MOVE ON FROM SLAVERY
Slavery is a painful subject for Africans. It is natural for any humans to try and escape one’s conscience, so Europeans often tell Africans to “Move on” From slavery. But what does this mean and what action should Africans take to “move on” as British Prime minister Cameron insisted?:
- Don’t bring it up in polite White society
- Do not use it as a political tool to remind Europeans of their sordid history
- Lick your wounds in private
- Do not include it in your educational system
- Never lobby around it for reparations
- Avoid publishing books about it
- Close down the African Holocaust Society Website
- And do not allow your children to discuss it
This is what “Moving on from slavery and colonialism” means. Now how do we move on from the very current that is institutional racism (connected to the legacy of slavery), or White supremacy (again connected to slavery) ? How do we move Africa out of the ongoing exploitation by the West? So Moving on means to close down all debate and fracture the African connection to the past. 100% perfect for those who exploited African labor to build the Western empire, 100% perfect to avoid dealing with the current responsibility of those who profited/profit from African exploitation.
It is strange that no one tells the victims of 9/11 or the Jewish Holocaust to “move on”. So anyone who suggest Africans “move on” from the past is guilty of trying to cover up their ancestors role in our destruction. And in criminal law, to cover up a crime is a crime. To block people from accessing their historical database is a crime against their human dignity. So this is why both those who enslaved Africans, and those today who suggest we forget about slavery are partners in the African Holocaust.
It was once believed that the Atlantic slave trade was a largely self-contained phenomenon, it is now acknowledged that this slave trade is part of a much wider picture, which includes traditional African slave systems and the Arab slave trade. At various stages in their history conflicted and complemented each other. There was also an evolution from one type of slavering into another; as happened inside of the African slave system where captives where a casual consequence of national warfare evolved into a reason for warfare.
We must identify the different levels of enslavement in the historical narrative of Africa. Some where client-supplier, others were consequences of the overspill from internal polities clashing. Although the internal African trade became the trade which procured captives for Europeans and also Arabs, it is a distinctive trade with unique features, and moreover distinctive consequences.
Economically the growth that should have been experienced in Africa, from African human resources, was experienced in the West – as opposed to in Africa. The primary African groups involved in procurement for European interest became particularly adept and brutal at the practice of enslavement and through the centuries developed a militaristic culture. Prime groups engaged in this were Oyo, Benin, Igala, Kaabu, Fante Confederacy, Asanteman, Dahomey, the Aro Confederacy and the Imbangala professional war bands. (“Atlantic Warfare”, Thornton) One key difference between Africans as agents for Europeans, and the domestic internal slavery was the level of brutality associated with procurement. The gradual abolition of slavery in European colonial empires during the 19th century industrialization era led to the decline of these African empires.
Below is a list of zones of enslavement and types of slavery:
- Internal enslavement in native societies (Domestic slavery, ritual slavery, etc)
- Route – African/Arab agents to Arabia (Persia, India, Mediterranean)(Sex/Domestic)
- Slavery in the Arab world, Including the Trans-Saharan trade
- Route – African groups (agents) for the Europeans (Clients)
- Enslavement of Africans by Europeans (Chattel Slavery
WHY – PATTERNS OF OPPRESSION
Enslaved Africans Transported
Why do we study the past? To learn from it and set up precedents for curbing patterns which produce inequity. And to reproduce patterns and habits that produce enlightenment and progress for all of the Earth (humanity and nature). Every doctor understands why the epidemiology is critical to modern medicine; prevention and cure rest on successful analysis of the problem.
Almost every incident of conquest involves a stronger technological people subdued and exploiting a “weaker” or less developed technological people. That is the one most profound observation and pattern we can grasp from history. The consequences of that conquest have never stopped, the reverberation is heard around the global in all areas of conflict. Understanding history, as Jared Diamond states, is more often the tool used to interrupt the negative outcome, than to repeat it.Slavery is not wrong because slavery is wrong. Slavery is wrong because of another higher human consideration — human rights.
Where human rights in our modern era are intolerant to the systems of oppression slavery perpetuated. It is the immorality of slavery, the contempt for humanity that is the focus of our issue with slavery and all its enduring side effects, one being aspects of modern racism. The history of interactions among disparate peoples is what shaped the modern world through conquest, epidemics, and genocide.
