The Real African|| By I.K. Cush
European and American societies developed a system of myths since the 15th century to rationalize their mass murder of African people and their grand theft of Africa’s resources.
These myths were cloaked under the veneer of “civilization.” Thus, generations of African boys and girls, in Africa and the Diaspora, were schooled into believing that the 15th century European relationship with Africa was a civilizing encounter not, as it really was, a genocidal experience for African people.
Many of those African boys and girls grew into adults and remained locked in a fictional bubble, which absolved European and American governments of the gruesome crimes they committed. One such boy who grew into a man is Dr. Henry Louis Gates of Harvard University.
Some time ago, Dr. Gates wrote in the New York Times that it’s time to end the slavery blame-game, referring to the demand by many Africans for the payment of reparations by European and American governments for their enslavement of African people. Dr. Gates grappled with a “vexing” problem: figuring out “how to parcel out blame to those directly involved in the capture and sale of human beings for immense economic gain.” He neither identified those who derived “immense economic gain” nor quantified the “immense economic gain” that was realized.
Dr. Gates attributed his confusion in figuring out who should pay reparations, to the exaggerated, collaborative role of West African kingdoms in the European enslavement of Africans. That role, according to Gates, was a “considerable one, especially for the slave-trading kingdoms of western and central Africa.”
Gates’ intellectual discombobulation is understandable given his self-confessed ignorance of African history: “While I have taught African literature, I am not a scholar of the history of Africa,” he conceded in 1999. He is the proverbial child, a little boy, who knows that he knows not. And, those who provide the stage upon which he revels in ignorance are the proverbial fools who know not that he knows not.
According to Dr. James Conyers, director of the Africana Studies Department and associate professor of anthropology at Kean University, “Nzingha, Queen of Ndongo (now Angola), did not collaborate with the Portuguese. She fought them at every turn. She used every means at her disposal to kick the Portuguese out of Ndongo.” That was his riposte to Dr. Gates’ ignorance.
Dr. Gerald Horne, author of the best-selling book The Deepest South: The U.S., Brazil and the African Slave Trade and professor of history and African American Studies at the University of Houston in Texas, responding to Gates’s diatribe, observed that “it is curious” that Gates did not point out that in East Africa and Angola it was the Americans and the Portuguese who controlled the slave trade; thus, “the role of this monarch (Queen Nzingha) has been overstated.”
“No African society used slavery as a principal means of production,” declared Dr. Molefi Asante, professor of Africana Studies at Temple University and co-author of the seminal work, The Encyclopedia of African Religions. Furthermore “where we see aberrations such as in the Dahomey case, we are seeing conditions encouraged by the enslavers such as the Portuguese who used the corrupt kingdom of Dahomey for nearly 150 years; this was not the general condition in Africa,” Asante added.
Henry Louis Gates falls into the category of African scholars who lack substance and integrity. He follows a European/American intellectual paradigm which starts African history in the 15th century, ignoring the more serious African historiography which uses information from African prehistory then adds the real historical record. In the case of Africa, the written record is over six thousand years old.
Had he engaged in a historiographical analysis of his chosen topic, slavery, Gates would have been compelled to examine the role of the British Royal African Company, the Dutch East India Company, the Dutch West India Company, the Joint Stock Trading Company, the Danish Guinea Company, the Swedish Africa Company, the French Senegal Company, etc. These companies were organized by European governments to regularize their murderous slaving project and invest their ill-gotten wealth in their respective countries. Such an analysis would have revealed who really realized “immense economic gain,” as Gates put it in his op-ed dross, from the slave trade. There were no African monarchs sitting on the boards of those slave trading companies.
However, for the intellectually slothful, such as Gates, doing the hard work necessary to set the African historical record straight is too much of a challenge for his indolent brain and captive mind; which explains why, in his New York Times drivel, he failed to get rudimentary facts right. He dated the height of the slave trade in 1871 when, according to Dr. Asante, it “was neither 1871 nor 1807; it was the intense period of the 16th and 17th centuries;” that same period when the various European slave trading companies were established.
But let’s get back to reparations. It is not a blame-game. In fact, it is not a game at all! It is a very serious matter. I was born in Guyana, a former British colony in the Caribbean. In 1808 Britain’s Caribbean colonies were valued at $432,000,000.00. Annual profits to Britain were $48,000,000.00. If you invest those annual profits over 200 years at 8% interest per annum with a 15% tax rate and a 3.1% inflation rate, the investment return is $952,320,000,000.00; almost one trillion dollars!
That colossal figure is the “immense economic gain” Britain derived from the enslavement of Africans in just her Caribbean colonies. I am owed at least 50 million dollars out of that in reparations.
My wife was born in Jackson, Mississippi, USA. Every day enslaved Africans in America were required to pick cotton – 500 pounds for men, 250 pounds for women and 125 pounds for children. The average price per pound of cotton was 0.10 cents. It is estimated that some 500,000 Africans were kidnapped, enslaved and shipped to the United States of America. Approximately half died during the voyage through the middle passage. So, for 100 years (my underestimation) 250,000 enslaved Africans in America picked an average of 500 pounds of cotton (another underestimation), valued at 0.10 cents per pound, every day. Let’s say they slaved for 300 days a year. The value they generated was 300 x 500 x 250,000 x 100 x 0.10 cents or $375,000,000,000.00. Now invest that 375 billion dollars over 100 years at 8% with a 15% tax rate and a 3.1% inflation rate. The investment return: $41,755,500,000,000.00! That’s almost 42 trillion dollars! An “immense economic gain” that America derived from her enslavement of African people. My wife will also settle for 50 million dollars in reparations plus Dr. Gates’ share since it’s clear that he is not interested.
The above numbers do not reflect, in any way, the sum total of the wealth accumulated by Europeans and Americans as a result of their enslavement of Africans. Their criminal conspiracy of mass murder and grand theft is one of the most horrendous crimes ever committed against an entire people. The result: a prosperous and powerful Europe and America and an impoverished and eviscerated Africa and her Diaspora.
Like drug addicts and alcoholics who conjure up all kinds of excuses to explain their pathology, European and American governments have, over the centuries, deployed a myriad of explanations to rationalize their historical addiction to the mass murder of African people and the grand theft of Africa’s resources: there was slavery in ancient Africa, there was slavery in ancient Greece, there was slavery in ancient Rome are some of the more specious rationalizations offered up in private.
Lacking the courage of their convictions, rarely do the white representatives of the European/American socio-political establishment ever publicly dismiss calls for reparations. Doing so would subject their reasoning to public scrutiny, something that no one, who justifies criminal behavior, wants. They usually leave that task to their boys, like Henry Louis Gates, who grovel and feed at their feet for validation and acceptance.
Ultimately, just as the collaboration of a family member in the commission of a crime against his family does not absolve the perpetrators of that crime from being held accountable; likewise, no
amount of phantom collaborators pulled out of Gates’ hat will absolve Europeans and Americans of their crimes of mass murder of African people and grand theft of Africa’s resources. It is time they crawl from under the skirts of the Gates of their world and accept responsibility for the crimes of their forebears like the grown men and women they claim to be. Pay up!