The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 ended slavery in the British Empire on August 1, 1834. Emancipation Day is widely observed in the British West Indies during the first week of August.
Emancipation day is increasingly being celebrated around the world. In the past the horrors of slavery were too close and the pain of those memories was too hard to take. The perpetrators were in denial and the victims were in pain.
I am observing a growing tendency for the white community to now look into the conditions caused by the slavery system in the USA. Many among the black population still find it too difficult to face what had happened to their ancestors, but the ancestors of those who inflicted such pain are now wanting to make amends and are taking a look at the horrors of the slavery era.
Solomon Northup, a citizen of New-York, was kidnapped in Washington city in 1841, and rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River in Louisiana. He wrote and published a book the same year he was rescued. Recently this book was made into a movie. Now people want to know about the horrors suffered by slaves and the injustices done to the African-Americans. The book sat on shelves collecting dust for years but, suddenly, everyone wants to know what happened in the 19th century.
Slavery directly caused the most devastating war in USA history. It would take until the 1970’s and the Vietnam war before the cumulative total of American lives lost in all other wars would exceed the number of lives lost during the four years of the American civil war. Thus the slavery system was the cause of devastation, death and misery to the whole American population.
Before the civil war many African lives were lost on slave ships and during the time of slavery. However a slave’s life was not regarded as important enough to keep track of numbers. Many were gunned down or torn apart by dogs while trying to escape. The law protected the master who went overboard and killed a slave while whipping him. Slaves were property owned by a master. The property owner had rights to his property, but the property had no rights. If one is foolish enough to destroy his own property his only loss is the property thus destroyed. There is no other punishment for such behaviour. Therefore, to kill a slave, whether by accident or on purpose, was not regarded as an event worth recording.
One only needs to look at the laws of the time to get a glimpse of the horrors the slaves must have endured. Slaves were the only livestock were the owner could provide his own stud service. A slave dare not refuse her master and the resulting children were chattels owned by the person who fathered them. Like any other slave they could be sold to the highest bidder and, having some white blood in them often made the slave more valuable.
Age did not matter. What a glorious system for the pedophile. The law would protect the property rights of such a person who could own as many children as he wanted, and since they were his property, he could do whatever he wanted with them.
Now we hear those who will say, “It didn’t happen very often.” To such ones I must ask, “How often does it need to happen to be of importance?” Let’s say it was only one percent. We will say, out of 100,000 slave children only 1,000 were molested and sexually abused by their masters. Does that make it okay? Even if it only happened once, would that not be enough to prove the law was wrong? Imagine, for a moment, that you are now living in the slavery system as a slave and only one pedophile is repeatedly abusing a little girl. That’s not very significant, but it is your little girl that is being abused. The law protects the abuser and if you try to do anything about it you will either be killed or sold to a distant place. Either way the abuse will continue and you will not be around to comfort your child. Indeed the pedophile would likely have been wise enough that he bought the child alone without any family to protect her and she will never know a mother’s love or a father’s affection. She will grow up knowing nothing but abuse. You do not know what is happening to your child, but when you saw the man that bought her and how he was checking her out, you fear the worst, but she was taken from the auction house while you screamed for mercy, but all you got was a whipping for being too attached to your child. Oh yes. Slaves are just animals, so they should be okay with having their children ripped away from them and sold. A slave who tries to protect his or her child is not a very good slave. They should know they have no rights to their children. They are your owner’s property. He can sell them, rent them out, or do anything he wants with them.
We may think this is horrible, and we are right. We comfort ourselves by thinking it was in another age and it happened to other people. I am safe. It could not happen to me. Yet the old adage is that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Only next time the tables may be turned. I may find myself on the receiving end of the horrors. That is enough for me to do whatever I can to make sure this horror is not repeated.
Now we find comfort in the fact that slavery is illegal. Now a person can be charged for abusing a child. Society protects all children regardless of class. So we think we are safe.
Yes, slavery is illegal, but the mindset that was responsible for slavery is still rampant. Slavery was an ultimate example of a competitive society. A necessary part of competition is that there are winners and losers. We saw the extreme of that when the slaves lost and the plantation owners won, but, as a result, everyone lost. Society lost two hundred years of contributions from those who were not considered equal under the law. By forcing slavery on this class of people and denying them education, they were not able to contribute to the advancement of society. What little gains were made were wiped out by a civil war that was made necessary by the slavery system.
Have we as yet learned our lesson? Are we willing to give up a competitive system and work with a co-operative system? Those looking for a job will find the competition is fierce. One has to be fortunate to get a job. To find a job that is fulfilling and one that can be enjoyed is nearly impossible. There will be a few exceptions and a few do win this competition, but many more will be forced to work at a meaningless job. They will put in their time to earn their paycheque so they can pay their bills, but an uncaring employer could lay them off or fire them at any time. Perhaps the twenty lashes a slave would get was more humane. Now you are turned out to starve. Oh, unemployment insurance and welfare can help for a while if you know the system, but again, if you are not prepared you can lose. Many end up living on the streets after they have lost their housing. We can often find old men who have worked hard all their lives spending their last days on the streets because, at the end of the game, they were among the losers.
God created us as one humanity. The body of mankind can be likened to an individual human body. When we have competition it is as though the body competes for resources. Parts of the body obtain a surplus and waste much while other parts of the body are starving. The right hand competes with the left. It takes a hammer and smashes its opponent. Yes the right hand is the victor and the left hand has lost. There is pain and suffering as the loser becomes useless and no longer serves the body. But does the right hand not lose as well? The whole body suffers the loss of the left hand and therefore the right hand also loses. It must now work harder to do that which the left hand had done in the past.
In a co-operative society there are no losers. The whole body wins because the whole body co-operates towards the well-being of the body. Now, if any part of the body is not functioning and contributing to the whole, the rest of the body co-operates and aids it to heal so it can contribute. Not only is a job found for each member of society, but the right job that is suited to that part of the body is found so that body functions efficiently. If the left hand is trying to do work suited to the right hand while the right hand is labouring to do the job of a foot, the body does not do well. Once the jobs are matched up with capabilities, the body will function as it should. Thus it is imperative that the brains of the body assign jobs to each cell in the body so that every part does exactly what it should do and when it should do it. Now we have co-operation and the body wins. In order for the body to win, no part of it can be considered a loser.
Until we give up our competitive nature, I do not believe that we have learned the lesson that slavery has taught us. Those who win the competition need to realize they are losing at life.
In my book, The Alternative, I examine the slavery system of the 19th century and show the effects it had on individuals. Although the story was totally made up, it was based on observations of historical figures such as Solomon Northup, Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington. These ones saw slavery from the slaves perspective but also saw the effect it was having on the slave owning class. When Frederick Douglass observed, for his first time, the efficiency of labour in the North he was amazed at how the South had been blinded by the slavery system. Douglass observed, “An old ox, worth eighty dollars, was doing, in New Bedford, what would have required fifteen thousand dollars worth of human bones and muscles to have performed in a southern port.”[i]
Thus The Alternative explores what would have happened if the south became enlightened. Perhaps they would have done away with their competitive natures and introduced co-operation at an early time. If that had happened, society would be greatly more advanced than it is at present. Unfortunately we still have much ground to cover before we can rid the world of the evils that were around during the time of slavery.
[i] Douglass, Frederick (2013-04-28). The Frederick Douglass Collection: 8 Classic Works (Kindle Locations 4031-4033). Waxkeep Publishing. Kindle Edition.