Slavery — A frank conversation

Introduction

Odious.  Hated.  Vile.  Loathsome.  Detestable.  Abominable.  These words describe slavery — the brutal and immoral practice of forcing someone into servitude.  In the official definition of slavery, the editors of dictionaries, and many scholars, attempt to expand our understanding by writing such things as, “For hundreds of years in the United States, wealthy landowners benefitted from the institution of slavery, which forced millions of Africans to work their entire lives on giant farms.  The practice of slavery finally ended in the U.S. after the Civil War.  The word slavery comes from the Latin word sclava (Slavonic Captive), referring to the 9th Century A.D. enslavement of Slavonic people — later coming to mean anyone in captivity, not just Slavs.”

Well, there it is — one of the best examples of intellectual dishonesty I could find.  The editors told us some truth but somehow managed to omit around 5,000 years of human history, choosing as their example a relatively brief period of infamy in the United States.  Human bondage has been a fact of life since humankind first began walking upright.  Everyone was susceptible to enslavement; skin color didn’t matter.  Some scholars contend that even considering the 25 or so million Africans enslaved, brutalized, or killed by their enslavers, it is still likely that more non-black people have suffered the indignity and horror of slavery than Africans.  In my mind, the point is moot.  Slavery is slavery.  By the way, the Roman word for a slave was “servus.”  It’s time for a reality check: nearly every ancient society had a bonded class of people living in their midst.

Antiquity

Human beings may have begun their movement toward civilized behavior around 4,000 B.C., but that doesn’t suggest they were civilized back then.  Besides, human groups are still butchering one another six thousand years later.   One ancient practice was that at the end of a battle, to settle the matter of enemy survivors, the victors had two options: he could put an enemy survivor to death, or he could enslave his POW.

This was not a case of being “mean.”  It was a practical solution to the question of what to do with an enemy soldier who remained alive after the battle.  Putting someone to death was the easiest and most expedient solution to the problem.  If an enemy were enslaved, there would be costs associated with feeding, clothing, and sheltering the slave.  In all likelihood, given a choice in the matter, the prisoner would probably opt for bondage.  I now think of a comedy routine I once saw Eddy Izzard perform: “Will you have cake or death?”

Numerous forms of slavery existed throughout the world long before the so-called Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in the mid-to-late 1500s.  Slavery was so prevalent, scholars tell us, that almost all human groups on earth have, at one time or another, been either slaves or slave masters.  Slavery was prevalent in many west and central African societies before Europeans entered the slave trade because it was politically and economically practical to conquer, coopt, or enslave a tribal competitor.  Slaveholding societies existed throughout ancient Africa; their status as slave-holding states provided power and influence over other nearby communities.  In these early times, such concepts as unified black racial identity or individual freedom and labor rights simply didn’t exist.  Europeans measured their wealth by land ownership; Africans measured wealth in slave ownership (and cattle).  The African’s value of enslaved people first brought black-skinned laborers to the attention of Portuguese traders in the sixteenth century — but long before the Europeans, there were Arab slave traders.

Fractured History

Nearly every discussion in the United States over the past 80 years has been centered on the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, focusing on slavery in the United States.  It is an intentionally fractured history — and, I believe, for nefarious purposes.  No one is quicker to underline the role of American and European slave merchants than America’s white liberals and black rednecks (with apologies to Dr. Thomas Sowell).  Of course, much of what these people are saying is true, but it isn’t the complete picture of slave history.  The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade did happen, but what also happened was the Sub-Saharan Slave Trade and Trans-Saharan Slave Trade — on a much larger scale for a much longer period of time.

For over thirteen centuries, African villages were the regular target of Arab and African slave hunters.  These men made their living by attacking, capturing, transporting, and selling African men and women into slavery.  Within those 1,300 years, Arab and African slavers kidnapped, transported, and sold an estimated 17-million men, women, and children.  We know this through the work of several scholars, including Dr. Salah Trabelsi, a scholar affiliated with the UNESCO Slave Route Project, and Dr. Tidiane N’Diave, a Senegalese anthropologist and author of The Veiled Genocide — so titled because it deals with criminal slavery so well-concealed from almost everyone since the 9th century A.D.