So Europeans did not enslave African people with the Bible in their White hands, or notions of ideological superiority, but because they had to power, born from the technological disparity between the two groups. The collision of advanced political, and technological advancements made them appear “superior.” The Bible in the hands of a weak stone age people would have had no sway over the iron producing people of the interiors of Africa. Their Guns, Germs and Steel played the decisive role in the outcome when these two civilizations clashed.
Power protects; sell or be sold, conquer or be conquered. If one village was buying guns and you were not…bad news for you. So had Africans, like the Japanese (11) taken control of the gun manufacturing process, as opposed to exclusively buyers of guns, there would be no way Europeans could sell damp gunpowder and trinkets in exchange for African captives or African resources. But nothing has changed because this is the exact dilemma Africa faces, perceptually dependent on everyone else for final goods (Motherland 2010). And to obtain these good requires an inequitable exchange of the continent’s resources with Europe or China for trinkets. So this technological disparity, which pre-dates the arrival of Europeans, still haunts Africa’s future.
Slavery today, as slavery then, has the common theme of weak vs. strong, rich vs. poor. (It knows no exceptions) That personality has never altered and every time there is a gross imbalance it is the breeding ground for all forms of exploitation. It then seems a correct approach would be also to deal with the breeding ground of slavery. It is far more than a Black people vs. White people debate. In Cameroon the “weaker” peoples are exploited by the “stronger” people. So this pattern of oppression’s commonality needs to be addressed. Garvey clearly articulated this when he said :
Slavery is a condition imposed upon individuals or races not sufficiently able to protect or defend themselves, and so long as a race or people expose themselves to the danger of being weak, no one can tell when they will be reduced to slavery–Marcus Garvey
All humans are the same: anyone cut with a knife will bleed, anyone left without cultural identity will fit the Willy Lynch theoretical model. The only factor in the degree of impact is culture. This is why some people experience a Holocaust and come out even stronger than they went in. A Holocaust must therefore be looked at comparatively, depending on three key factors: the heat of the fire, duration, and their cultural integrity. Unfortunately where Africans are concern the fire, or nature of the Holocaust, was hot, the duration was long, and African cultural integrity, due to disunity, was weak.
From a sociological point of view, the phenomenon of “the other” is part and parcel of human behavior. are placed outside a particular group and isolated for the source of problems, or exploited with justification. “The Other” is always bad and used by both oppressor and oppressed alike. The other is a way of saying “Those people who do these things because they are not like me.” And creating boxes for the other is very flexible and needs no rationale.
Everyone calls everyone else backward, that is human nature, it has nothing to do with religion, but moreover with people (religion only follows the pre-existing trends like a hand shapes a glove). The more powerful someone is, the more agency they have to make the other feel the pain of otherness. The Ewe were targeted for slavery because the Ewe did not have the culture or religion of the Akan, they became a slave pool because they were the “other”; had weaker gods in the eyes of their captors—slavery was therefore “religiously sanctioned.” This has nothing to do with Islam vs. the other, or Christianity vs. the other, or even European vs. the other.
This is the history of human nature from time immoral. The other is in parenthesis in the Old Testament; thou shall not kill (members of my own tribe). It was with us in the beginning of humanity, and if not careful will follow us to the grave of humanity.
The Osu caste system in Nigeria and southern Cameroon, can be traced back to an indigenous religious belief system of the Igbo nation. Some Igbo traditionalists hold that the Osus are people historically owned by deities, and are therefore considered to be a ‘living sacrifice’, an outcaste, untouchable and sub-human. The was true in Ethiopia; the very name Falasha means (foreigners/exiles) was given to Ethiopian Jews by the Emperor Yeshaq in the 15th century.
According to the UN Sub-Commission: Caste systems exist in pockets in some African countries. It is found in parts of Sahelian Africa, particularly in certain West African communities, and among populations in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Although significantly different in nature and scope, there are some common features between the caste systems of Africa and South Asia. Stigma is often attached to this problem, and as a consequence “low caste” communities in Africa suffer various forms of social exclusion and discrimination, particularly with regard to employment, political representation and inter-caste marriages. 
In some slave trading African societies, East, North and West, the conquest in the temporal was a mirror of a divine conquest. Zulu means “The people of the sky” vs. other people who are less “chosen” and because of that status were subject to a vicious campaign. “The Other” is a human problem, fanned by ignorance and binary accusations. And their is no global “other”, all are “your other” defined by each society. From the outside, the group accused of being “the other” is, more often than not, all the same subjective group.
