As the movement for Trans-Atlantic slavery reparations gathers steam, the opposition is busy waging a strategic battle for the sub-consciousness of slavery’s victims.
Reels of film are being thrown into production to depict Africa’s part in the slave trade. Beautifully shot, their point is clear and simplistic: Africans sold Africans in slavery. There is no discussion of European guilt or responsibility, instead their plots go straight to the point and blame the victims.
The latest film inflicting this ‘blame the victim syndrome’ on our collective consciousness is the Swiss produced “Adanggaman” distributed in the U.S. by New York Films. Frankly, this film has no relevance outside of being a conduit for an idea which, left un-discussed will ‘guilt trip’ slavery’s victims into renouncing their due reparations.
The question then is not whether Africans are responsible for their own slavery, but who were these alleged Africans who sold other Africans in slavery, and how can we understand their identities today?
Psychoanalysts agree that in order to inflict misfortune upon another, it is essential to see oneself as separate and different from one’s victim. This also rang true in 17th century Africa-and Africa today. If Africans were caught and sold in slavery, it was not by people who regarded themselves as the same Africans. The Swiss production and others like it deliberately omit the presence of cultural ascendancies and politics at play in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. By oversimplifying the African context, they fall into that racist mold which denies Africans a history of society, commerce and imperfect humanity at work.
As Englishmen enslaved their own and fellow Europeans to achieve the aims of their Christian crusade in the 11th century, so too did the ‘African’ under the aegis of Islam. As Italy’s liaison with Nazi Germany bloodied its history for the sake of commerce and political power, so too did the kings of Dahomey with the Portuguese in the 17th century. Africans who craftily speared themselves the middle passage are no different from their political and social counterparts elsewhere in the world or history. All are given to exchange and discourse leading to selfish survival and domination as opportunity and circumstances may arise.
These Africans that supposedly sold Africans in slavery can be further understood in the modern context by shaking open almost any daily newspaper. If silence is still consent, then the world has sanctioned the new ‘slave-catchers’ in the form of ‘recruiters’, free-zone bosses, multi-national agents and our own black Third World politicians. All are engaged in rounding up our best and brightest and employing them in the pursuit of other nation’s pleasures and prosperity-without a living wage, a.k.a. “pay”.
The ‘African’ slave-catcher during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade barely differs from a Mobutu who had set Zairians to labor for European prosperity while fattening himself from crumbs of the deals. The Reverend Al Sharpton using race and Christianity to gather and subscribe blacks to a system that continues to use them to fill prison industrial complexes also bears the same stamp. Not to be excluded are the likes of the Jamaican Ministers Whiteman and Buchanan for having poor Jamaican teachers and farmers bonded and bound for the worst neighborhoods and circumstances in the United States to “work.” Even Angola’s Dos Santos is a prime example of a slave catcher. His traitorous deals with near convict Jean-Christophe Mitterrand (son of the late French Prime-Minister Franéoise Mitterrand) and the Israeli diamond cartel for arms, has only plunged his country deeper into a war towards his own political power. The reality is, most of these modern counterparts to the slave catchers of olde are educated in the best institutions of the U.S. or Europe and command their protection in one way or another.
Slave-catchers would have argued then-as they do now, that they were caught between a political rock and an economically hard place: having to do or be damned by inevitable encroaching superstructures. This may be true to some extent, but it is another unapologetic excuse of the shortsighted and vain.
If slave-catchers were people like us or any other falling prey to unethical short term survival strategies, then who should pay for slavery? The ones who call the tune of coarse: The economies of Europe and America. These economies are documented as guilty of manipulating the internal politics of Africa to channel labor and lives into the slave trade and the slave economies of the Americas, thus funding their current prosperity.
Las Casas and other great voices in the debate over a post-Amerindian labor supply made the choice of Africa no accident. Just as Europe and America used politics and commerce to impede black South African unity against apartheid in the 70s, so too did the ascendants of these nations in Africa during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
The willing executioners of Europe and America’s long-term master plans are not to be blamed in isolation for their crime of compliance. Nor should their folly be borne as guilt by African victims in the Diaspora. These ‘slave catchers’ did not see themselves as those they helped victimize. They saw themselves as on par and in tandem with their European allies who owned the forts, ships and plantations that housed the victims. They operated in concert with their dictating allies for the reward of survival, just as many Third-World and black Western leaders do now.
It is with absolute resolve that we should protect our sub-consciousness and not be impressed by those who seek to make history entertaining while undermining truth and subsequent justice.
Sensimellia Gardner is the editor of RastafariToday.com