The Veiled Genocide occurred when enterprising Arab merchants and intermediaries, working in league with African Moslems, created a vibrant slave trade in Zanzibar, in East Africa.  African Moslems traveling in armed bands traveled throughout the east, central, and west Africa, attacking and kidnapping African men, women, and children to become human chattel.  Once captured, they would be lashed together and transported overland to Zanzibar, where they would be sold or traded and shipped to Oman, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria.  These slave hunters only assaulted non-Islamic tribes and villages.

The actual movement of captives overland to Zanzibar often took three or more months under inhumane conditions.  Scholars argue that hundreds of thousands of African prisoners died along the route.  Dr. N’Diave claims that half of the 17-million captives died en route.  Dr. Trabelsi disputes that claim — but that’s what social scientists do: they refute one another.

Europeans, primarily responsible for the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, were interested in strongly built young men who could stand up to the field labor on Portuguese, Spanish, and later, British, and American farms and plantations.  Not so with Arab/Muslim slavers.  They did take young men, but they focused their efforts on capturing young women and girls, who they sold as sexual objects.  So high was the demand for these women that merchants doubled their price — the ratio of demand for women was 3 to 1.

Arab slavers wanted men, too, but they didn’t want them reproducing and despoiling the Arab gene pool, so soon after capturing African men, the Arabs castrated them — both men and boys.  Many of these African men bled to death.  According to Professor Liberty Mukomo, a historian at the University of Nairobi Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, “The practice of castrating black male slaves in the most inhumane manner possible altered an entire generation of Africans because they could not reproduce, you see.  Instead, their Arab masters sired children with the enslaved Black women, making their offspring half Arab.  This devastation among the men resulted in high rates of suicide among those who survived castration.”

Even after the United States ended slavery in 1865, Arab countries continued kidnapping and enslaving Africans well into the 21st century.  In other words, Arab kidnapping continues to this very day.  “Even as the rest of the world realized the harm slavery did to an entire (African) continent and made a declaration to abolish it (in the 1990s), the Arabs persisted in kidnapping and enslaving Africans.  What the Arabs have done to Africans is far worse than anything that came out of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade,” said Dr. Mukomo.

Why are white liberals and black activists in the United States lying about African slavery?

The psychology of Slavery

Although a detestable subject, there is peculiar psychology associated with human bondage that we should understand.  Who among any ancient society could respect a man or a woman who allowed themselves to be placed into bondage?  The answer is, “No one.”  It did not matter if these people were prisoners of war sold into bondage or men and women kidnapped from their home villages; if they did not fight well enough to remain free — or find sweet death, they deserved no respect from anyone.  Those were the attitudes of people looking at and regarding enslaved people as low creatures.  Some believe such things even today.  There are caste social systems throughout the Middle East, in China, Southeast Asia, Bengal, Pakistan, India, and cultures derived from Spanish societies — where those at the top of pyramidal structures lack any compassion for those below them.

What must it take from us to be the owner of slaves?  It must be similar to the way two enemies view each other or how Germans looked at the Jews, whom they oppressed.  People say that there is no place on earth where people hold others in less regard than in India.  I don’t know.  I would think that the Vietnamese would give Indians a run for their money — and maybe Rwandans.

In 1975, Dr. Albert Bandura of Stanford, a psychologist, concluded, through research, that dehumanizing others would eventually lead to an increase in aggressive behavior.  Bandura’s theory proved to be accurate.  A sense of superiority does lead to abusive behavior.  Dr. Bandura concluded that dehumanizing enslaved people created a mental “loophole” allowing slaveholders to justify their actions — by thinking that enslaved human beings were no better than animals, they somehow convinced themselves that brutal behavior was in the best interest of the slave.  Remarkably, over time, the slaves also accepted that same conclusion.

