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“Africans sold their own people as slaves” is a stock argument White Americans use when the subject of slavery comes up.
First, simply as an argument of fact it fails:
- Africa was not a country. Africans were not selling “their own”, they were selling their enemies, just as the Greeks and Romans once did. Africa, then as now, was made up of different countries. They were no more selling “their own” than, say, “Europeans” were killing “their own” during the Holocaust.
And it overlooks a few other things:
- Most African countries did not sell slaves and some even fought against it. But because Europeans back then could control the supply of guns there was little Africans could do to stop it.
- The Transatlantic slave trade was on a much greater scale than anything the Africans or anyone else ever did in the history of slavery. Countries were destroyed and millions died. Over 12 million were sold in less than 400 years, something so huge that it changed the genetic map of the world.
- The Transatlantic slave trade was racist. The African slave trade, for all of its other ills, was not that. Neither was the Greek and Roman slave trade. So slavery in places like Haiti, Barbados and America was much more cruel.
As a moral argument it fails too:
- It uses what I call the Arab Trader argument: it excuses an evil of one’s own past by finding the same sort of evil done by others. Whites sold slaves, but Africans and Arab traders did too! Which, morally speaking, is at the same level as an eight-year-old saying, “He did it too!” when caught doing something bad. We do not accept this argument from eight-year-olds, nor from bank robbers or wife beaters. “Africans did it too!” is no better.
But it is as a derailing argument that it comes into its own:
Its main purpose is to draw attention away from what whites did by turning the tables. That part of their past makes White Americans uncomfortable. But instead of facing up to it, they have built up defences against it:
- Africans sold their own people as slaves.
- Africans are still selling slaves.
- Arab traders sold slaves too.
- Slavery goes back thousands of years.
- All races have practised slavery.
- Whites stopped slavery.
- My family never owned slaves.
- That was Ancient History.
- You are living in the past.
- Get over it!
- It was the times.
- Slavery did not make economic sense.
- Whites got to where they are by their own hard work
- Blacks are better off in America than in Africa
- Africans were savages.
And on and on.
Why not just face up to it? Because part of their sense of self worth is built on being white and how whites are better than everyone else, particularly blacks. But it is a huge lie, a lie that can only be maintained by not looking at their past – and present – squarely and honestly.
- Transatlantic slave trade
- “Africa is a country”
- other stock defences against slavery:
- reading while white: history and news
- How to argue like a white racist