As an historian, I assure you little of what you write here is unknown or unstudied by American and European historians. Study is not the issue. The issue is translating such study into understanding by ordinary Americans, into actionable legislation that could address some of these consequences in the world today, and into better preparation for historians just beginning their careers. I began my career teaching high school history. On the first day of class in my first year of teachi…
Or, the even bigger issue is confronting the extraordinary mountains of denial that most most Americans, both black and white, have constructed regarding the existence of the institution of slavery and its transformation over the years.
The only people brave enough to confront this history, on both sides, are the intellectuals — and we are in the minority, human population wise.
I know that I have attempted to get African-Americans to confront the brutality of the institution of slavery in order to get them to consider their part in its constant recreation (inside family structures, for example. I battle this within my own African-American family.)
It is a battle that other intellectuals have told is pointless to pursue. Most African-Americans refuse to consider the history of slavery at all, much less how the ramifications of it that affect us to this day. My sister says, its because no one has time, for this endeavor as most African-Americans are simply trying to survive.
I find white American denial of existence of slavery utterly astounding and perplexing! I want to scream at some whites that I encounter on social media, you cannot possibly be this stupid. You cannot possibly sit her and pretend that there is no racism in America, that it is not deeply institutionalized, that it does not impact every facet of American society and politics and economy…and yet they do. Intelligent intellectuals even, Steve McGrath, Svetlana Voreskova, (some how accuse this article of being Marxist propaganda, and she’s a historian herself and she’s not even American. Certainly therein lies the problem, and I have pointed that out to her.)
I just discovered, (a product of American slavery) that my DNA traces back to West Africa (45%) and the British Isles (47%). It’s an unremarkable combination. Most African Americans have a west-African and European combination, though not necessarily in those percentages.
I feel pretty evenly divided, actually, between the white and the black of me. I have always joked that I have way too much European DNA to be able to play jacks or jump double Dutch, and turns out I was right.
Any way, I feel strongly that both white and black Americans need to come to terms with the absolute diabolical horrors of slavery, and the brutal, bloody, price we have paid for it as a nation. It’s important, because slavery is still in existence today, it never really left, and the prison industrial complex is just an industrial version of a plantation.
Now whites are also getting sucked into the brutal system, that was never ever really about race or skin color, but all about class and economics.
European history speaks volumes about where the brutality of American slavery was born — which is not here in America, but in the British isles. The English had been torturing the Scottish and Irish for centuries, far before they even knew of the existence of West Africans. This is also something that most American whites tend to be in deep denial about, how horrific and brutally Europeans have treated other Europeans. But Game of Thrones is absolutely my favorite show, because in that land of fantasy, there is a whole lot of truth, about European history. (Except there were no dragons, what a pity, all GoT fans love those dragons!)
But no most whites don’t want to revisit these truths, I believe, out of fear, even though, I think that we all know our own histories, instinctively. I think memories reside in our DNA.
Europeans fear facing the truth about the brutality of their European experiences, definitely don’t want to go back to any of those. I believe they are deeply and Instinctively cognizant of how they have benefited greatly from using black, brown and native Americans as a buffer to the treatment that they used to be the recipients of. (Better us than them. I imagine they reflect. Instinctively, they know, what it’s like to live with the fear of seeing a head on a spike. Who does that? Europeans. this is a history White Americans do not want to face.)
Sadly, I can relate to European brutality. I feel like I know where it comes from and what its about. Also, sadly I do not relate as much to my West African cultural norms, as they exist in African-American culture. These norms are more about the tribe (the extended family) and creativity. These things are very important to us, and mainstream American power structures realized this and have attacked these things that mean so much to us ruthlessly.
This is partly because mainstream American culture does not value, or even begin to understand these cultural norms, which are far less linear, hierarchical or patriarchal. European patriarchy is extremely threatened by African matriarchy…as I write this I wonder, what is it with white men they they don’t seem to value their mothers or their sisters? Well, sadly the attack on our culture has weakened the family structure, yet and still Big Mas are everywhere and STILL keeping families together.
Matriarchs are very important in African-American culture. Everyone has a Big Ma, and if they don’t, they’re in trouble. I don’t think white Americans have Big Mas…or can even begin to understand the concept. Olena Tyrell is sort of a Big Ma, but not really.
But because I grew up in African -American culture, I have enjoyed it, or certain facets of it, far more than I have enjoyed mainstream American culture, which in comparison is shallow, vapid, boring, stale and stifling. Things only get interesting when white Americans practice their cultures from countries of origins. Italians have flavor, as do Jews. WASPs, not so much. Their lives are like wonder bread. Nourishing, I guess, but bland. I like Welsh Rarebit though.
Having participated in both cultures, being essentially of both cultures, I can speak to the huge disconnect between them. These cultures do not value the same things at all; and the White American/European response to this is the same as it ever was -violence.
African-Americans/ West Africans have their own response and it is creativity, which is quite extraordinary when you consider all of the violence we have been exposed to and continue to be exposed to during these past four centuries in America. It used to be the Scottish and the Irish were the British’s punching bag, but they all made their way over here, and perfected all that diabolical behavior on West African slaves, removed from their native lands, and therefore had no way to fight back, militarily. And so African-Americans have fought back with creativity — and it’s a creativity that has influenced the entire world. Jazz and Hip-Hop? These art forms are known throughout the world.
Well I digress. I wanted to thank you for making the points above. Although, I clearly think that no black or white Americans are ready to entertain these ideas — well I take that back, Black Americans are more than willing to entertain the idea of reparations, which of course make most white Americans want to internally combust its rage. They have their reasons, but largely these reasons are built on lies or at best a gross misunderstanding of the institution of slavery and America’s history. America has a debt to African-American, (and many other) slaves. To not pay that debt? To not even acknowledge it? It’s going to come due, it’s already come due. That’s why we are living through these times and this discord. A lot of bills are due, and America just does not want to pay, any of them.