Slavery was evil, but it was not done for malicious purposes.  It was done for business … which is why it lasted as long as it did.  Slave owners believed that the economic stability of the south depended on slavery.  They were correct.  Slavery wasn’t the business — it was only a means to an end; slaves were merely tools for getting business done.[1]

Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo (1933-) is a professor emeritus at Stanford University, the psychologist responsible for the Stanford Prison Experiment (1971), and the author of The Lucifer Effect.[2]  For the prison experiment, Zimbardo assigned paid volunteers to play either inmates or guards in a simulated prison (in the basement of the Stanford Psychology Department).  After a few days, the guards became increasingly cruel toward their prisoners, and the captives became more compliant and miserable.  Dr. Zimbardo wanted the experiment to last a few weeks, but unseemly behavior escalated so quickly that Zimbardo ended it in only five days.  Zimbardo’s experiment illustrated how easily people could become abusive under the right circumstances.  Hearkening back to slavery, slaveholders were brutal toward their slaves because they could behave in such ways and get away with it.  Few hesitated to use physical violence if it suited them.  He concluded, “The line between good and evil is permeable, and almost anyone can be induced to cross it when pressured by situational forces.”

There is no question that the African slave trade (all of it) was a stain upon humanity.  We can certainly revile the slaveowner, the buyer, seller, trader, transporter, and the hunter — all of whom played a role in that contemptible institution but let us not overlook those who turned a blind eye to it.  The northern gentlemen and their ladies may not have owned slaves or had any part in that vile activity, but many of them did employ (and abuse) indentured servants — nor would they stop to speak to a negro they happened to pass on the street.[3]  Ignoring people is no crime; it is only a discourtesy. 

Still, most Americans never owned slaves and never participated in any of its moving parts at any period of American history.  There are, however, a few notable Americans whose ancestors did own slaves: Newsreader Anderson Cooper, Senator Mitt Romney, Pastor Rick Warren, and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama among them — but none of these people deserve criticism for something that happened a hundred or so years before they were born.  I direct this statement to the morons who are intent on making African slavery an issue for the modern-day — as if it somehow matters today why or whether Thomas Jefferson owned slaves.

Racialism is a learned behavior.  We know this because children play well together up to a certain age.  At some point, though, children learn about certain social protocols — no matter where they are in the world — that tend to separate children into their “generally accepted” social position.  Children come by this information from their parents, other significant adults, or peers.  It is a factor suggesting that if there is a racialist problem within human societies (and I think there is), then it isn’t a problem relegated simply to whites or blacks, or any other racial group — it is a problem affecting every racial group.  If people are honest, then everyone should acknowledge it.

For most of history, people looked upon slavery as a human condition — as the luck of the draw.  Whether a slave or an enslaver or a member of the slave owner’s family, one looked upon the slave population as people fulfilling their destinies.  If one happened to be a slave, they either hated their tyrant master (in the same way people “hate” their disciplinarian parent) or loved their benevolent one dearly.  We should lament the institution of slavery, but I am not convinced that every owner of slaves was an evil person.  Some were, of course, as demonstrated by their vile treatment of others — but shall we condemn the compassionate slaveowner along with the horrid abuser, rapist, deeply troubled slaver?  If we do that, how far in the past must we go to find healing?  Perhaps it is time to bury the past and focus more on the present.

The Present

But we are talking about slavery and the subjugation and ill-treatment of around 100-million human beings over the past 1,300 years.  In slavery, skin color did not matter — it only made slavery easier.  In some parts of the world, blacks were slaveowners.  But no matter who “did it,” slavery remained a fact of life in the United States until civilized people decided that enough was enough.  In 1860, Americans decided that slavery would not stand.  After four years of a bloody war, it did not stand.

If my reader has intense feelings about the slavery of the past, then what must they think about slavery in the present?  If the reader believes that slavery no longer exists — that it is a thing of the past, they are sadly mistaken.  Slavery continues to torment us — and it is as repugnant today as it was at any time in the past.

The modern variant of human exploitation is closer to home than many of us might imagine.   Slave labor makes the clothing we wear, the shoes we tie on our feet, and it sows, reaps, bundles, cans, and transports the food we put inside our bellies.  Slaves also work in our homes, care for our children, and collect and remove our trash — but worst of all, modern slaves perform sexual services for our most decadent citizens.  Some of these slaves are still children.

