By Abel Merawi
July 24, 2020 (Ezega.com) -- The assumption that slavery was inspired by racism rather than capitalists’ greed is partially wrong. Yuval Noah Harari explains this in his book, Sapiens: a brief history of humankind. The conquering of America by Europeans was followed by the opening of gold and silver mines, and cotton, sugar and tobacco plantations. As sugar was important in the middle ages, sugar plantations were of the highest importance. The previously imported sugar from the Middle East was costly, and the new plantations in America dropped the price. However, finding cheap labor willing to work on these malaria-infested sugar plantations was difficult. Harari states, Sensitive to market forces, and greedy for profits and economic growth, European plantation owners switched to slaves.” To satisfy this greed, from the 16th to 19th centuries, more than 10 million African slaves were shipped to America, with 70% working on the sugar plantations. It should be noted that the slave trade was an economic enterprise, which sold shares on the ‘Amsterdam, London, and Paris stock exchanges.’ These enterprises increased profits from the slave trade.
The greed of European nations could not be realized without another justification. Thus, they created the terrible racial narration of white supremacy. They downgraded blacks to a sub-human level and presented themselves as saviors. The Western philosophers and scholars aided this process by representing blacks as savages. As is the case in much of human history, the missionaries aided in this enterprise and came to Africa with their Bible and used the holy words of God to colonize and enslave a continent. This racial fiction was indispensable for it served as a rationalization of their monstrosities. This old and false narration continues to be a source of white pride and black demoralization.
The long-overdue end of slavery didn’t lead to reformation but to another form of slavery – economic and social slavery. America didn’t live up to its promise of freedom and equality to all its citizens. It rather fulfilled this dream for the white majority at the expense of blacks and other minorities. Following the civil war and the emancipation of slaves, the legal system devised a new way of slavery called ‘convict leasing.’ As Bryan Stevenson states, “Convict leasing was introduced at the end of the nineteenth century to criminalize former slaves and convict them of nonsensical offenses so that freed men, women, and children could be “leased” to businesses and effectively forced back into slave labor.” The pretense of freedom given to African Americans following the civil war was just another form of slavery. As W.E.B. Du Bois argues, “In explaining this unfortunate development, we must note two things: (1) that the inevitable result of Emancipation was to increase crime and criminals, and (2) that the police system of the South was primarily designed to control slaves.” After emancipation, the former slaves were left to fend for themselves in a land that denied them any educational, economic, or social equality and freedom. To make matters worse, the court system deemed blacks as criminals and sentenced them to hard labor camps in which they work like slaves in the plantations.
The land of freedom and opportunity was merciless even to children and the mentally ill. The court imposes the death penalty and life without parole on children. As Stevenson states in Just Mercy, “By 2010, Florida had sentenced more than a hundred children to life imprisonment without parole for non-homicide offenses, several of whom were thirteen years old at the time of the crime.” Sadly, all were 13 or 14-year-old black and Latino children. Those with mental disabilities were also treated harshly by the justice system. Writing in 2014, Stevenson states, “Today, over 50 percent of prison and jail inmates in the United States have a diagnosed mental illness, a rate nearly five times as much as that of the general adult population.” It seems like the US found it easy to imprison than reform and support children and the mentally ill.
The aforementioned facts all point to systematic oppression by a country unwilling to identify blacks as rightful citizens. Today, the US government with the mainstream media and Hollywood, paints a dark image of Muslims. This has created Islamophobia and the citizens are gripped by the fear of terrorism. But the historic terrorizing of blacks by ‘white America’ is not mentioned. Stevenson states what an old black man said: “You make them stop saying that! We grew up with terrorism all the time. The police, the Klan, anybody who was white could terrorize you. We had to worry about bombings and lynching, racial violence of all kinds.” Truly, African Americans live in a state of terror, fearing the consequence of being black.
In order to make America a real symbol of democracy, solving the racial agenda is crucial. This could be achieved by dispelling the old fiction of racial inequality. Above all, the solution should also come from African Americans. What America wants blacks to be is white Americans. Sadly, many blacks are conditioned to despise themselves and adore their oppressors. W.E. B. Du Bois in his 1897 article, The Conservation of Races writes, “No people that laugh at itself, and ridicules itself, and wishes to God it was anything but itself ever wrote its name in history;” Accordingly, African Americans should be proud of their black identity. They should strive to co-exist in harmony, but never convert to whites.
Giving up is not an option, for it is only with hope that a better future, a brighter life, is borne. W.E.B. Du Bois said with longing for a better tomorrow, “Surely there shall yet dawn some mighty morning to lift the veil and set the prisoned free… For fresh young souls who have not known the night and waken to the morning; a morning when men ask of the workman, not ‘Is he white?’ but ‘Can he work?’ When men ask artists, not ‘Are they black?’ but ‘Do they know?’ Some morning this may be, long, long years to come.” The dream of Martin Luther King Jr. is yet to be realized, but it surely will become a reality.
To bring the kind of change that guarantees justice and equality, both blacks and whites must look past the racial demarcation. Blacks should not just be reactionary but creators of their own value. Whites should also base their pride in their personal accomplishment instead of imagined racial superiority. W.E.B. Du Bois remarks, “Only by a union of intelligence and sympathy across the color-line in this critical period of the Republic shall justice and right triumph.” I believe democracy exists not when it favors the majority and the powerful, but also treat the minorities in the same manner. This can be realized when blacks and whites set aside their differences and work for a future that promises freedom and equality to every citizen.
Abel Merawi is Addis Ababa-based contributor for Ezega.com. He can be reached through this form.
Other articles by Abel Merawi:
Is America the Land of Freedom? (Part I)
Capitalism Becoming an Impediment to Morality
Ketman: Living in Disguise to Gain Acceptance
The System and the 'Criminal'
Trust as an Economic Force
Do You Trust the Government?
Our Online World
Fame Mistaken for Expertise
The Heavy Burden of Healthcare Workers
A Time to Reflect
The Plague by Albert Camus: Fiction Becomes Reality!
History of Pandemics in Ethiopia
Human Struggle Against Pandemics: Historical Perspective
You Can Make a Difference
Rule of Law for a Free Society
The Origins of Law
Determinants of Market Value: Part II
Determinants of Market Value: Part I
Your life Matters Too
Manifestations of Artistic Expression
Achievements vs Natural Accidents
The Grip of Sacrifice
Injustice is Never Justifiable
Education Demands of the Future
Job Security, Life and the Unpredictable Future
The Shift From Racism to Culturism
Sacrificing Meaning for Power?
Culture and Market Forces
Seeking Cosmic Justice
National Myths: Makers and Destroyers of Nations
Are We Truly Free?
Maturity: The Prerequisite to Freedom and Democracy
Loyalty to Truth, Not to Group
The Value of Work
The Flaws with Ethiopian Political System
Intellectuals and the People
Where Are Our Pathfinders?
The Allegory of the Cave and Its Lessons to Leaders
The Truth Behind Humanity
The Seven Virtues
The Seven Deadly Sins
What is the right thing to do?
Building National Identity
Adey Abeba and the Spirit of Change
Living the Truth as a Human Being
Hubris - The Tragedy of Not Learning from Others
The Era of Group Mentality: Us vs Them
Join us on social media:
Like Ezega.com on Facebook and get Ethiopian News updates regularly.
Get the latest Ethiopia News by following us on twitter @Ezega_Official.
Follow Ezega on LinkedIn for Ethiopia Jobs and Ethiopian News Today.