What about African America’s debt?: Time to tell the vocal charlatans to shut up
We have recently been subjected to a lot of noise regarding the prickly issue of reparations, money to be paid to the offspring of the American slave experience – as little as two weeks ago California Governor Gray Davis established common cause with the most extreme forces in this movement.
Leaders from Jesse Jackson to Kweisi Mfume have demanded that, because of the despicable nature of slavery, money must change hands in similar manner to the plus $1 billion that was paid to square the moral account regarding the Japanese internment during WWII.
A little mining of the historical record reveals that the first Black slaves were brought to America in 1619 and the practice of keeping humans on this continent as legally provided for chattel continued until 1865 – a time span of 246 years.
Until Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the history of humanity – as far back as records exist – is commingled with an element of slavery.
The Bible acknowledges its existence, as does the Koran. It existed at the height of Greek achievement and throughout the Roman Empire.
Slavery was omnipresent, and not just Black slavery, as Caucasian slaves – especially the musically gifted and comely women – from as far away as Russian Georgia, were sold into slavery throughout the Ottoman Empire.
For 600 years, in the period before the arrival of the Europeans, it was the Islamic world that established the slave trading routes which laced across the African continent – slaves either captured in raids or paid to various sultans as tribute, as was the case in the African Nubian kingdom.
The aforementioned history lesson is not offered as a defense against the indefensible – it is a simple statement of fact – against which our little essay plays.
What was life like as a “free” African?
The short answer was, pretty horrendous, like much of the rest of the world at that time, however Africa was afflicted with a killer combination of inhospitable climates and traditional deadly maladies of malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia and diarrheal disease which made life especially precarious.
Tribal warfare also was an ever-present danger, one only has to examine the brief brutal history of Shaka Zulu and his bloody campaigns against his neighbors and finally his own increasingly malevolent actions against his own people which resulted in his assassination at the hands of his half brothers.
Life in much of Africa is still very hard today, probably harder in comparison with the rest of the world than was the case before the arrival of the Europeans.
Savage tribal warfare still exists [Hutus and Tutsis for example] now empowered by modern weaponry, totalitarian dictatorships abound, and then there is the terrible additional burden of AIDS which has reduced average life expectancy in Africa to less than 50 years – the worst, by far, in the world.
So we are left this contrast between a very hard “old world” and a seemingly even harsher “new world”
Some additional facts to put this in perspective:
The majority of slaves were brought to America between 1720 and 1780, by the time of the Civil War the institution of slavery had already weathered at least 5 generations.
25% of White Southern families owned slaves, the overwhelming majority owning but few – 2.8% of slave owners accounted for 25% of the total number of slaves held.
Approximately 4,000 free Blacks, themselves owned slaves
Was life as a slave hard?
Absolutely, but so was life in rural America.
Was the life of the average slave one of brutalization?
Slaves were valuable property and a very important part of the means of production, certainly brutality existed, but mistreatment made as little sense as the abuse of anything instrumental to putting bread on the table.
Does this ignore the moral dimension of owning another human, no, but it is important to look at this objectively.
Historical revisionism aside, the de-facto result of the Civil War was the death of American slavery, the price?
558,000 killed, 375,000 wounded, that is 933,000 either killed or wounded – approximately 1 out of every 20 Americans living at the time – a staggering figure.
And the economic price was also unfathomable – $5.2 billion [in 1990 dollars] expended.
Now, in today’s multi-trillion dollar economy $5.2 billion seems like chump change, but consider the fact that in 1860 the entire Federal Budget was only $74,000,000. As further perspective understand that in 1861 our entire national debt was $90,581,000 and that by 1866 it had swelled to $2,773,236,000 – totally as a result of the war.
Taken together the Civil War cost over 70 times what the, then current, federal budget expenditure figure was. It increased the national debt by a factor of 3000% in 5 years!
The grimmest consideration regarding the above statistics is that they do not include the loss of earning power to families from the dead and wounded, the terrible property destruction, the loss in civil liberties [Habeas Corpus, for example] which were necessary to prosecute the war, and the inflationary destabilizing effects brought about by the huge expenditures – not to mention the very real and bitter hurt still felt, palpably and predominantly, in the South because of the war.
Enough about this mostly distant past – fast forward to the ‘50s and ‘60s, a time of revived concern over the status of Black Americans, especially in the South under oppressive jack-booted Democrat administrations.
The development of the modern Civil Rights movement is fascinating and wholly in keeping with the inherent goodness of the American people – in this case Blacks and concerned Whites joining hands to battle the vestiges of established, codified racialism, namely segregation and anti-Black poll practices.
The Civil Rights Act, passed by the power of Republican idealism, promised a color blind society, and close on the heels of this pivotal piece of legislation came Lyndon Johnson’s mammoth Great Society, firmly establishing the big government, top down, command economy model – yet another propitiation offered at the footstep slavery.
The price tag of the Great Society is still being computed, as many of the inefficient feel good programs created in its wake still exist – let’s take a conservative figure, say $6 Trillion dollars – which just happens to be the size of our current national debt. Now of course not all of it represents direct transfer payments to Black America but it is hard to envision this huge alphabet soup concoction getting passed without the moralistic fervor surrounding the desire to finally put slavery behind us.
So what validity do the claims of modern day race baiters have?
Not much in our opinion.
America’s moral outrage destroyed, once and for all, the underpinnings of slavery worldwide. There is simply no historical equivalent, anywhere in the world, to the effort that has been made to address the wrongs of slavery in the United States.
We have shed the blood of nearly 1 million combatants, ordered federal troops into racial “hot-spots”, supported far-reaching legislation, given preferences based on color to those who were seen as victims of slavery, spent probably in excess of $6 trillion dollars in a vain attempt to improve their quality of life, all in an effort to make amends.
The most poverty stricken African American lives like a prince compared to his peers in Africa – his standard of living is much elevated as is access to health care, education and all of the opportunities afforded all in this great free land. He never has to deal with being hacked to death but a warring Tutsi or contracting Ebola.
His chances of being eaten alive by a lion or a crocodile are nill, and even if poor – a relative term – he still most likely owns two color television sets and a car.
An ever present bitching – ingratitude to a degree that would be unthinkable were it not for our constantly being reminded of it by shucking and jiving pimps who use it for self promotion and as a fundraising tool. An entire industry has been created out of it allowing hucksters to blackmail US corporations for millions.
No currently living American has personally suffered the ill effects of slavery, no currently living American has ever owned a slave and the majority of slave importation took place over 250 years ago, what’s going on here?
How far back do you go?
To the Neanderthals who were shoved aside by the more wily Cro Magnon?
Once you embark down that road, there is no stopping and it is obvious that despite unprecedented efforts to assuage what are now only the hurt feelings of people who have been programmed to view themselves solely as victims the effort has fallen on ears deafened by hate – hate engendered by the likes of married faux “Reverends” who impregnate staff members then use tax exempt funds to shut them up.
The time has long past for the majority in this society to tell these relatively few but vocal charlatans to shut the hell up and start working for it like everyone else – the price has been paid in extremis – you owe us.