According to the United Nations, there are forty million slaves in the world today.  Twenty-five percent of them are children.  Nearly 65% of all slaves are women and young girls.  Where will we find these people?  Look around.  They are child laborers, prostitutes, drug mules, transporters of human chattel, and regular-looking people who wait at your table while they pay off a family debt.  They are the child brides and concubines of wealthy Arabs and Asian businessmen.  They are Africans, Caucasians, Asians, Middle Easterners, Aboriginals, and Islanders.

My question for the white liberals and black rednecks is, why aren’t you upset about modern slavery?

Endnotes:

[1] See also Maya Koomans, How Slave Owners Justified Dehumanizing Acts, A Psychological Perspective, Grin eBook 243.295 (2020).

[2] Dr. Zimbardo’s book The Lucifer Effect (2007) was a report of the prison experiment.

[3] Two-thirds of the people who migrated to Britain’s American colonies did so as indentured servants. 


12 thoughts on “Slavery — A frank conversation

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  1. I’ll be surprised if liberals don’t burn you at the stake for failing to sufficiently condemn their “hysterical” version of the practice of slavery. This piece attacks the central tenant upon which their sacred religion of oppression/victimhood is based…. that only European white devils are to blame. Let the public shaming begin! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the head’s up, FJ … I’ve broken out the air-cooled 30’s and set in my perimeter. You can lead a moron to water, but you can’t make him drink. Or was that a horse? But even if the Arab trade never existed and there was only the Trans-Atlantic route to moan about, my question remains germane: who really cares 150 or more years after the fact? Well, I guess I mean “who really cares that isn’t looking for a reparations payment?” In any case, for those paying attention, a clear majority of those twelve million poor trans-Atlantic souls went to Spanish and Portuguese America.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A sense of superiority does lead to abusive behavior. Dr. Bandura concluded that dehumanizing enslaved people created a mental “loophole” allowing slaveholders to justify their actions — by thinking that enslaved human beings were no better than animals, they somehow convinced themselves that brutal behavior was in the best interest of the slave. Remarkably, over time, the slaves also accepted that same conclusion.

    The human mind is certainly capable of deception. In the words of Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

    The question posited at the end of this thorough essay is an important one: My question for the white liberals and black rednecks is, why aren’t you upset about modern slavery? Perhaps a liberal will come along here to address it. We shall see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The human mind is certainly capable of deception. In the words of Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

      The idea that men would treat each other so inhumanely regardless of race, religion, or culture is reprehensible.

      Like

      1. One of the very first things written down after mankind had perfected record-keeping was their ethical beliefs. It is from these writings that we know the ancients gave some thought to ethics. The earliest of these were lists of precepts that students must memorize. No, not the Greeks; the Egyptians — 3,000 years before the Christian Era. But if we skip forward through time, we will end up in Greece and we’ll find that arguably the greatest philosophers believed that slavery was part of nature: there were two kinds of people — slaves and non-slaves. “For that, some should rule, and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.” Natural slaves, he argued, were slaves because their souls weren’t complete and because they lacked the ability to think properly. They needed “masters” to tell them what to do. Aristotle may have thought that the use made of slaves and of tame animals is not much different — “for both with their bodies minister to the needs of life.”

        Plato also believed that it was right for the “better” to rule over the “inferior.”

        So, as you can see, whether you agree with it or not, such attitudes that you find reprehensible were a fact of life in the ancient world and — as I have said in this essay — in the modern world, as well.

        Jesus of Nazareth spoke of slaves, albeit using different terminology: servant (servus) is substituted for slave, along with “prodigal son,” “unforgiving tenant,” and “tenant farmers.” See Matthew 18:21-35 for the unmerciful servant. Paul’s Epistles state, “Slaves, be obedient to your human masters with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ.”

        Common sense tells us that we should treat others as we, ourselves, want to be treated.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. The Left seems to love to issue sweeping phrases like ‘HUNDREDS of years”….by the time slavery was over, we hadn’t even been a country for HUNDREDS of years!

