Henry Gates: reparations for slavery are pointless

Joe Hicks at Pajamas Media reports on the new book by Harvard black studies professor Henry Gates.

I’ve previously been hard on the professor for playing the victim card — and the race card — after he was arrested by a white cop in Cambridge, Massachusetts. [Note: Joe Hicks is black himself.] But after reading his new work, I’m willing to cut him some slack.

Gates’ book — Tradition and the Black Atlantic – was also previewed in the New York Times. The review hit like passed gas in the middle of a hot Sunday Baptist church service to those who have made careers out of racial complaints.

Gates says that everybody is familiar with the role played in slavery by the United States and the colonial powers of Britain, France, Holland, Portugal, and Spain. But he adds that there has been “little discussion of the role Africans themselves played.”

[…] Gates argues that the role Africans played was “considerable” and included the very kingdoms in western and central Africa that are praised as examples of Africa’s historical greatness every February during “Black History Month” celebrations.

How did this African involvement in the slave trade work?

Gates references the historians John Thornton and Linda Heywood of Boston University — who estimate that 90 percent of the slaves shipped to the New World were captured and enslaved by Africans before being sold to European traders and commercial agents.

In essence, the slave trade would have been impossible on the scale it occurred without African business partners.

[…] Gates points out that the belief that Europeans alone are responsible is a fantasy. This view is a romanticized version promoting the notion that Africans were somehow just “kidnapped” by evil white men — the version promoted in the old television series Roots. The truth is, however, that slavery was a highly lucrative business for European traders and African sellers alike.

Though it may be new to reparation advocates, none of this information is new to anyone who’s honestly examined slavery.

Well before the Civil War, the former slave Frederick Douglass said:

The savage chiefs of the western coasts of Africa, who for ages have been accustomed to selling their captives into bondage and pocketing the ready cash for them, will not more readily accept our moral and economical ideas than the slave traders of Maryland and Virginia.

Africans have been aware of their countries’ role in this evil trade. In 1999, the president of Benin shocked an all-black congregation in Baltimore when he fell to his knees and begged their forgiveness for the “shameful” and “abominable” role that Africans played in slavery.

Just how invested were the African kingdoms in the slave trade?

When British abolitionists were finally able to suppress the slave trade in 1808, rioters protested in the streets of cities in what is now Ghana, and the king of Nigeria said to the British:

Your country, however great, can never stop a trade ordained by God himself.

This old chief has been proven partially correct. Slavery continues to exist in African nations today, most notably in Sudan, Ghana, Mauritania, Benin, Gabon, Mali, and the Ivory Coast, where tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of people are enslaved.

Professor Gates has shown a great deal of intellectual honesty by dropping a hand grenade in the midst of the greatest hustle of “victim studies” — the notion that whites alone were responsible for slavery [and owe reparations].

[…] There needs to be more truth-telling of the kind found in Gates’ book. For too long, black academics and guilty white allies have been perpetuating fraud.

Read the whole thing. This is without even getting into the issue of Arab slave trade (the very word “slave” is a corruption of ‘Slavic’).

The truth is, the revolting practice of humans enslaving other humans has been with us since the beginning of recorded history. As Thomas Sowell repeatedly points out in his writings, it was precisely in the much-maligned Western civilization that a successful abolitionist movement could arise, drawing a substantial part of its inspiration from equally-maligned Judeo-Christian religious writings.