teach today that it is permissible to make slaves of non-Muslims. And indeed, they still practice what they preach - enslaving blacks in Mali when it fell under al Qaeda rule. Under the Gates theory, we should all be getting reparation checks from Ridyah.

The bottom line, if slavery is, as Gates posits, an original sin that passes not only through the generations, but also among entire races, then it hangs around the necks of most people in the world today - including President Obama and Prof. Gates. Obviously that can't be right. That doesn't fit the Gate's narrative at all.

But even if we refocus the Gates's theory to do away with collective responsibility and aim to hold culpable just those who actually took part in slavery between 1607 and 1861 in America, it still falls apart. The historical record does anything but support Gates's theory that all white Americans should be deemed morally culpable for slavery. The logic of Gates is an attempt to shoehorn moral culpability to all whites in America based on the fact that the founding fathers allowed the institution of slavery to stand in limited fashion at the founding. That is not merely twisted logic, it completely ignores historical reality.

Slavery in America predates the founding of our nation by well over a century and a half. And by the time our nation was founded, the lines between those supporting slavery and those opposed to it were clearly drawn. Most whites in America didn't own slaves and didn't support the practice of slavery. The abolitionist movement in America predates the founding of our nation by nearly a century, and while slavery was permitted to continue at the time of the founding as a necessary step to the formation of are nation - it is equally as clear that there were many virulently opposed to the practice of slavery. They saw to it that slavery was circumscribed in our new nation through acts such as the passage of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Indeed, so unacceptable was slavery to the majority of our nation that, less than 70 years after the inking of The Constitution, it lead to the bloodiest war in American history.

To follow this line of reasoning further - one of the seemingly best kept secrets of American history is that so many whites were so opposed to slavery that they formed a political party. That party's central plank was opposition to any expansion of slavery in America. It was called the Democrat Republican Party. And less than 11 years after it was formed, both the abolitionist leader of that party and over 360,000 men who flocked to its banner lay dead in what proved a successful effort to both preserve the union and end slavery. Indeed, if all Dr. Gate's wants is a "symbolic gesture" from white Americans to expiate the sin of African slavery, then is there any reason this symbolism should not suffice . . .

or what about a Union graveyard . . .

or this drawing of a Republican President dying of an assassin's bullet less than 1,000 days after signing the Emancipation Proclamation and less than 60 days after signing the 13th Amendment . . .

That is, of course all far more than mere symbolism. It is the very essence of substance. Why is it that the death of hundreds of thousands of white Americans and the assassination of a President over the issue of slavery in America insufficient to provide the necessary "symbolic gesture" for Prof. Gates? One might begin to suspect that Gates has an ulterior motive.

The only way Prof. Gates call for reparations can have even a patina of legitimacy is if it holds culpable only the descendants of those who actually owned slaves and supported the institution of slavery. Fortunately, they are identifiable. The slave owning class in pre-Civil War America and the supporters of slavery as an institution were all to be found in the Democrat Party. It is beyond perverse for Gates, on this historic record, to also seek to hold culpable the Republicans who never supported slavery and whose ancestor's gave their very lives to end slavery. Do you think an Executive Order condemning the Democrat Party for slavery in America and ordering them to pay the reparations per a special levy would satisfy Dr. Gates? I for one could be persuaded to accept that as a reasonable settlement of the problem,

Besides the failed logic of Gates, there is of course the surrealism of a black man at the pinnacle of academia, a full professor at America's premier university – and a man who has never been a slave - petitioning a black man at the pinnacle of power in America, a President popularly elected by whites and blacks – and who was likewise never a slave but whose progenitors in Kenya may have been slavers - to expiate the original sin of slavery in America by punishing all whites alive in this country today, none of whom have ever owned slaves and many of whose progenitors fought and died in a war against slavery. We won't even delve further into the surrealism of asking, say, an Italian who immigrated to America decades after the end of slavery to foot the repartition bill simply because of the color of his skin. Why . . . that would be positively racist of Dr. Gates.

Gates's push for reparations has more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. If he wanted to actually do something constructive for blacks in America, then Gates would be shouting to the rafters about the call of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for a color blind society. That is certainly in the best interests of both blacks and our nation. Yet instead of focusing on furthering that cause, Gates is pursuing an issue that is sure to, by its very nature, drive whites and blacks apart.

