Published On: Wed, Nov 22nd, 2017

Black and lucky Peter

Jacob Gelt DekkerIt is politically incorrect to utter a single mitigating word about the historic slave trade and slavery. The topic is racially heavily charged. Anyone who does not fit the political bill can count on threats and intimidations, mostly by bullying and physical harassment. Historic facts are no longer of any value to the political public debate; it is a new narrative, one full of racial revenge and hate.

These racist radicals, who raise hell and cause havoc, hijacked a traditional December-children’s fest. Testimonials by imaginary victims illustrate their new suffering of self-inflicted wounds with newly concocted scenarios.

At one of the exhibitions, one can watch a video of a teenage girl, who weeps when she tells the story of her sufferings after she found out that her ancestors, eight generations back, were transported as slaves from Africa to the Caribbean. Now, 250 years later, she claims “she was denied an identity.”

Empathy with her ancestors’ past has taken over her life, and consequently, she is no longer able to function productively and in harmony with her surrounding. Now, her life is a lusting for revenge, and the descendants of those who caused her ancestors’ demise are singled out to pay her damages as if these people still live and work as white ruthless slave traders.

Nowadays, we consider slavery as an inhumane, immoral and inappropriate labor relationship. But the system of labor agreements, with wages and benefits, did not exist in those days of slavery, neither in Europe nor Africa. In large industrialized agriculture, the labor force was slaves, serfs, and indentured labor. A small elite of nobility and rulers owned all the land. A system of sharecroppers may have an age-old history but only became popular after abolition in 1863.

How silly then, to hear the mantra of those racist protesters, yelling and screaming about fair wages for the 16th and 17th-century slaves. They still demand payment of wages equal to those that should have been paid to their 8th generation-back ancestors.

It is an idée fixe. Wage agreements simply did not exist in those days, not in Europe and totally not in Africa. Only since the 1950-60’s, Western-European, socialist-labor practices were introduced in Africa, but they have yet to replace the systems of privilege and slavery; a fast slavery employment system remains in place in most of the Sahara and Sahel regions, in all of West Africa and many areas of East and Central Africa.

So, what happened from 1600-1850? African slaves, about 40,000 per year, were sold to colonial markets, mostly Spanish and Portuguese. They were sold by their owners, mostly local African chiefs, kings, and queens residing in about 2,000 trading locations, all along the African West Coast.

The big question that remains today is, were those slaves sold to American colonies, better, or worse off, than the ones who remained in Africa? And are the descendants of those taken across the Atlantic, better or worse off, than the descendant of African slaves who lived out their days in the Sahara or Sahel?

Ironically, today, the American colony slave-descendants have an average income 30-40 times that of their relatives in Africa. West African nations, chiefs, kings, and queens, who became super-rich on the historic slave trade, have frequently offered public apologies for their dubious roles in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. They also, systematically denied any claims for damages, quoting that those who made it across the Atlantic became much better off than those who stayed behind in Africa’s Sahel and Sahara.

By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Columnist for Curaçao Chronicle

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