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Something we Have Forgotten!

September 16, 2001

Slavery isn't just the West's burden




Putting the horrific attack on United States aside for a moment, it's tempting to call the recent UN conference on racism (and assorted sins) that was held in South Africa, useless. But that's too gentle an assessment.

It was worse than useless. It was malicious, bigoted, racist, deceitful and factually wrong.

Still, there's a world-wide thrust for those of European stock - i.e. the white race - to apologize and/or pay reparations for slavery of the past.

Johnnie Cochran, the lawyer who got O.J. Simpson acquitted, now has a $1-trillion lawsuit against the U.S. on behalf of blacks whose ancestors were slaves.

This is a blunt gambit for money by exploiting guilty consciences, something Canada's Indians successfully manage - the latest being a claim the B.C. Legislative building in Victoria, B.C. was built on Indian lands for which no rent was paid and which is now demanded retroactively. Absurd.

When it comes to slavery, misconceptions reign.

Europeans - whites - have literally nothing to apologize for. On the contrary, blacks whose ancestors were slaves, should feel enormous gratitude to the British and Europeans who ended the practice of slavery - which we all agree was (and is) an abomination. A sorry reality is that slavery is still illicitly practised in parts of Africa, like Sudan.

Historically, for thousands of years, slavery was practised by every society, without any moral doubts or concerns. Andrew Kenny points out in the British Spectator that "slavery has been a universal feature of all societies throughout most of history" and every person alive today has ancestors who were either slaves or slave-owners.

Only the white race sought to end it. England abolished slavery on its soil in 1722, and in 1833 banned it throughout the British Empire. The Royal Navy was used to curtail the exportation of slaves from Africa to America.

What is never mentioned in the drive for reparations in the U.S. and at UN conferences, is that slavery was a "cultural reality" throughout Africa itself, before the continent was slowly colonized.

Europeans did not have to raid African villages for slaves; African chiefs eagerly sold other Africans into slavery - mostly to Arab slave dealers who resold them to whoever would buy.

A wretched life

When Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman in Zaire, one of Foreman's entourage kissed the ground as he left and thanked God that his ancestors were taken to America as slaves, otherwise he'd have been born in Africa and condemned to a wretched life compared to what he had in America.

Liberia, as corrupt a backwater as any in Africa, was established basically as a home for ex-slaves who wanted to return to Africa. Run by former slaves, Liberia excelled in corruption and racism. Ex-slave rulers considered African-born as inferior, exploited the country (behaviour learned from former white masters?) and practised racism.

Canada's Haida Indians practiced slavery until the white man came, as did other West Coast Indians - but you'd never know it from the rantings of the likes of First Nations paramount Chief Matthew Coon Come who lives on the federal gravy train and spouts racist half-truths.

Slavery was a lucrative business in Africa long before Europeans arrived. Arab slave dealers force-marched their human "property" north to be sold throughout the Middle East. Black males were sought for castration to work in harems of the rich.

Some have pointed out that in this age of "cultural equivalency," where all cultures are supposedly equally deserving of respect, and "morality" is flexible according to its cultural context, it can be argued that societies we call "civilized" were wrong to interfere with the profitable slave trade which benefited African economies.

If slavery is still tolerated in parts of Africa, how about the "cultural" practice of mutilating women's sexual organs, which most people deplore, yet continues unabated?

South Africa's ANC government is consumed with white racism - blaming it for all ills, like rampant crime (it's the most dangerous country in Africa), unemployment, even AIDS.

As for slavery, Andrew Kenny's research reveals African delegations visiting London and Paris in the 19th century urging that slavery not be outlawed, and that it was vital for the African economy.

One chief noted: "We want three things - powder, balls, brandy - and we have three things to sell - men, women and children."

Taking an overview, the U.S. government should treat the issue of paying reparations for its slave-holding past rather as we treat the Flat Earth Society - with derision and some humour.

As morally repugnant as slavery is, it was western civilization alone, comprised of whites, which decided it was morally, ethically, pragmatically wrong, and must be ended.

For that, America's black people should give thanks - not protest for money. If they want to accord blame - blame those Arabs and black Africans who sold their ancestors as chattel.