I am sure Dr. Gates is not so dumb as to be ignorant of any of the above. Nor can he be ignorant of the fact that the descendants of slaves in this country have, today, all of the opportunities of America open to them. No one, Prof. Gates included, could possibly believe that the call for reparations will add anything to that.

Actually, given that Prof. Gates's wants to apportion blame to all "whites" in America for slavery, it would seem self-evident that the purpose of Dr. Gate's push for reparations is to foster a permanent sense of guilt in the white population of America on one hand and, on the other hand, to separate blacks from whites in society by keeping blacks focused on past sins. That has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with politics. It is naught but a variant on the sermons of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, damning America and calling for blacks to eschew the values of "white" America.

More specifically, this is the “sins and grievances” approach to politics about which Thomas Sowell recently wrote in his brilliant four-part essay, Race and Politics. It directs blacks and other members of 'victim classes' to “nurse their resentments, instead of advancing their skills and their prospects.” As Dr. Sowell notes, the only beneficiaries of this type of grievance politics “are politicians and race hustlers.” The losers in this equation are those blacks ignoring their opportunities and the reality of America in 2010 and instead, following the ilk of Prof. Gates on the hunt for the race hustlers' holy grail.

Update: Thomas Sowell has weighed in on this topic in his article today at NRO, Misusing History. This from Dr. Sowell:

. . . Slavery is a classic example. The history of slavery across the centuries and in many countries around the world is a painful history to read — not only in terms of how slaves have been treated, but because of what that says about the whole human species — because slaves and enslavers alike have been of every race, religion, and nationality.

If the history of slavery ought to teach us anything, it is that human beings cannot be trusted with unbridled power over other human beings — no matter what color or creed any of them are. The history of ancient despotism and modern totalitarianism practically shouts that same message from the blood-stained pages of history.

But that is not the message that is being taught in our schools and colleges, or dramatized on television and in the movies. The message that is pounded home again and again is that white people enslaved black people.

It is true, just as it is true that I don’t go sky-diving with blacks. But it is also false in its implications for the same reason. Just as Europeans enslaved Africans, North Africans enslaved Europeans — more Europeans than there were Africans enslaved in the United States or in the 13 colonies from which the nation was formed.

The treatment of white galley slaves was even worse than the treatment of black slaves who picked cotton. But there are no movies or television dramas about it comparable to Roots, and our schools and colleges don’t pound it into the heads of students.

The inhumanity of human beings toward other human beings is not a new story, much less a local story. There is no need to hide it, because there are lessons we can learn from it. But there is also no need to distort it, so that sins of the whole human species around the world are presented as special defects of “our society” or the sins of a particular race.

If American society and Western civilization are different from other societies and civilizations, it is in that they eventually turned against slavery, and stamped it out, at a time when non-Western societies around the world were still maintaining slavery and resisting Western pressures to end slavery — including, in some cases, by armed resistance.

Only the fact that the West had more firepower put an end to slavery in many non-Western societies during the age of Western imperialism. Yet today there are Americans who have gone to Africa to apologize for slavery — on a continent where slavery has still not been completely ended, to this very moment.

It is not just the history of slavery that gets distorted beyond recognition by the selective filtering of facts. Those who mine history in order to find everything they can to undermine American society or Western civilization have very little interest in the Bataan death march, the atrocities of the Ottoman Empire, or similar atrocities in other times and places.

Those who mine history for sins are not searching for truth but for opportunities to denigrate their own society, or for grievances that can be cashed in today at the expense of people who were not even born when the sins of the past were committed.

An ancient adage says: “Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.” But apparently it is not sufficient for many among our educators, the intelligentsia, or the media. They are busy poisoning the present by the way they present the past.


billm99uk said...

There was a very funny documentary on British TV a few years ago where Professor Gates travelled to Africa to rediscover his roots, taking along his family for the ride. Unfortunately for him two teenage daughters found pretty much the whole continent just as primitive and gross as you'd expect a couple of american city kids to do...

suek said...


Maybe someone should cue Fox News in about that documentary...that would make for an interesting Saturday evening show (especially compared to what's usually on!)

Don't suppose that documentary is available anywhere on the net??

Ex-Dissident said...

