Most people believe that slavery has been limited to blacks historically and that whites and whites alone have A)Held slaves and B)Are responsible for the existence of the barbaric practice. As a result, individuals of color carry residual pain and negativity, which manifests in the eternal Now. Blacks and other people of color tend to view their white brothers and sisters with resentment and animosity, in part, because of the crimes of the past. The result is, of course, division, and perpetuates the illusion of separateness.
So let’s dive into history. Slavery actually has it origins within Africa, as Egyptians held slaves as early as 3500 years ago. Slavery began, primarily, as a result of prisoners taken by kingdoms at war. Due to the proximity of neighboring factions many prisoners successfully escaped and returned home. Since prisoners were viewed as “dead weight” and their escape undermined war ambitions, the ruling authorities began selling their prisoners of war as slaves and shipped them to areas where they would no longer be an issue.
Private property was another reason for the slavery and its growing prevalence at the time. Prior to English law being implemented throughout Africa, the concept of individual property ownership was non-existent. According to Donald R. Wright, Ph.D. of the State University of New York at Cortland, “Land was typically held communally by villages or large clans and was allotted to families according to their need. The amount of land a family needed was determined by the number of laborers that family could marshal to work the land. To increase production, a family had to invest in more laborers and thus increase their share of land. The simplest and quickest way to do this was to invest in slaves. To help service this demand, many early African societies conducted slave raids on distant villages.”
So slavery began in Africa and then what? It began to expand along with the rise of Islam.
“The spread of Islam from Arabia into Africa after the religion’s founding in the 7th century AD affected the practice of slavery and slave trading in West, Central, and East Africa. Arabs had practiced slave raiding and trading in Arabia for centuries prior to the founding of Islam, and slavery became a component of Islamic traditions. Both the Qur’an (Koran) (the sacred scripture of Islam) and Islamic religious law served to codify and justify the existence of slavery. As Muslim Arabs conquered their way westward across North Africa in the 7th and 8th centuries, their victorious leaders rewarded themselves with Berber captives, most of whom were eventually enrolled in Muslim armies.” – Donald R. Wright, B.A., M.A., Ph.D, Author of The World and a Very Small Place in Africa
Europeans didn’t begin to get involved in and capitalize on the slave trade until the mid-15th century when they began exploring and establishing trading posts on the West coast of Africa. During the 16th and 17th centuries, European colonial powers began expanding into plantation agriculture in the “New World”, thus increasing the demand for labor. Western African states that were already involved in the slave trade were the first to supply slaves to be exported across the Atlantic.
As is always the case in history (past and present), the people who facilitated and benefited from the Atlantic slave trade with political or corporate elites. Wealthy and well-connected Africans used the slave trade to enhance their wealth and prestige.
Okay, so only blacks were part of slavery right? Not so fast. According to Robert Davis, a professor at Ohio State University, and author of Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800, as many as 1 to 1.5 million European Christians were captured and forced to work in North Africa.
“Much of what has been written gives the impression that there were not many slaves and minimizes the impact that slavery had on Europe,” Davis said. “Most accounts only look at slavery in one place, or only for a short period of time. But when you take a broader, longer view, the massive scope of this slavery and its powerful impact become clear.”
“One of the things that both the public and many scholars have tended to take as given is that slavery was always racial in nature – that only blacks have been slaves. But that is not true,” Davis said. “We cannot think of slavery as something that only white people did to black people.”
So why is this curiously absent from history books?
“The enslavement of Europeans doesn’t fit the general theme of European world conquest and colonialism that is central to scholarship on the early modern era, he said. Many of the countries that were victims of slavery, such as France and Spain, would later conquer and colonize the areas of North Africa where their citizens were once held as slaves. Maybe because of this history, Western scholars have thought of the Europeans primarily as “evil colonialists” and not as the victims they sometimes were, Davis said.
Davis said another reason that Mediterranean slavery has been ignored or minimized has been that there have not been good estimates of the total number of people enslaved. People of the time – both Europeans and the Barbary Coast slave owners – did not keep detailed, trustworthy records of the number of slaves. In contrast, there are extensive records that document the number of Africans brought to the Americas as slaves.”
Said simply: written records were rarely kept in Africa and the areas that DID kidnap and enslave Europeans were almost always later invaded and colonized by the same nations that saw their citizens enslaved.
Moral of the story: blacks AND whites were both involved in the creation of the slave trade, they simply played different roles. The color of your skin means absolutely nothing when it comes to corruption. Whites AND blacks have, historically, sold out their own in an effort to expand their own material wealth.
The solution is to detach and dis-identify with the residual individual and collective pain from history. Begin living in the NOW and recognize we are all connected. One family. One world. Currently enslaved under varying conditions by the same financial elite. Unity and solidarity ensures our victory. Division, ensures our destruction.