One of the many sad signs of our times is that people are not
only playing the race card, they are playing the slavery card,
which is supposedly the biggest trump of all.
At the Million Man March in Washington, poet Maya Angelou rang
all the changes on slavery, at a rally billed as forward-looking
and as being about black independence rather than white guilt.
Meanwhile, best-selling author Dinesh D'Souza was being denounced
in the media for having said that slavery was not a racist
First of all, anyone familiar with the history of slavery
around the world knows that its origins go back thousands of years
and that slaves and slaveowners were very often of the same race.
Those who are ignorant of all this, or who think of slavery in the
United States as if it were the only slavery, go ballistic when
anyone tells them that this institution was not based on race.
Blacks were enslaved not because they were black but because
they were available at the time. Whites enslaved other whites in
Europe for centuries before the first black slave was brought to
the Western Hemisphere.
Not only did Europeans enslave other Europeans, Asians enslaved
other Asians, Africans enslaved other Africans, and the native
peoples of the Western Hemisphere enslaved other native peoples of
the Western Hemisphere.
D'Souza was right. Slavery was not about race. The fact that
his critics are ignorant of history is their problem.
What was peculiar about the American situation was not just
that slaves and slaveowners were of different races, but that
slavery contradicted the whole philosophy of freedom on which the
society was founded. If all men were created equal, as the
Declaration of Independence said, then blacks had to be depicted as
less than men.
While the antebellum South produced a huge volume of apologetic
literature trying to justify slavery on racist grounds, no such
justification was considered necessary in vast reaches of the world
and over vast expanses of time. In most parts of the world, people
saw nothing wrong with slavery.
Strange as that seems to us today, a hundred years ago only
Western civilization saw anything wrong with slavery. And two
hundred years ago, only a minority in the West thought it was wrong.
Africans, Arabs, Asians and others not only maintained slavery
long after it was abolished throughout the Western Hemisphere, they
resisted all attempts of the West to stamp out slavery in their
lands during the age of imperialism. …