    The Left has to constantly slam America….and ignore the true evils of the rest of the world.
    This strikes me as similar to how the Left has the nerve to blame America for climate change when we’re probably the cleanest country, while China and India and plenty of others spew into the atmosphere but get little or no criticism at all!

    Excellent article here, Layla!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have a keen eye, Z. Well done recognizing the “hundreds of years.” As to the “millions of slaves,” there were only 700,000 slaves in the United States in 1790 … so where do you think the “millions” came from? Canada? Some leftist’s pea-sized brain?

      Like

  4. Excellent.

    Typically, these moslem raiders would castrate their captives en route so it was done outside of Muslim territory. Hideous. Lady Florence Baker, herself enslaved and raised in a muslim harem and sold off at 14, recalled the story of her personal eunuch. He was a Dinka who was captured at 6 when he was alone tending his father’s goats in a remote field. Can you imagine the terror, the anguish?

    Yes, slavery was done for business. The Vikings set in motion a western/global transformation from Bagdad to North America. They once terrorized Paris in their Viking longboats, and Christian churchmen prayed “Lord, save us from the North Men!” when their dreadful sails rose on the horizon. They were also the slavers of their day, bagging defenseless villagers across Europe and what is now Russia (which they settled) to trade into Constantinople for the splendors of the Ottomans. (The Arab traders thought they were “as tall as date palms”)

    Squanto was sold in that mega slave market in Malaga, Spain, right down there across from North Africa.

    AOW links to one of my favorite books. White Gold tells “The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam’s One Million White Slaves.” The Arabs were BIG in this business, raiding as far as Ireland for slaves.

    Seems like from Egypt to Islam a certain part of the world had a tremendous appetite for slaves! Or maybe it’s just that there is so much recorded history in this region.

    You mention indentured servants. Those were the first in servitude in north America. The problem was they came with an expiration date. Commonly, in 5 years you had to left them go with certain basic provisions specified by contract. There was no way to enforce such contracts in 1650, and it was abused. Permanent slaves offered a less fussy arrangement.

    Great point Z. More like 200 years. But then the left tacks on extra time for bad behavior. Jim Crow, etc.

    By the way, a bigger question is “why do you say slavery is wrong?” Do you believe in God or his law (thou shalt not steal) as an absolute higher truth that informs our behavior and with the power and will to reward or punish our behavior? OK. You can complain about slavery. If you’re on the left, you more likely believe in your own “truth” independent of a higher authority which you dismiss as a fairy tale. What gives you the basis for saying slavery is wrong? Your feelings? What about mine? It’s wrong for YOU babe! Not for the merchant making big bucks off of it. If God is not sovereign.

    CODA: If you believe a higher power to whom you are obligated says “don’t steal” and you do, therein is our sin. For a nation to collectively acknowledge they are under a higher authority who says “don’t steal” and then go out and steal – that’s not good. I want to hear lefties carry their arguments to their logical conclusion. Then start bitchin’ about it everywhere today where you might make a difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Here’s a practical application for today’s world. The bible says “the borrower is slave to the lender.” That makes higher education a major enslaver today. It’s an asymmetrical application of power too, as the “lender” (banksters and universities in tandem) has far superior force, strength, knowledge and experience than the stupid 18-year old twit signing away his future.

    The answer (for the stupid twit in the WH) is NOT make the taxpayers pay for it. Nooo, no. That just shifts the enslavement from the stupid 18-year old to uninvolved 3rd parties – even worse! “Make” universities make education affordable again. I have ideas. But I wanted to keep this short and pithy.

    Like

  6. MUSTANG….I just read your piece again. Excellent. I wanted to add how I knew a family from S Africa, a White couple. They had been raised with ‘slaves’ on their family’s farms….those ‘slaves’ were like family and, when Apartheid ended, they were told by society to GET OUT OF THERE…LEAVE THOSE OPPRESSORS. THey didn’t want to leave, they loved the family. They begged to stay and did. It was like here, too, with some slaves…families were kind. In fact, some families gave land to their slaves to farm themselves; not a lot, but sufficient. It is always a horror to think of people in servitude…Many weren’t, actually.

    Like

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