The historical record must not be washed away, we must call the name of those who engaged in the apex of the trade to account for their historical genocide. But at the same time, balance must caution anyone of perceptually blaming Europeans and Arabs, while skipping the internal complexities, weakness and failures still plaguing African communities. Because it does not bring a complete solution to the roots of slavery and inequity; the roots of war and hate.
The events which transpired five thousand years ago; Five years ago or five minutes ago, have determined what will happen five minutes from now; five years From now or five thousand years from now. All history is a current event–John Henrik Clarke
The act of murder, torture, enslavement, and persecution is equal regardless of who, when or where. Killing 6 Jewish civilians is no different from killing 6 Palestinian civilians: The distinctive act of murder is equal. It does not become equal if that murder goes from 6 to 6 million. It is that act of “murder” multiplied by 6 million. Torturing someone, dehumanizing them, taking them from their home (kidnapping), raping them all constitute separate instances of human rights violation. And human rights is human rights regardless of if we are discussing 2011 or 1011, it has generally never been acceptable in human society to torture and rape another human being.
Slavery was not invented by Europeans or Arabs, Christians or Muslims, Romans or Persians, Slavery is the business of human societies. Some of those people engaging in slavery identified as Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Akan, Nigerian, British, Indian, and Chinese. Some existed in 500 BCE some in the 21st century. Almost all advanced societies, with capacity engaged in some form of bondage. So race, geography, religion, ethnicity and time are of no consideration in people’s propensity to engage in slavery.
Now the act of taking an African from their home by force and violence is a crime, and in that crime a minority of Africans played a major role. However, that is one set of crimes and each incident re-occurred over the centuries destabilizing local communities’ development potential.
And without the assistance of any Africans we then come to storing Africans in dungeons and subjecting them to all manner of unspeakable horrors, including rape, in places like Goree or El Mina. On board the ships, Africans were fed alive, as a form of terrorism, to man-eating sharks. All of this constitutes yet another set of human rights violations. Loading and packaging human beings on a ship like sardines and subjecting them to living and breathing in their own urine and excrement is another set of crimes against humanity (again a crime exclusive to Europe in the Atlantic system).
Taking them and selling them off like chattel is yet another crime, dehumanizing them and enslaving them on the plantation is yet another set of crimes against humanity. To disrupt the culture, names, language and religion of those captive people is yet another crime against humanity. To exploit to build the empires of the West for over 300 years; torture, persecute dehumanize them is yet another crime. To finally release them from their Holocaust to be subjects and victims of all forms of racism up until the 60’s is yet another crime. And finally to continue to enjoy the fruits of that legacy, deny and oppress them into the contemporary moment is yet another crime against humanity. And still we see every generation of African inheriting the terrible legacy of self-hate and potential inhibition created at that instance 500 Years ago in Africa.
Numbers (Quantity) and Duration and Nature (Quality of oppression) are three unique factors in the African Holocaust. There is no statute of limitation if the institutions that profited from slavery are today still in existence rich and better off for that terrible trade in flesh. It is only when we understand the African Holocaust in these terms that we realize what is unique about it. There are no comparisons in human history.
CAPITALISM AND SLAVERY
Often the emotion view of slavery sees racism as the principle motive for the Atlantic Slave Trade. However, the mere existence of a capitalist ideology will by default create degrees of servitude. Capitalism looks at numbers and has no moral consideration. It has a relentless dedication to reduce liabilities and increase profits. The numerical capitalist heaven is zero-expense. Slavery was capitalisms best system for achieving a number as close as possible to zero. In this cold calculation slavery was inevitable once new territories were found and sugar cane and other products added to the markets of Europe.
It has been often argued, by some scholars, that slavery did not end for moral reasons. There was no new awakening in the capitalist heart for the inequities which besieged the African slave. The profitability diminished and new alternatives such as sharecropping had brighter lights. It is in the shifting economics of industrialization that slavery as a system began to lose its shine. Again capitalism looked at the numbers and found that between; feeding, clothing and sheltering Africans, as well as quelling rebellions – it was far cheaper to end slavery. And with the rise of Western consumerism all of those ex-slaves became the new clients of their former slave masters.
Beyond corn fields, and cracking whips slavery has a dark and fastidious legacy which is rarely examined holistically. And this legacy goes a long way to explaining the social condition which constitutes an African crises across the globe. Most notable of this is the global racist perception and value of African people. It explains the fragmentation of all areas of people relationships (family, business, humanity) between African people. It explains the inferiority complex which no Jewish person inherited from being in the Nazi death camps. Because in the camps of Poland and Germany Jews were still persecuted as a human being (a member, though hated, of humanity – not a sub-human or beast). They died in the gas chambers with a knowledge of self, of Torah, of history and culture.
