by Cato Rand
I guess great minds think alike or as others may say, fools seldom differ. But I agree wholeheartedly with the views expressed by George Mason University Professor of Economics, Walter Williams in his column What you can’t Say of October 24th, 2012 posted on Townhall.com.
I think too many persons – and us Blacks in particular – have looked at slavery wrongly. Slavery has been a part of the human condition for millennia and is certainly not a violation of individual rights that is unique to people of African ancestry. Probably the brutality of the Atlantic slave trade exceeded that of slavery elsewhere, but I do think things are more nuanced than many commentators would wish to admit. Maybe what was unique is that people from one part of the world – that is Europe – enslaved others a continent way; and probably even that could be disputed since Arabs from the Middle East were enslaving sub Saharan Africans for some time before Caucasians got in on the act. I certainly think it’s wrong to conclude that racism was the motivation behind the Atlantic Slave Trade. These Europeans wanted cheap labor for their plantations in the New World, and West Africa became a prime source (the largest and closest source) of slaves where slave trading was in practice before they got there.
We Blacks however – aided and abetted by ‘White Guilt’ – have often portrayed slavery as if it were some unique experience and that we have been irreparably harmed. I guess its a manifestation of the collectivist worldview that Black persons in 2013 could be suffering what some of our ancestors were subjected to centuries ago and persons of European ancestry should be held responsible for the actions of their forefathers. I do not agree with these sentiments. If I killed someone today, should I alone be penalized? Or could my son and daughter who were not even alive when I committed this act be subjected to some penalty? I cannot see how that makes sense.
Too many of us Blacks walk around with a badge of victimhood. I am not saying we should in any way forget what happened, but we need to move on and try and take advantage of living in this part of the world. Too many of us blame our present day relative lack of progress and prosperity on slavery, rather than accepting responsibility for our actions or lack of action.
I have read articles in our local newspapers over the years attributing our country’s poor economic performance as a legacy slavery (or colonialism). Similarly our high murder rate and relatively large number of children born out of wedlock. The irresponsibility of so many of our fathers is all a result of slavery. This I must say is faulty thinking as our murder rate and number of children born out of wedlock, were much lower decades ago – chronologically closer to slavery. It boggles my mind that these maladies should be increasing as we move away from slavery, yet were caused by slavery. On another note, we had one of our medical doctors advancing arguments that our present prowess in sprinting has something to do with the slave trade. The reasoning was along the lines that persons with genes that code for proteins that can result in the bearer being a top sprinter, were able to survive the horrific conditions in the bowels of slave ships and because of this selective advantage, these genes were transmitted to their progeny.
The arguments seem a bit far-fetched. I wonder how it is that these slaves who could sprint were caught in the first place? I guess all they had was a burst of speed and catching slaves was more akin to middle distance running or a marathon (which is an East African strength, mind you). Let’s for argument sake say that those who caught slaves were faster, and the ‘slower’ caught West Africans were shipped over to the Caribbean. Shouldn’t present day West Africans be faster than today’s Caribbean sprinters? Also, comparing the distances of West Africa /Jamaica and West Africa/ South America, it would seem to me that sprinters from say Brazil should outperform our sprinters. And where are the sprinters from Columbia? As that country has the largest percentage of African descendants among South American nations. I will briefly digress and descend to the ridiculous to blame our poor governance on the slave trade – I proffer a new theory, that it was mainly the ʻnot too sharp of mindʼ slaves that were caught and our politicians are descendants of these salves.
We also have some intellectual featherweights demanding reparations. Not one of us present day Blacks were slaves – so why do we deserve money? Now just in case money does become available, let me state that I want my ʻlittle muchʼ in my hand. I will not support any lump sum being paid over to the Government, as we know that money will just be wasted. Another reason why I want my share in hand is that I will be boarding a plane to West Africa and making a donation to the first child I encounter in the streets. He/she – not I – has been the true victim. By any measure of quality of life – for example infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, literacy rate, life expectancy at birth, per capita income – the average person in any country of West Africa is decidedly worse off than the average person in Jamaica. Add to those statistics the blood-curdling practice of female circumcision and we should all be happy that we are on this side of the Atlantic.
What has become of that Reparation Committee put together by the previous government and charged with the task of demanding reparations for people of African descent from European countries, specifically England? How about we ʻdance a yard before we dance abroadʼ? There are a few extremely wealthy Jamaican families – two come to mind immediately – whose present day fortune can be attributed primarily to the plantations of yesteryear. Maybe we should look about confiscating some of their ill-gotten wealth and handing it over to poor Black Jamaicans.
Let me state categorically that slavery was a gross violation of individual rights and I am not in any way trying to rationalize such gratuitous injustice but we must be nimble enough of mind to realize that for present day Jamaicans, the consequence of slavery has been more of a positive than a negative – and I don’t think its even close. Let us commit ourselves to use the opportunity of being born in this part of the world to so ascend the heights of human endeavors, that our ancestors who survived being chained cheek to jowl in almost hermetically sealed ship compartments can eventually be smiling and saying their sufferings were not in vain.
Cato Rand is a Black Jamaican of Libertarian and Conservative persuasion. He is a fervent believer in Capitalism, Freedom and the principles outlined by the US Constitution and it being applicable to all peoples, including Jamaicans. He is a strong advocate for the limited role that a government should play in the lives of people.