Magazine article The New American

Slavery the Deep History of the Great Evil: Modern Observers Single out America as Being Responsible for the Great Evil of Slavery. but, Put in Full Historical Context, the Great Achievement of the Founders Is the First Real Bulwark against One of Civilization's Darkest and Most Pervasive Evils

Magazine article The New American

Slavery the Deep History of the Great Evil: Modern Observers Single out America as Being Responsible for the Great Evil of Slavery. but, Put in Full Historical Context, the Great Achievement of the Founders Is the First Real Bulwark against One of Civilization's Darkest and Most Pervasive Evils

Article excerpt

Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.), now 88 years old and America's longest-serving member of Congress, has done once more what he has done in each Congress in which he has served, namely, introduce a bill calling for reparations for slavery. Introduced for the 28th time, Conyers' bill, HR 40, presently has 32 cosponsors.

In its introduction, the bill calls on Congress to "address the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes."

Among those appropriate remedies to be considered are reparations. "If the Commission finds that such compensation is warranted, what should be the amount of compensation, what form of compensation should be awarded, and who should be eligible for such compensation" will be among the questions that the committee would determine.

Irrespective of the issue of reparations, this bill, and most modern discussion of slavery, presupposes the idea that America is not only especially guilty of slavery, but is solely responsible for slavery. This central idea is embedded within the broader racist contention that whites in general and white American men in particular are responsible for, and guilty of, the barbarity of slavery.

Mother Jones, in its coverage of the Conyers legislation, declares that "America Has Never Truly Atoned For Slavery." In 2016, the United Nations singled out the United States as particularly responsible for slavery, chastising the country for "the legacy of colonial history, enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism and racial inequality." The UN's conclusions followed only a few months after an article published by both Salon and AlterNet that assigned sole blame for slavery and racism to America in general and white men in particular, using peculiarly apocalyptic rhetoric. "The future of life on the planet depends on bringing the 500-year rampage of the white man to a halt," the article thundered. "For five centuries his ever more destructive weaponry has become far too common. His widespread and better systems of exploiting other humans and nature dominate the globe."

Slavery, like genocide, its near relative, is among the greatest crimes that can be perpetrated and is deplored and opposed by anyone and everyone who is a friend of liberty. But those who most aggressively point to America's "special guilt" for slavery and racism do so while engaging in their own brand of dangerously racist identity politics. These always seek to divide groups and pit them against each other, with the goal being to diminish individual rights and liberties for everyone.

Avoiding the traps laid by demagogues and tyrants in pursuit of power requires a clear view of history. Those looking back to the past will find that not only is America not solely guilty and responsible for slavery, but that slavery, like tyranny in general, has been a universally endemic pox on post-Neolithic human existence and that America was and remains the first and most powerful impediment to these evils.

The Genesis of Tyranny

The beginning of civilization is lost in the deep mists of time, beginning, it is thought, not long after the last of the ice retreated 10,000 or more years ago. In what is called the "Neolithic Revolution," some hunter gatherers gradually transitioned to more settled agricultural lives, forming villages and even early cities. Many of these remain incredibly mysterious. Among the oldest is Qatalhoyuk, a city that may have housed 10,000 people and that was already thousands of years ancient when the pyramids appeared in Egypt. …

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