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TIT FOR TAT

Does the existence of slavery in Africa justify the installation of the slavery of Africans in the West?

 

"[T]he morally monstrous destruction of human possibility involved redefining African humanity to the world, poisoning past, present and future relations with others who only know us through this stereotyping and thus damaging the truly human relations among people of today. It constituted the destruction of culture, language, religion and human possibility."

~Maulana Karenga on the effects of the Atlantic slave trade in African captives: 

 

2 years ago, I had a debate on Facebook with a friend of someone I know about slavery in Africa. Yeah, I know, that was a low moment for me I admit. I reacted to a critique she had of a teacher who had decorated her classroom door in a way that made it look like a Black woman with natural hair. She said something to the effect of the decoration being biased ( what? as biased as  having a poster of Betsy Ross in the classroom?? I digress.) Anyhow,  I took the bait. She went on to say that basically that I shouldn't be so offended about slavery in America  because Africans sold other Africans into slavery with each other. I told her that Africans were minding their business until Arabs and Europeans came with guns. Her google search responses to my jabs at her rhetoric lasted over 3 days. 

The root of her argument was a belief that Black people should not complain about slavery because she believed the slave trade was caused by Africans. 


I finally let her have the last post and left the thread. By the way, never argue with the friend of a friend on FB. Just don't. Now that 2020 has happened and the country split into Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter and All Lies Matter...again, I'm hearing again that Africans trading Africans as slaves to Europeans is a reason to blame Africa for slavery. 

The argument also suggests that racism in America is justifiable because slavery existed in Africa before it did in America.

Truthfully, slavery existed in a lot of other countries before America was founded. To be clear, there is no one point in history that we can point to as  the origin of slavery. If you use the Bible for a timeline, know that it is mentioned in the story of Noah, and in the chapters of Genesis directly following the story of Cain and Abel, which infers that it was already in practice in some shape form or fashion. Also, the backdrop of slavery in America and the English translation of the Greek term used in the Bible limits the perspective of Americans to one form of slavery, when in fact there are and were multiple forms of slavery existing amongst various types of tribal groups around the world. 


 
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Some of the types of Slavery in Africa courtesy of some google searches:( note all of these forms originated with indigenous Africans)

Kinship

 In many African communities, where land could not be owned, enslavement of individuals was used as a means to increase the influence a person had and expand connections. The children of those enslaved could become part of the master's lineage and heritage.

Domestic

Many slave relationships in Africa revolved around domestic slavery, where slaves would work primarily in the house of the master, but retain some freedoms. Domestic slaves could be considered part of the master's household and would not be sold to others without extreme cause. The slaves could own the profits from their labour (whether in land or in products), and could marry and pass the land on to their children in many cases.

Pawnship

Pawnship was a common form of collateral in West Africa. It involved the pledge of a person or a member of that person's family, to serve another person providing credit. Pawnship was related to, yet distinct from, slavery in most conceptualizations, because the arrangement could include limited, specific terms of service to be provided, and because kinship ties would protect the person from being sold into slavery. Pawnship was a common practice throughout West Africa prior to European contact.

Military

Military slavery involved the acquisition and training of conscripted military units which would retain the identity of military slaves even after their service. 


Chattel

 This is the type of slavery that persisted in the United states and was modeled after the Roman Empire and Arab form of slavery prominent to northern Africa.

Chattel slavery had been legal and widespread throughout North Africa when the region was controlled by the Roman Empire  

 
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Aside from all of the different forms of slavery that took place, slavery on the continent of Africa should not be viewed in the context of American slavery. First of all, Africa is a continent not a country. It is not the United States. Different countries exist on the continent of Africa  just as they do on other continents. Ireland, Great Britain, France and Germany are all countries on the same continent Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and Ghana are all different countries on the same continent. They went to war and took prisoners of war as slaves, just like the other European and Asian countries have in the past.  A Frenchman didn't look at a Englishman and say "Wait you're White! I shouldn't fight you!" It didn't work like that. To assume that two Black people from different countries in Africa would not war with each other dismisses the established authentic power structure present in Africa before colonization( i.e., "Wakanda")  something that White supremacy claims to have a superior version of.

Most importantly, the history of those wars has absolutely nothing to do with racism in America. It has nothing to do with breeding Black people as chattel in America, White Supremacy, Jim Crow, lynchings or other systemic racial injustices. 

Yes, African countries profited from trading Africans to Europeans settlers, but not anywhere near as much as White descendants of Europeans did and still do in America. Also, African countries did not practice slavery in America. Europeans settlers sought out, bought, and kidnapped Africans for the sole purpose of using them to work as slaves and breeding them subjugating them. This would have happened without cooperation from African countries and eventually did, because White Supremacy ideology wanted its own country, its own independence and it got it. The issue is slavery in America. We really don’t need to blame countries in Africa for the state of America today. ok? ok.