Recently, I was unfortunate enough to see a clip of one of journalisms biggest shills, Don Lemon, who was treading water in an interview with a British Royal Family Scholar.
I’ll include the link to video at the end for those who wish to fully grasp where my thoughts on the matter are aimed towards. However, in short, I’ll summarize the interview; Lemon was saying that since the Queen’s recent death the vast amounts of her wealth have come to light and he was wondering, and claimed others were as well, if any of that money would go to slave descendants as reparations for the British’s role in the African Slave Trade. The Royal Family Scholar responded the way a lot of non-African descended people do when faced with this issue nowadays, which is (and I’m summarizing here:)
“Well, it was the Africans who sold themselves first so take it up with them.”
Lemon was completely speechless and was ill-prepared to have the conversation that he, himself had started. Beyond my personal distaste for Don Lemon, I found that the entire argument on both sides was annoyingly misleading and downright ignorant. I don’t know exactly or why, but I expected Lemon to handle the conversation with more intelligence, being that he is educated, considers himself an advocate for African Americans and because he is of multiracial background.
I, myself am multi-racial and think that it gives me a fairly sensible understanding of the delicacy surrounding the topic of the African Slave Trade. Don Lemon however proved my theory to be incorrect, because even he, who is also educated is also mixed and yet he failed to navigate through the topic. So, I will attempt to take his place and hopefully give the conversation a much-needed remodel.
First, one must understand the complexity and near impossibility of assigning century long reparations to any person today. This is especially the case for those living in the United States. The U.S is an infant in terms of established countries, and we are largely a very diverse population of traditionally Transatlantic immigrant descendants. Tracing our lineage correctly back generations is extremely difficult even with DNA testing. Beyond that immediate obstacle, people get into this conversation defensively which is no way to conduct a legitimate debate and expect justice and truth to follow.
*This entire topic of slavery, oppression and reparations is a mess, and that’s not to say that it’s not worth the hassle, but one must keep in mind that we are talking about assigning blame and decreeing justice for situations that we have zero firsthand experience in for most people living today.
On one side there are those who are advocating awarding reparations to African American’s whose families descend from slaves. The reasoning behind this argument:
- They say they were taken from their homelands and forced into slavery.
- Those slaves were violently mistreated for hundreds of years leaving their bloodlines helpless to the continuance of mistreatment.
- These prior actions have led to the general disenfranchised state of the African American’s today. Leaving the victims to have generations of injustices unresolved.
On the other side, there are those who are against giving reparations to the descendants of African Slaves. They have a range of reasons why they hold this belief and chiefly amongst them are;
- They feel that too much time has passed to carry out reparations properly and its best to leave it in the past and instead just try to move on as best as we all can now that slavery has been abolished and the slaves were given their freedom long ago.
- They themselves shouldn’t have to pay for what their ancestors did and likely don’t agree with those past actions but regardless they themselves took no part so they feel they should have no hand in reparations.
- Lastly, and nowadays the very common contention that; They believe that their ancestors didn’t kidnap the slaves, but in-fact traded for them at the hands of the African’s themselves -so they are not to blame for what the African’s were willing to sell or trade away.
Both are failing arguments that do each have merit but overall are insufficient and misleading. The problem lies in their laziness. Both sides of the argument engage in umbrella-terminology and back it up defensively. As a half white, half African American woman I want to address this decade long dispute as simply as possible which won’t be easy, but I find it is necessary.
Please, stop umbrella-terming AFRICA! It’s disrespectful and inaccurate. Those, like the Royal family Scholar, have got to clean up their reasoning that “African’s sold their own into slavery” when defending their people’s role in atrocities. That type of thinking is as accurate as saying “Europeans are Nazi’s” because both groups hail from Europe, and when discussing the Uyghurs in China we don’t say that “they have themselves to blame because they are doing it to themselves” simply because they both come from Asia.
Would you say to Holocaust descendants that the Jews of WWII only had themselves to blame for what happened to them because it was people from within their own homelands that sent them to the gas chambers? No, hopefully you would not.
Because although on paper, and on the thinnest definitions of truth that statement may be “right” but, it is also culturally, socially, and historically inaccurate.
If you want to talk about systemic racism, this is a prime example. The western world’s ignorance is glaringly apparent when they mention “African” as an umbrella term. Both white and black Americans are guilty of this -seemingly everyone today is, but it is lazy and incorrect.
“Africans” did sell other “Africans” as slaves to other African Nations, the Europeans, and later to the Americans. They did not, however, “sell themselves”, not in the same sense it’s being said in arguments. “Themselves” is true if you mean those that were already their slaves that they obtained from other countries and tribes that reside on the same continent. However, saying they sold “themselves” is wrong if you meant that they sold from amongst their own country’s beloved citizens.
*In all situations around the world there are exceptions, but we are focusing on the majority of instances not the outliers, for argument’s sake.
“They have their own people to blame” is no more fair or true than to say about the African Slave Trade than it is to say that the Jews put themselves into Auschwitz and have “themselves” to blame simply because they, the Jews, the Nazi’s and the German people, in the eyes of outsiders, “look similar and are all from Europe.” We know that this on paper may be somewhat descriptively true, but we also know its wildly inaccurate and wrong to assert. The individual countries in Africa, or kingdoms and tribes didn’t sell those that were citizens amongst their own tribes. They sold prisoners of war turned into their slaves of which they had no allegiance to because they were, to them, considered outsiders, and enemies from other countries.
The usage of the umbrella terminology in; “Africans sold themselves” is only narrowly true since they are both from the continent of Africa. But so were the Nazi’s and Jews of WWII both from Europe. Strange how people today can make the distinction that just because they are from the same continent, and some even look similar that they are in fact different people, but they just can’t seem to have the same discernment for the African people.
Africa isn’t the only instance where this umbrella terminology happens, we do it to Native American’s still today. The “Native American’s” were not just one large group of people; they were separate and distinct nations and ethnicities sharing a land mass. Amongst other tribes they can distinguish one another, and they historically had feuds, wars, and even slaves like all people on earth. Now just because all cultures are guilty of selling their slaves which came from neighboring peoples, doesn’t mean that we can ignore the atrocities that later happened.
Healing starts with honesty. Honesty requires knowledge.
The truth is that the acknowledgement for the inhumane treatment of any group of enslaved people needs to be addressed. Things must be done to ensure those mistreatments can never happen again. Umbrella terminology isn’t solely an imperialistic mechanism, but it does need to stop when we are actively speaking about distinct cultures and countries. The truth is that blanket-term blaming is the first step towards being racially and culturally ignorant because it shows how the person making the blanket term statements cares so little about those they are generalizing. It shows how little they know and more-so it shows how little they care
Don Lemon should have known better than to bring up a topic he clearly couldn’t defend, and shame on the Royal staffer who instinctually pulled the equivalent to verbal “white privilege” and waved the Umbrella-Flag at the issue.
How can we today, who wish to be fair, honest, and compassionate people do better than we’ve been doing to end systemic racism, and to address the injustices of all peoples far and wide? For starters, we could care enough to gain knowledge about distinct cultures, countries and their histories and stop umbrella terming things out of spite or defensiveness.
I never said it would be easy to fix this glaring problem of remedying the past and curbing the lingering systemic injustices it produced. The answer to complex and difficult problems are likely going to be just as complex and difficult. The reason however to do the formidable work is necessary because we as a world did the work to get us into these messes and for often, terrible results. So, it stands to reason that we must do the work to get us out of that, especially when the results are likely to be overwhelmingly remedial and beneficial and not just for some but for all.
Video mentioned throughout this article seen here: