“Never Forget”, is a political saying that was popularized by the Jews to commemorate the atrocities they suffered at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. Some Jews feel that if those tragedies are forgotten then perhaps they may be repeated. With that in mind, ceremonies are held regularly to remember those lost and how they were lost. There is power in saying ‘I will never forget’, and in effect say that ‘I will stand vigil over my people to insure that the evil that was done, will never happen again.’ I personally respect and honor the determination of the Jews to stand up for their people.
Oddly enough, there is another tragedy connected to America that one rarely if ever hears the words “Never Forget” connected to, and that’s the American Slave Trade. Often times if slavery is brought up, that person is discouraged from continuing to talk about it, and sometimes even being told in so many words to just get over it. Many Americans would rather push aside the ugly history of these United States. These people will say, “We have come so far”. They’ll say that slavery is a thing of the past, and it’s best left right there in the past.
It seems to me that it’s easy for some Americans to empathize with and embrace the determination of the Jews to “Never Forget”, because the Holocaust happened in another country, at the hands of non-Americans. It’s easy to see wrong doing when it’s not in your own backyard. Personally I respect the courage and determination of the Jewish people to honor those lost to the Nazis, and to make good and damn sure that their memory stays alive.
I think that is disrespectful, disingenuous, and dead wrong to brush our ‘American Holocaust’ under the rug. I think when the subject of the American enslavement of Africans comes up, it deserves the same respect and reverence that is rightly afforded to the Jewish people. When people are given the respect they deserve they tend to walk a little taller, and live more proudly in the societies they find themselves in. So, out of respect for the people who suffered the horrendous tragedy of the American Slave Trade I’m going to drop some knowledge on you.
(The following bulleted points were gleaned from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_slave_trade)
- The Transatlantic Slave Trade happened between the 16th and 19th centuries. The countries most responsible for bringing slave to America in order of prevalence were: the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Spanish, the Dutch Empire, and the Thirteen American Colonies. It is estimated that some 12 million Africans were brought across the Atlantic and made slaves in the Americas.
- Forms of slavery varied both in Africa and in the New World. In general, slavery in Africa was not heritable – that is, the children of slaves were free – while in the Americas, children of slave mothers were considered born into slavery. This was connected to another distinction: slavery in West Africa was not reserved for racial or religious minorities, as it was in European colonies.
- The savage nature of the trade led to the destruction of individuals and cultures. The following figures do not include deaths of enslaved Africans as a result of their labor, slave revolts, or diseases suffered while living among New World populations. About 10.5 million slaves arrived in the Americas. Besides the slaves who died on the Middle Passage, more Africans likely died during the slave raids in Africa and forced marches to ports. There are estimates that 4 million died inside Africa after capture, and many more died young.
- After being captured and held in the factories, slaves entered the infamous Middle Passage. Researchers put this phase of the slave trade’s overall mortality at 12.5%. Around 2.2 million Africans died during these voyages where they were packed into tight, unsanitary spaces on ships for months at a time. Measures were taken to stem the onboard mortality rate, such as enforced “dancing” (as exercise) above deck and the practice of force-feeding enslaved persons who tried to starve themselves. The conditions on board also resulted in the spread of fatal diseases. Other fatalities were suicides, slaves who escaped by jumping overboard. The slave traders would try to fit anywhere from 350 to 600 slaves on one ship. Before the African slave trade was completely banned by participating nations in 1853, 15.3 million enslaved people had arrived in the Americas.
- Walter Rodney argued that the export of so many people had been a demographic disaster and had left Africa permanently disadvantaged when compared to other parts of the world, and largely explains the continent’s continued poverty. He presented numbers showing that Africa’s population stagnated during this period, while that of Europe and Asia grew dramatically.
- Professor Maulana Karenga states that the effects of slavery were “the morally monstrous destruction of human possibility and 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 truly human relations among peoples.”
- Walter Rodney states: “Above all, it was the institution of slavery in the Americas which ultimately conditioned racial attitudes. It has been well attested that New World slave-plantation society was the laboratory of modern racism. The owners contempt for and fear of the black slaves was expressed in religious, scientific and philosophical terms, which became the stock attitudes of European and even Africans in subsequent generations. Although there have been contributions to racist philosophy both before and after the slave trade epoch, the historical experience of whites enslaving blacks for four centuries forged the tie between racist and color prejudice, and produced not merely individual racists but a society where racism was so all-pervasive that it was not even perceived as what it actually was.” (1) see footnote
It is not only horrible that the American Slave trade happened, it is horrible that so many people don’t know the details of this American horror story. The importance of facing this truth, in my mind cannot be over-emphasized. Even though we have come so far in our evolution as a country, we still have so far to go. Our continued growth depends in part on our willingness as a nation to fully understand the wrongs that have been done.
The psychological and spiritual wounds of slavery still fester in the soul of America. The residual effects of slavery still lives in our midst in the form of racism. People who think slavery should be left in the dark, and never discussed are a part of the problem. An educational system that doesn’t fully inform its students of the wickedness of slavery are a part of the problem. There are stains in the fabric of America, and the only way we can realize our fullest potential is to acknowledge those stains, and regularly reestablish our commitment to never revisit our dark past.
America has seen fit to go to extraordinary means to pay restitution to others it has done wrong to such as: Japanese held in Internment Camps and Native Americans whose land was stolen, who by the way should simply be called Americans. However, the people who America has done the most wrong to, still get the shortest end of the stick. To be clear, as much as I think it is owed to African Americans, I am not advocating for restitution, I’m simply saying that we deserve it.
The self-righteous arrogance of America in the world can use a little reality check. Other countries would look at us with more respect if we as a country had a little bit of honest self-reflection in our foreign policy agenda. I’m not saying that America isn’t great because it is; and I am grateful to be an American. We have a lot going for us here in the United States, but we can and should continue to improve. At the very least this country owes its citizens of African descent the respect of Never Forgetting.
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I believe I was put here on this earth to teach people how to live bigger, better, and more awesome lives. I am not always right but I always have something to say…and I am here to say it. I want to change the world, and I know that I can with a little help from my friends. So, I created The MInd of KLH blog to inform and spark the imagination of anyone desiring a world full of possibilities realized.One Love...Really!
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