In the Americas the African was exploited for over 400 years as a common beast, denied from history and humanity. The African in slavery died without ever even knowing he or she was a full member of the human race. This Jewish sense of identity goes a long way to explaining why Jewish people today are able to draw strength from their tragedy while the African-Diaspora still continue to be victims of their Holocaust.
The Jewish nightmare resonates so much that they have shared their pain beyond their cultural group: The image of suffering is iconized in the Jewish holocaust. We can see a film such as “Freedom Writers” where mischievous “ethnic minority” teens are told a Jewish story as an example of “real” suffering.” Why would African-Americans with the most tragic history in America (equaled only by the Native American Holocaust) need to look to European Jews for a story of tragedy?
The answer is simple African-Americans are not agents of these stories which impose themselves at the expense of the African narrative. Even in South Africa (which has no history of Nazi extermination) you will find a Jewish holocaust museum in every major city. Thats not the fault of any Jew, and we must respect their dedication to their holocaust study. But where is the African Holocaust museums? Where is the great monuments built to honor the millions of Africans whose bodies lie at the bottom of the Atlantic? Where is the Pan-African centers for teaching the legacy of Du Bois, Garvey and Malcolm? That speaks only to a mental defect which is the greatest legacy of our African Holocaust.
SLAVERY AS AN EXCUSE FOR EVERYTHING
Many, especially non-Africans have accused some African people of using slavery as an excuse for everything negative. But to be fair there is a lot to be blamed for slavery, its legacy is very real. So while this issue is very true the African must look at this world as a race.The legacy of slavery creates a lot of madness in our community, but do we use that as an excuse? This is the critical question. Gravity holds a rocket on the ground, but do rock engineers use that as an excuse to stay on the ground? While acknowledging the obstacle of gravity they work day and night to escape its pull.
Personal Note: So there is a race, you have to run it or not run it. That is the only options available. Be part of this civilization or be a victim of this civilization. If you opt out—as many have—sitting down means the Chinese come and own your country, taking everything colonialism left behind which most African leaders still squander.
So you can sit down if you want, but do not complain when your water and oil are owned by multinationals. Now it is 100% that we come from the legacy of slavery, that comes as default, you still (with this disadvantage) have to run the same race with the Europeans, Arabs, Turks, Indians and Chinese.
Everyone except the Europeans have some sort of handicap. Maybe the Arabs are entering the race with a broken arm, maybe the Chinese only a broken finger, maybe Africans are the most damaged in the race with no arms at all and myopic vision— but you still must find a way of running that race and being victorious. That is what life handed you. You cannot sit it out and say mental slavery made me late for the start, or the legacy of slavery slowed me down. That might well explain your handicap, but it is of no consequences to the finish line. In short the world does not care about losers and if Africans do not find a way the legacy of slavery will be extended until the Sun consumes the Earth. Its a choice, run or make excuses.
SLAVERY IN AFRICA
African slavery is hardly to be praised. But it was far different from plantation or mining slavery in the Americas, which was lifelong, morally crippling, destructive of family ties, without hope of any future. African slavery lacked two elements that made American slavery the most cruel form of slavery in history: the frenzy for limitless profit that comes from capitalistic agriculture; the reduction of the slave to less than human status by the use of racial hatred, with that relentless clarity based on color, where white was master, Black was slave. –Howard Zinn
Most European reports of slavery throughout Africa in the 1600s and beyond are not reliable sources because they often conflated various forms of servitude as equal to chattel slavery. And this also was a problem with the entire history of Africa from a Western point of view in all areas; religion, culture, economic and even warfare (Thornton). Africa made sense exclusively in terms already observed in the European worldview–even if they were totally different. So slavery had no nuance, it was slavery as Europeans practiced it. Warfare as Europeans practiced it, religion lost all nuance it was just paganism.
The line that defines what is and isn’t slavery is blurred and there is no secret that when ethnic groups and nationalities fought in wars the vanquished where given into a system of subservience to the victors: askew rules of war. However, let not the word “slavery” allow an analogue to what happened on the plantations of Jamaica, Brazil and America.
