Don Lemon Squeezed Into Lemonade By British Woman
This is so terrific. Just watch:
This is the way. Push back against the Left's moralized fake history when given the opportunity. History is complicated, morally and otherwise. The Woman King movie is a travesty of history that cleanses the hands of the (black) Kingdom of Dahomey, which was central to the transatlantic slave trade, kidnapping rival Africans and selling them into slavery to Europeans (see here). This is not to absolve Europeans for the crime of slavery; it is to say, however, that the line between good and evil regarding the African slave trade does not pass between whites and blacks.
A terrific book to read is Out Of America, by Keith B. Richburg, who spent three years in Africa in the 1990s covering the continent for the Washington Post. Richburg is black. The book opens with a staggering set piece in which he stands on a river bank watching bodies, and parts of bodies, float down from the genocidal massacre in Rwanda. The thought occurs to him that he might be in that river if, in the mists of history, his ancestors weren't sold into slavery in America. He is not defending slavery, God knows; he is simply acknowledging the weirdness and the savage irony of history.
It's like when Solzhenitsyn said, in The Gulag Archipelago, "Bless you, prison." He wasn't defending the gulag; he was talking about how the prison experience taught him something critically important about life. It's like when Joseph, the son of Jacob, sold by his brothers into Egyptian slavery, rises to become powerful in the Pharaoh's kingdom. When he returns in glory to bury their father (Genesis 50):
His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
The evil that was done to Keith Richburg's ancestors, God turned to good. Richburg -- website here -- spent many years prospering at the Post, and now teaches journalism in Hong Kong.
My ancestor Godfrey Dreher -- my great-great-great-grandfather -- was a Revolutionary War captain who moved with his wife to New Orleans. It is believed that he was cheated out of all his money by John McDonogh, the slave-owning magnate; what is known for sure is that Capt. Dreher and his wife died in the city under mysterious circumstances, likely murder. Their children -- one of whom is my male ancestor -- went to orphanages. If these allegations against John McDonogh could be proved, would the McDonogh descendants owe me and my kids reparations? How would that work, exactly? In South Carolina, I believe Capt. Dreher owned a few slaves himself in the colonial period. Should I pay reparations?
You see how crazy all this is. If it can be directly proved that within living memory, there was measurable theft from others, or the close ancestors of others -- for example, Jews who were robbed systematically by the Nazis -- then yes, reparations, absolutely. But in most cases, after the passage of time, it becomes impossible to calculate the debt, morally or financially. It becomes not really a matter of seeking justice for the past, but of jockeying for power and position in the present. How can we possibly calculate the cost to families of white Union soldiers who died or were maimed fighting to end slavery? Or, following the line of discussion introduced by Fordwich above, the British sailors who lost their lives fighting to end the transatlantic slave trade?
Richburg's book is filled with rebukes of black American politicians who whitewashed the crimes and abuses of contemporary African dictators, out of a phony sense of racial solidarity. From a Commentary review of the book at the time:
Gripping as are Richburg’s descriptions of widespread butchery, it is his observations on the pathology of African politics, and how that pathology intersects with our own racial perplexities, which ultimately make Out of America not only a provocative but an important book. Richburg has a powerful and very American sense of right and wrong, and he is especially sensitive to the cynical and manipulative use of the racial trump card in relations between Africans and Americans. The brazen exploitation of racial guilt by the thieves and murderers who are the continent’s despots especially appalled him. Though they spoke to him, a fellow black, about the West’s responsibility for Africa’s miseries, about neocolonialism and Anglo-European imperialism, the real root of Africa’s problems, he came to believe, lay in the boundless corruption of these very leaders.
Richburg was struck by something else in Africa as well: the unfathomable passivity of ordinary Africans in the face of their leaders’ brutality. In Somalia, he found the victims of horrendous cruelty—those who had lost a spouse or a child—responding with “just a shrug and an In-shallah” (it is God’s will). The same passivity infected the organized political opposition, wherever it could be said to exist. In places like Zaire, opponents of the regime put all their hope in an all-powerful United States, which, they insisted, could create democratic order in their country any time it chose.
To Richburg, however, it is absurd to believe that any outside power can impose order, not to mention democracy, in places where civil society has been effectively destroyed. He came to this position the hard way, having first applauded the United Nations for its “nation-building” effort in Somalia and then watched that effort go awry in a debacle that took the lives not only of nineteen U.S. Rangers but of several of his colleagues and close personal friends.
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Spending three years in Africa, “watching pretty much the worst that human beings can do to one another,” turned Keith Richburg into a militant supporter of the American melting pot and an equally militant opponent of Afrocentrism. “Thank God,” he writes, “that I am an American,” and “thank God my ancestor survived [the] voyage” which brought him to the United States as a slave:
Talk to me about Africa and my black roots and my kinship with my African brothers, and I’ll throw it back in your face, and then I’ll rub your nose into the images of the rotting flesh.
Out of America is a superbly angry book, a tonic for our hypocritical times. One can only hope that Keith Richburg’s cri de coeur is widely heard.
I remember when Richburg's book came out -- 1997 -- and recall that it caused a massive backlash against him from black American commentators. There is absolutely nothing in this book that justifies slavery or colonialism -- but the book is a powerful rebuke to those who tell themselves that Africans are total innocents, or that anything that African strongmen do today to prey on their own people is somehow justified because of European involvement in slavery, and colonialism.
I bet Out Of America couldn't get published today. You should read it, though. It's a brave act of journalism, from the day that journalists did what journalists are supposed to do: tell the truth, not support the Narrative.
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