The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019


The New York Times is the newspaper of record for the American Left and as such, it supports virtually every leftist narrative, regardless of how dishonest, hyperbolic, or contrived. Like all good propaganda sources, the NYT produces stories with embedded commentary that do have elements of truth. That makes the overall dishonesty and hyperbole far easier to believe and defend. As a case in point, let's spend a few paragraphs exploring the Left's decision to paint the entire early history of the United States as racist—a time when slavery was the dominant driving force. If we believe this narrative, it leaves a stain of immorality that demands ... yes, demands ... that white people in the USA wear the modern equivalent of sack cloth and ashes and pay reparations to the multi-generational descendants of American slaves. The NYT's 1619 Project explores slavery in America, but unlike a legitimate history, it makes slavery the center of the American experience and therefore demonizes that experience. It implies that our founding and our founders had deep, irreparable moral flaws, setting the stage for a complete restructuring of our country (defined of course, in the philosophical image of the Left's 'social justice' narrative). As I mentioned, there are elements of historical truth in the NYT's discussion of slavery, but what's lacking is context, and without it, the story and the "1619 Project" becomes dishonest propaganda.

Before going any further, no one, and I do mean NO ONE, is suggesting that slavery is anything but evil or that great misdeeds were done to those who were slaves. But applying 21st century mores to 17th century history is dishonest and disingenuous at the same time. Let's consider a little context and history, provided by Alma T. C. Boykin:
So, this year marks 400 years since enslaved Africans were brought to eastern North America. That the Spanish and Portugese had already been bringing African slaves over, and that almost every other people on the American continents practiced slavery, and that the rest of the planet practiced slavery, doesn’t seem to matter. That slavery is still practiced today, in part because some religious texts [e.g., the Koran] positively command it, doesn’t matter to those who are concerned with chattel slavery of Africans as practiced in the British colonies.

Yes, slavery has been around as long as humans have been around in sufficient numbers to get into disputes. And it continues, either openly as slavery, or as debt-peonage, or concubinage, or debt-slavery, or “life servants,” or “gift servants.” Only Europeans tried to end the practice, because they believed that all men were created equal, and that enslaving people was no longer a right and moral practice. But that doesn’t count, or so the New York Times and other sources suggest.

Me being me, I have to wave my penalty flag. First off, slavery is not unique to the Americas, Europeans, or Africans. Everyone enslaved everyone else, ever since waaaay back when. Second, there were as many flavors of slavery as there were reasons for it, ranging from working people to death (the mines of Athens and Persia, sugar-cane plantations in Iraq,) to having more women and children to boost the population after eliminating the enemy’s men (all over the world), to domestic service (almost all over the world), to having soldiers (Russians, Ottomans), to agricultural workers (all over the world), to skilled workers (Rome, Western Europe between AD 450-950 CE). Even in the US, some slaves were skilled craftsmen, some worked on the task system and had free time as soon as the job was finished, and some where the cotton plantation slaves that everyone thinks of.

Africans enslaved other Africans, and sold them to everyone else. Until almost 1800, it was native Africans who controlled the sale of slaves to Europeans in west Africa. To this day, if people find out you are descended from a slave, you may be treated as a second-class citizen and lose job and marriage prospects. After all, if your ancestors were weak or dumb enough to be enslaved, then you’re probably not much better.

The Mongols, and later Tatars captured millions of Europeans and sold them into slavery over the course of time from around 1000 until the 1700s. The last slave raids against England and Iceland were in the late 1600s! Part of the job of the Royal Navy was to keep Barbary Pirates from landing and kidnapping English men and women to sell in North Africa.

A few European individuals thought slavery lacked moral foundations, most notably Emperor Charles V, and some later thinkers, but no one really tried to stop it until the mid 1700s, when some crazy folks began to argue that just because people had always done it didn’t mean that buying and selling other people was still right. Eventually France and England banned slavery at home, and then started stopping the trade on the sea ...

So yes, the Dutch brought enslaved Africans to the Carolinas in 1619. And Africans gradually replaced indentured British and Irish men and women, in part because it was harder for them to blend into the population and disappear. And the US fought a bloody, terrible war against itself in 1861-65 in order to end the practice (among other things). But we need the rest of the story. Having practiced chattel slavery makes the US neither unique nor especially evil. It means we were like other humans since the eighth day of creation. And we don’t do it any more. Unlike certain other places and people today.
The NYT in particular and the Left in general are quite selective in their interpretation of history and are particularly hesitant to discuss state sponsored slavery in a more modern context. It can be argued that the Stalin's communist Russia or Mao's communist China enslaved tens of millions. It could be further argued that Castro's communist Cuba and Chavez' socialist Venezuela destroyed many of the freedoms of additional millions. These four near-term historical realities are analogous in some ways to what happened in North American in the 17th - 19th centuries. One large group was subjugated by a smaller power elite. The details differ, of course, but in the end, the death of freedom resulted.

The irony is the the NYT and the Left now champion the same underlying socialist ideology that led to Russia, China, Cuba, and Venezuela. Their version, they insist, will allow us to unburden ourselves from the moral stigma of slavery. The only problem is that if they succeed and take the reins of power, over time we will be led into slavery in a different guise, but slavery nonetheless.

UPDATE (9/4/2019):

African American commentator Jason Riley comments on the history of blacks in America when he writes:
In 1907 Booker T. Washington, the educator and former slave, published a book detailing the economic progress of blacks since emancipation. He reported that between 1860 and 1900 black homeownership rates grew from infinitesimal to more than 20%, and that among homeowners a higher percentage of blacks than whites completely owned their residences. “I am unaware that history records such an example of substantial growth in civilization in a time so short,” wrote Washington. A hundred years ago, black marriage rates exceeded those of whites, and most black children were raised in two-parent homes. Today, that’s no longer true and slavery can’t explain the retrogression.

Liberals want to harp on how blacks have been treated, but a focus on how they progressed in earlier eras notwithstanding that treatment would be of far greater use to today’s black underclass. The black experience in America is much more than a history of what whites have done to blacks, even if our politicians, commentators and comedians often find it expedient to pretend otherwise.
The progressive narrative focuses almost solely on racism to justify a narrative that emphasizes victimization by a "racist system," and then encourages government dependency as a solution. African Americans should take a hard look at those who have promoted this narrative for multiple decades and ask themselves whether it has helped or hurt certain segments of their community. If they look at the narrative introspectively and honestly, their next step should be to #WalkAway from those who promote the narrative.