The limits of language take radically different systems, Atlantic slavery and Vassalship in Africa, and subject them to the same treatment because they share the same abstract word “slave.” In Africa there were no fields filled with men and women tolling away to the crack of a whip. There was no place where so-called slaves outnumbered their enslavers. Chattel Slavery did not exist within Africa but serfdom, servitude or vassalship did, as it did in most of Europe and the rest of the world. In addition, this vassalship was scattered and infrequent; it was never the commerce of the land. Most non-free people could amass wealth and upward mobility was very frequent.
Some, as in the case of Ali Kolon ascended the ranks to become rulers. Many enslaved people were employed in high government office with virtually no restrictions on their native language, religion etc. Naturally, it suits the people who profited from slavery to make the world think that slavery was the fault of Africans, and that slavery was good for Africa and natural to Africans.
The most brutal phase of enslavement came into play when enslaved people started to become transported outside of their local zones to distant locations (inside of Africa or outside of Africa). This happened as greater centralized African and later Arab powers came to the table. They had the power to seek captives in distant slave pools, and the lust to source free labor to expand their national objectives. The transportation over long distances increase mortality. The rise of larger civilizations meant specialization became more frequent, the dedicated solider, the merchant, and the professional slaver.
NEW RESEARCH | SLAVERY UNIQUE TO NATION STATES
New research reveals that up until the 15th century, most of the world was still under band and tribal groupings. (Diamond, 2005) Africa was no different, as a majority of the continent, like the majority of most continents, were not in organized states. Only states have use for slavery, it is not a feature of hunter gather society which does not have the specialization to accommodate captives. Tribal groupings also rarely have slavery. It would therefore be safe to say African slavery was confined to states, and kingdoms. It was not an ubiquitous reality.
Numbers lost in any tragedy is always political and we must approach this controversial subject from a different angle. People seem very fascinated with numbers, almost like boasting rights and we must remember numbers are only part of the great tragedy; the horror of being enslaved as a race for 300 years and the consequences of that enslavement need just as much passion in debate circles.
But we start the discussion of numbers enslaved or lost to slavery by an appreciation of what we know, what we might know, and what we will never know. We also have to consider the complexity of the challenge when discussing “numbers lost.”
While traditional studies often focus on official French and British records of how many Africans arrived in the “New World” these studies neglect the death from raids, the fatalities on-board the ships, introduced European diseases, the victims from the consequences of enslavement,
and the trauma of refugees displaced by slaving activities. The numbers of arrivals also neglects the volume of Africans who arrived via pirate ships who for obvious reasons wouldn’t’ have kept records. In her book Dreams of Africa in Alabama, Sylviane Diouf details the lives of the enslaved Africans to be brought to the U.S. even after emancipation. Most of this history is neglected in calculating numbers of Africans stolen into slavery.
In the centuries of death that surrounded slavery some suggest that a few kings got rich or life in Africa was so horrid that being brought to slave plantations was a progressive life style change. (See African Kingdoms for Africa prior to slavery) If 12-15 million Africans arrived in the New World. Over 10 million died as direct consequences of the Atlantic slave trade alone. But no one knows the exact number. An often-neglected study within history is the value of population demographics as a function of time. 30 million people 500 years ago is not equivalent to 30 million people today because 30 million as a percentage of the world population represented 500 years ago is far greater than what it represents today.
We must also realize the percentage of Africans in a state of slavery might have meant that 40% of all Africans alive were enslaved at any given period in the last 300 years. In short this means that African, by a landmark, are the most enslaved people in the history of humanity; by any and all definitions of slavery. It is estimated that by the height of the Transatlantic slave trade the population of Africa unlike the rest of the World had stagnated by 50%.. See How Europe underdeveloped Africa. “Walter Rodney”
Not only was Transatlantic Slavery of demographic significance, in the aggregate population losses but also in the profound changes to settlement patterns, epidemiological exposure and reproductive and social-economic development potential. (Shahadah) Thus Africa’s development potential was being experienced outside of Africa, as opposed to inside Africa. This was perhaps the most profound destructive factor to the development of Africa. Systems of enslavement inside of Africa never underdeveloped the continent, while the Transatlantic Slave trade did at the same time enriching Europe.
Because if 12 million arrived how many generations from that 12 million were subjected to slavery? 140 million Africans in the Western Hemisphere, most of them the direct consequence of the Atlantic Slave Trade. So now consider 350 years of slavery how many African generations were enslaved, how many people died via that horrid process of enslavement? These are the new questions which must be attached to the old study of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.