- js reader version
- view hidden posts
- tags and related articles
by Thomas Sowell
Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2004 at 3:52 PM
Europeans didn't invent slavery, but their ideas and beliefs brought it to an end in the West. Sadly, it continues in much of the world, with not a peep from the Left.
One of the reasons our children do not measure up academically to children in other countries is that so much time is spent in American classrooms twisting our history for ideological purposes.
"How would you feel if you were a Native American who saw the European invaders taking away your land?" is the kind of question our children are likely to be confronted with in our schools. It is a classic example of trying to look at the past with the assumptions -- and the ignorance -- of the present.
One of the things we take for granted today is that it is wrong to take other people's land by force. Neither American Indians nor the European invaders believed that.
Both took other people's land by force -- as did Asians, Africans and others. The Indians no doubt regretted losing so many battles. But that is wholly different from saying that they thought battles were the wrong way to settle ownership of land.
Today's child cannot possibly put himself or herself in the mindset of Indians centuries ago, without infinitely more knowledge of history than our schools have ever taught.
Nor is understanding history the purpose of such questions. The purpose is to score points against Western society. In short, propaganda has replaced education as the goal of too many "educators."
Schools are not the only institutions that twist history to score ideological points. "Never Forget That They Owned Lots of Slaves" is the huge headline across the front page of the New York Times' book review section in its December 14th issue. Inside is an indictment of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Of all the tragic facts about the history of slavery, the most astonishing to an American today is that, although slavery was a worldwide institution for thousands of years, nowhere in the world was slavery a controversial issue prior to the 18th century.
People of every race and color were enslaved -- and enslaved others. White people were still being bought and sold as slaves in the Ottoman Empire, decades after American blacks were freed.
Everyone hated the idea of being a slave but few had any qualms about enslaving others. Slavery was just not an issue, not even among intellectuals, much less among political leaders, until the 18th century -- and then only in Western civilization.
Among those who turned against slavery in the 18th century were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and other American leaders. You could research all of 18th century Africa or Asia or the Middle East without finding any comparable rejection of slavery there.
But who is singled out for scathing criticism today? American leaders of the 18th century.
Deciding that slavery was wrong was much easier than deciding what to do with millions of people from another continent, of another race, and without any historical preparation for living as free citizens in a society like that of the United States, where they were 20 percent of the total population.
It is clear from the private correspondence of Washington, Jefferson, and many others that their moral rejection of slavery was unambiguous, but the practical question of what to do now had them baffled. That would remain so for more than half a century.
In 1862, a ship carrying slaves from Africa to America, in violation of a ban on the international slave trade, was captured. The crew were imprisoned and the captain was hanged in the United States -- despite the fact that slavery itself was still legal in both Africa and the U.S. at the time.
What does this tell us? That enslaving people was considered an abomination but what to do with millions of people who were already enslaved was not equally clear.
That question was finally answered by a war in which one life was lost for every six people freed. Maybe that was the only answer. But don't pretend today that it was an easy answer -- or that those who grappled with the dilemma in the 18th century were some special villains, when most leaders and most people around the world at that time saw nothing wrong with slavery.
Incidentally, the September issue of National Geographic had an article about the millions of people enslaved around the world right now. But where is the moral indignation about that?
Report this post as:
LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 15 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
|Good post, Thomas.
||Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2004 at 4:27 PM
||Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2004 at 4:37 PM
|A "twisted history" indeed
||Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2004 at 5:27 PM
|there are people focused on slavery
||Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2004 at 11:55 PM
||Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2004 at 1:59 AM
|Free. . .
||Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2004 at 3:50 AM
|communism is state sponsored slavery?
||Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2004 at 8:00 AM
|random bits in no particular order
||Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2004 at 8:50 AM
|anti-reparations talk always sounds so racist
||Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2004 at 9:18 AM
|No kidding BA
||Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2004 at 9:24 PM
||Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2004 at 11:08 PM
|free forgets that he, too, is benefitting from slavery.
||Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 at 1:39 AM
|Reparations are good
||Sunday, Jan. 25, 2004 at 11:19 PM
|Reparations for American Slavery
||Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2004 at 5:49 AM
Change Links September 2018 posted
More Scandals Rock Southern California Nuke Plant San Onofre
Site Outage Friday
Change Links August 2018
Setback for Developer of SC Farm Land
More problems at Shutdown San Onofre Nuke
Change Links 2018 July posted
More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena
"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena
Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles
Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert!
Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California
Change Links June 2018 posted
The Montrose Peace Vigil at 12 Years
Unity Archive Project
Dianne Feinstein's Promotion of War, Secret Animal Abuse, Military Profiteering, Censorshi
CA Senate Bill 1303 would require an independent coroner rather than being part of police
Three years after OC snitch scandal, no charges filed against sheriffs deputies
California police agencies violate Brown Act (open meetings)
Insane Company Wants To Send Nuke Plant Waste To New Mexico
Change Links May 2018
Worker-Owned Car Wash on Vermont Closed
GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE
lausd whistle blower
Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images
UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light
Change Links April 2018
More Local News...
Muselières syndicales, muselières patronales
Jeff Bezos, Amazon, The Washington Post, Whole Foods, Etc
Why Choose Nut Milk Over Cows' Milk
Antrhopocène, le grand effondrement
Creative Destruction Hack Diamonds Windows/iOS/Android - Creative Destruction Generator
The Dictatorship of Corporations
18 Lethal Consequences Of Hunting
Paraphysique de l'outplacement déontologue
Creative Destruction Hack Mod Generator
Shopping du bashing
After Lehman Brothers, Experts Say Global Financial Crisis Can Happen Again
“Animaniacs in Concert!” Starring Voice Legend Rob Paulsen
Probabilités de fin d'humanité
Florida Area of Migrant Farmworkers Denied Right to Construct Health Clinic near NaplesCIW
Propagande de virus, virus de propagande
Steer clear of work morality!
Sweatshop Lodge Ceremony Continues in US Fed Prisons Led by Inmates
Paraphysique de l'origami
The Shortwave Report 09/07/18 Listen Globally!
August 2018 Honduras Coup update
Du réussissement putréfié
Brett Kavanaugh Filled The 5th Circuit With Execution Judges
Augusta Georgia Woman Gets 5 Year Prison Sentence for Writing About Russians Crime Acts
Paraphysique de contextualité
Crisis Regulation in Global Capitalism
Ex-voto de réification
More Breaking News...