Thursday, July 31, 2008

When will the House of Representatives Craft an Apology to the American People for Legislating Bad History?

Michael Medved points out this bit of bad history in Tuesday's House resolution apology for slavery:
“Whereas slavery in America resembled no other form of involuntary servitude known in history, as Africans were captured and sold at auction like inanimate objects or animals...”

The resolution apologizes to African Americans on behalf of the people of the United States "for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow" and expresses a commitment "to rectify the lingering consequences of the misdeeds committed against African Americans under slavery and Jim Crow and to stop the occurrence of human rights violations in the future."
We haven't rectified slavery and Jim Crow yet?!?! We live in a country where a man who is heralded as "black", stands a good chance of being America's next president. Where a rapper who supports him can make millions of dollars by spouting off racist, hateful remarks. I suppose his hate-spew is white America's fault and part of the "lingering consequences of the misdeeds committed against African Americans under slavery and Jim Crow"? Good grief! How ludicrous ludacris!

slavery in the United States strongly resembled all the most common forms of involuntary servitude that have constituted a universal human institution since the beginnings of recorded history. Yale professor David Brion Davis (author of the magisterial and definitive book Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World) suggests that in its very essence, slavery treats its victims like animals. In fact, the practice of enslaving humans began in the mists of pre-history at the same time as the domestication of beasts and pointedly used some of the same cruel techniques to secure unquestioning obedience from man as well as animal.

Davis writes of the hideous abuse of slaves by the Brazilian tribe, the Tupinamba, long before first contact with the Europeans: “It is crucial to realize that such slaves were being treated essentially as animals, a fact symbolized by their ritualistic slaughter and the final cannibal feast. This behavior dramatizes the point that, wholly apart from later economic functions, slaves from the very beginning were perceived as dehumanized humans – humans deprived of precisely those traits and faculties that are prerequisites for human dignity, respect and honor.”

Even among the famously civilized Greeks (more than two-thousand years before the emergence of the United States) Aristotle said the ox was the poor man’s slave and Xenophon “compared the teaching of slaves, unlike that of free workers, with the training of wild animals.”

None of this absolves from guilt the United States (or the British colonies that preceded independence): the institution of slavery wrecked the lives of millions. But the out-of context consideration of that guilt amounts to an irresponsible distortion of its essential nature and its extent. Of the estimated eleven to thirteen million human beings kidnapped from Africa and brought to the New World in the 400 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, less than 5% of them went to the British colonies in mainland North America. In other words, some nineteen out of twenty slaves were shipped to the West Indies and Latin America, not to the future United States.

What is obscenely, pathetically humorous, is that Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), who introduced the House resolution, is running against Nikki Tinker, a black American, in a mostly black district of Memphis.

Also blogging: Further Adventures of Indigo Red

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