Hey Kids... It's Time For Some Dumb Myths And Smart Facts About Slavery!
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If you're a typical VICE reader, you're about halfway through elementary school—or maybe you're a member of the magazine's ever-expanding preschool readership. Either way, you're very young, and your mind and sexuality are easily molded by bad people who want to hurt you.
There are a lot of bad people in the American educational system who are being forced by a lot of bad people in the financial world to tell you a lot of bad facts about history that are designed to make you feel bad about yourself. This is especially true if you're a WHITE schoolchild.
If you're white like Uncle Jim, your teachers will try to convince you that you're responsible—even though you're only, what?, eight years old?—for a bunch of bad, bad things that happened a long, long time ago.
If you're a black schoolchild, I'm sure your parents will have plenty of excuses for why your ancestors were enslaved.
But chances are that you're white—at least for the next generation or two, those are the chances—so I've collected a bunch of DUMB MYTHS and SMART FACTS about slavery that you can use to clown your teachers and everyone else at school!
Black slavery in America was pretty bad, kids, but it wasn't anything special. Throughout history, every color of the rainbow has owned slaves and been enslaved. The dictionary tells us that the root word of "slave" is "Slav," because Slavic peoples—who are REALLY pale and white—were the primary slave population throughout the Middle Ages. And though your teachers will never tell you this, there have been long stretches of history where Africans have owned white people as slaves! How do you like THEM apples? The empire of Carthage transported white slaves to Africa. The African Moors ruled Spain for 500 years and sent white Christian slaves to Egypt. And poor, defenseless white kids—just like you!—were kidnapped by Muslims during the Children's Crusade and sold into Egyptian slavery.
No, kids—the blacks, Arabs, and Jews were involved, too.
• BLACKS: The president of an African country called Benin recently apologized to American blacks for his country's role in the slave trade. Slavery was common throughout Africa, with entire tribes becoming enslaved after losing battles. Tribal chieftains often sold their defeated foes to white slave-traders. In the late 1700s, a freed black American slave named Ottobah Cugoano wrote, "I was first kidnapped and betrayed by my own complexion, who were the first cause of my exile and slavery."
• ARABS: The word "Abed" means "slave" in Arabic. It also means "black." The "Holy Land" of the Middle East has hosted far more African slaves than North America ever did.
• JEWS: The oldest synagogue in America was built by Aaron Lopez, a Jewish slave trader. Jewish writers such as Cecil Roth, Wilfred Samuels, Seymour B. Liebman, and Moshe Kahan acknowledge that Jews were involved in all levels of the African slave trade.
In fact, children, white Christians were the first group to make a concerted effort to ABOLISH slavery.
Of the 10 to 15 million Africans who were transplanted to the New World, no more than 6 percent—around 400,000—went to the Northern Hemisphere. Almost all of them went to South America, but you don't see your teachers giving Brazil a hard time, do you?
Blacks were never close to a majority in America, so it's mathematically impossible for most whites to have owned black slaves. At the peak of black slavery in the South, only 6 percent of Southern whites owned slaves. If you include the white people in the North, it means that only 1.4 percent of white Americans owned black slaves at the HEIGHT of slavery.
An estimated 3,000 blacks owned a total of 20,000 black slaves in the year 1860. One study concluded that 28 percent of free blacks owned slaves, which is a far higher percentage than that of free whites who owned slaves.
Although your textbooks are silent about it, most historians agree that two-thirds of ALL whites came to the colonies in some form of bondage. Legal papers on both sides of the ocean referred to them as "slaves." White slaves outnumbered black slaves in America throughout the 1600s.
Hundreds of thousands of white slaves were kidnapped and brought to America; their middle-passage death rates were comparable to those of black slaves; they were sold at auction and traded for livestock, they were routinely beaten—sometimes to death—and an estimated one half of them died before gaining freedom. It's possible that more whites came to America against their will than blacks. Historians from both ends of the political spectrum say that white slaves were treated worse than black slaves.
England only started sending convicts to Australia in 1776—when the American Revolution made it impossible for them to continue sending their convicts here. By 1776, more than 50,000 convict slave laborers had already been sent to America. That's a lotta criminals, kids!
According to statistics, farm work is relatively safe. It is far more dangerous to be a lumberjack, Alaskan crab fisherman, coal miner, or cabdriver. Either way, white slaves were forced to pick cotton under the hot sun, too, which is where they got those red necks.
American blacks enjoy the highest standard of living of any black population on earth. Their average per capita income is TWENTY to FIFTY times higher than in any of the African countries from where they were displaced. It's true that part of America's wealth was built on black slavery; it is also true that American blacks are enjoying the fruits of that wealth. You, fair child, whether you were born black or white, weren't born in debt to anyone. You were born free. Don't let the bad people take it away from you.
When General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, it had been nearly 20 years since Lee owned slaves—he freed his slaves in the late 1840s. In 1856, five years before the Civil War started, he wrote that slavery was "a moral and political evil." On the other hand, General Grant STILL owned slaves at the end of the Civil War, because Abe Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation cleverly outlawed slavery only in the South. Grant had stated that he would refuse to fight if he thought the war had anything to do with slavery. And hey, kids, even if it WAS fought to end slavery, how often do you see the descendants of slaves thanking the 600,000 or so white soldiers who died in the fight to free them?
The US government estimates that 50,000 humans are brought into this country every year for the purpose of forced labor. Various agencies estimate that there are anywhere from 27 to 200 million humans currently enslaved worldwide. (Compare this to only four and a half million slaves at American slavery's peak.) Most of these slaves live in South Asia, Africa, and South America. Their labor comes far cheaper and is much more profitable than black American slavery was. In many horrifying cases, poverty-stricken women sell their vaginas on the black market and become lifelong sex slaves to fat, stinky men for as little as $1,500. In today's dollars, a black slave in the American South cost approximately $40,000.
Remember, kids—the enemy's all around you, and he comes in all colors. Slavery exists in so many ways, children. Open your eyes before they shackle your asses.
Jim Goad goes more into detail in his book The Redneck Manifesto. See more of the facts on this from Jim Goad's book here.