A long time ago a storm swept through our continent, leaving tears, pain and blood behind; a global alliance of greed brought one of the most significant events in history: the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. No doubt, slavery is older than that. Every society practiced slavery in one form or another, but the scale of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade is unrivaled.
It was a peculiar case of one race enslaving another; it was a case of societies deciding inferiority and superiority based on the colour of one’s skin. The Arabs, the Asians, and the Caucasians, all traded in African slaves. It was only in the 19th century that slavery got the legal boot in most countries of the world. Even now, in this so-called post-modern period, in this age of Twitter and YouTube and Instagram, slavery is still practiced on the sly in places like Sudan and Mauritania. Of course the Africans are the ones still being enslaved.
The greatest burden of the victims of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, according to French social theorist and sociologist Emile Dirkheim, is the condition called “anomie”. The slave becomes something close to an animal; having no name, no identity, no part worth reckoning with, he or she practically becomes a non-person. American writer Alex Haley captured this condition in a profound way in his book “Roots”, the story of Kinta Kunte, who was captured somewhere around the Gambia river, bound like an animal and sold into slavery. In America, Kinte was forced to drop his name after undergoing severe torture and injurious humiliation. He lost his name, he lost his language, he lost his identity. After the Trans-Atlantic slave trade Africans became the majority population in the West Indies and other South American territories, they became emasculated residents of Arabia and the Middle-East countries.
In later generations, particularly after the official abolition of slave trade efforts were made to recover what could be recovered of the monumental losses. Marcus Garvey, the prominent Pan-Africanist, led the Back-to-Africa movement. He believed that wholesomeness would only be possible for the descendants of liberated slaves if they come back to their motherland. William Dubois and Booker T Washington differed on this, believing that other ways should be sought. The grandest of the losses however, had been the losses of the name and the language, for a name in the African context goes beyond a means of identification. Many of those who were lucky to return tried hard to get those two – name and language – back. Samuel Ajayi Crwother, captured as a young boy, was one of the lucky ones; this man later became the first African bishop who devoted himself to his native Yoruba language and became a pioneer by successfully translating the bible from English to Yoruba.
When the bishop met the Queen of England he recited Our Lord’s Prayer to her in Yoruba. Many other descendants of slaves and freed slaves made efforts to turn back the clock by returning home and retracing their roots, and a lot of them changed their names. What do we have now? Now we hear of frequent deaths of hopeless and desperate Africans trying to swim across to Europe through the Strait of Gibraltar. We have Nigerians forming long queues in front of Western embassies, some with stacks of fake documents. Now we have desperate people hiding the luggage compartments of planes and ships in order to get to Europe and America at no cost. We have African pastors, usually in suit, hardly preaching in our local languages so as to be seen as “modern”.
If Ajayi Crowther were to belong to this era, the bible would never have been translated to Yoruba. Now we have schools that are blind followers of Eurocentric and ‘Americocentric’ education, unwittingly belittling African ideas, history, religion and languages. In many homes too, children cannot even say their greetings in their native languages. There is hardly any difference between FM stations in some African metropolitan areas and the FM stations of Los Angeles and London.
In some African countries the elite want their children to become citizens of America, or Europe or Australia or Canada; they try so hard to copy their accents. These children become aliens to the African story, knowing next to nothing about their native land, or even worse pretending not to know.
The time has come for us as Africans to think deeply, to give careful thoughts to our ways, so as to be selective in our adoption as we interact with the rest of the world. It is a time to accept our past but be deliberate about our future, a time to accept the things we can not change and to learn from our mistakes. The time has come for us to take a positive look at ourselves, to find the good things in our ways, to promote the good things we know and to pass such to the next generation.
We should not be afraid to speak against incompetent pseudo-leaders, corrupt rulers, sit-tight dictators with nothing but empty words to offer. Even if they belong to our tribe or clan, or race, even if we worship the same god, even if they belong to our political party. These evil men in power are the reasons why are best brains – even the ones with second and third degrees – are in Europe and America, washing toilets, driving taxis, cleaning floors, slaving it for a living.
After all it is the selfish leaders of the past who collaborated with Caucasian slave traders for the success of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade! To rise up, to make the necessary changes, in my opinion, is the only way to save us from the new cloak of slavery.
Real African Writers|| By Feyisayo Anjorin
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