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.
The arguments surrounding the demands for reparations have been full of overstatement, melodrama, distortion, and absurd theory. Since the 1960s, militant figures like H. Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael, James Baldwin, and Malcolm X have engaged in saber-rattling that, all too often, was able to spawn sappy, weepy white guilt.
The result was a cottage industry specializing in racial victimization. The centers for this industry are to be found at major American college and university campuses, where “black studies” departments perpetuate beliefs in all sorts of racial nonsense — including the demand for slavery 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.
As the arguments about Africa’s involvement in the slave trade — made by conservatives like me — have been discounted by the race-hustlers, perhaps Gates’ involvement in this debate might finally open the door for reality to be heard. Gates makes it clear that the international slave trade existed in a complex world — it wasn’t simply a cartoon about good guys and bad guys.
In 1971, the brilliant Albert Murray wrote South to a Very Old Place. Within, he writes of a conversation between himself and Robert Penn Warren. Warren tells Murray that slavery was a terrible human business and every element of it was defined by the intricate human shortcomings or virtues of those involved on either side of the issue.
Yeah, I know. Here’s hoping that kind of thought doesn’t prove too deep for the everyday race hustler to comprehend.