What if history were reversed and blacks had guns and ocean-going ships before whites did? Would blacks have wiped out the natives of North America and made whites into slaves to work the land? Would we now be talking about black racism and black privilege?
It is certainly possible, but improbable.
It is possible: If you are the first to have guns and ocean-going ships, you can take advantage of people who look very different from you. Race then becomes a cheap, after-the-fact excuse for doing so. That leads to racism – dividing mankind into races and seeing some races, like your own, as better than others. We know that is possible because that is the last 500 years in a nutshell.
But improbable: China could have done what Europe did but did not. In fact, Europe did not clearly pass China technologically till the late 1700s. The European Expansion was based on Chinese inventions: gunpowder, the compass, paper and printing. Even Jared Diamond in “Guns, Germs and Steel” (1997) had a hard time accounting for why Europe took over the world, not China.
Technology advances and spreads unevenly. It is common for one region to have a technological edge over another – yet it is rare for it to lead to genocide, even when the edge is military.
- The Romans, as violent, destructive, powerful and unprincipled as they were, could have easily practised genocide on a mass scale but did not.
- The Ancient Egyptians, living in a stone age world, could have easily done the same but did not.
- The same with the Greeks under Alexander the Great.
- And the whites in South Africa and New Zealand.
- And so on.
Genocide does not require a technological edge over one’s neighbours: In Rwanda, for example, it was carried out with machetes.
There is no technological determinism to genocide. Because it is not based on that – it is based on dehumanizing others. Further, genocide is rare, especially on a continental scale.
So while blacks might have wiped out the natives of North America it is unlikely. And without that they would not have had so much land that they would need millions of slaves to work it. They probably would have had some white slaves, just as the Ancient Egyptians did, but not on a mass scale.
This is not complete guesswork on my part: When Columbus arrived in the Caribbean the people there already knew about blacks: they had traded with them. Africa is much closer to the Americas than Europe. And, armed with iron weapons, blacks could have made short work of the people there if they wanted to.
White Americans are at an extreme end of human history. Defeating your enemy and maybe taking over their country is common. Wiping them out wholesale and taking their land is not. For White Americans that does not come from their guns and their bombs but from how they think.