This is a very interesting review of world history. I suppose that Obama, being a descendant of white slave owners in America and black slave traders in Kenya, should pay reparations to the Clintons, since Bill Clinton was "America's first black president." Hillary was a victim of Obama's presidential campaign and hence has specific grievances - she wants the presidency.

Freedom Fighter said...

Good post GW!

Actually, reparations were paid a long time ago.

Aside from the cost of the American Civil War,(billions of dollars in today's money in property damage and more American dead than all our country's wars combined until the last two years of Vietnam)there was also the trillion dollar plus cost of the War on Poverty during Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, which was specifically designed to primarily benefit African -Americans.

Of course, as we know now, it really did just the reverse, but that was its intent.


LS said...

And then there are those of us whose ancestors gave their lives to end slavery. Are we supposed to expect something too?

Mo said...

My dad literally WAS a slave laborer, in the concentration camp of Dora-Hordhausen, and later was liberated from Bergen Belsen.

He refused to take "blood money" reparations from the Germans. He became a rather successful microbiologist in the U.S. years. Though he had some family here, and was helped by the refugee organizations immediately after the war, he worked night and day to put himself through college and to become the success he was.

Gates the other race-baiters don't care about the moral aspect of reparations, they KNOW it is immoral, IMHO. They are just angry people who want to exact their revenge on the rest of us. They know my father, as well as my mother's parents, like millions of others in America, were refugees themselves who came (legally, I might add!) many years after the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery.

My father was a moral human being who would not touch German reparations. But he HAD been a slave, and literally, everything was stolen from him...his youth, his parents (my grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz...they owned a small factory; all of their wealth was expropriated, of course, by the Nazis and the local anti-Semites in Hungary)...his entire world was stolen from him.

The Prof. Gates and the Sharptons and Wrights and Jacksons of the world just want to steal, and then hurt the rest of us. But I believe they believe in their hearts that it is perfectly acceptable to steal the money from those evil white folk. They are completely immoral.

I'm proud of who my father was, and I"m sickened and disgusted to read about Professor Gates, a contemptible and immoral race-baiter and thief-wanna-be.

GW said...

Thanks all for your comments. Mo, your father's "slavery" was of a different ilk entirely from that in the U.S. It was far worse to the point that there is really no comparison. In America, slave owners had an economic motive to keep their slaves healthy. What happened in Germany's concentration camps was nothing short of murder on an industrial scale. There was no motive to keep the slave labor alive, only a motive to wring the most possible work out of their slave over a few months until they died.

I had the opportunity to visit Bergen Belsen some time ago. Never before or since have I been so overwhhelmingly disquieted by what I saw. Indeed, unlike with most emotional memories that dim with time, I feel the exact same today looking back at my visit to Bergen Belsen as I did at the time.

If you visit Bergen Belsen today, you will see nothing out of place at first glance. To the contrary, the grounds are kept meticulouly neat and the sidewalks spotless. The Bergen Belsen I saw looked, on the surface, to be a very well cared for park - all of which only made the whole area that more surreal. Peppered throughout the area were raised rectangular mounds roughly averaging maybe 15 feet by 30 feet. And over each of the raised area was a plaque estimating the number of bodies buried in that particular space. Each one numbered in the thousands, several over ten thousands. I would later find that the total number of deaths at the camp exceeded 50,000 and that the average life expectancy for a prisoner there was a mere nine months.

It was a monument to brutality, autocracity and racism on a scale that I had long understood intellectually, but never viscerally. That changed standing in Bergen Belsen when I was overwhelmed by revuslsion gazing at these small, compact and numerous mass graves.

I guess what it comes down to Mo is that your father didn't so much survive slavery. He survived a conscious effort to kill him slowly. That he then rose beyond those horrors and succeeded in America is a true testament to your father.

And what your father did, concentrating on building a future rather than concentrating on sins and grievances, was really, if you think about it, the final nail in the Nazi coffin. Your father and his ilk tried to build a better world. It is how all of humanity should approach life.

Anonymous said...

Seems most think (ignorantly) that blacks in the early days of America and Jews throughout Egypt and Europe were the only groups enslaved, murdered, or persecuted. If they/you had any clue, you'd know slavery was spread upon many skin colors and religions. Of course, tell that to your average close-minded lib or minority (or jew).