Juneteenth

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Robert Maranto, writing in Frontpage magazine reminds us of one of the holidays that we don’t celebrate much (but maybe should). It’s called Juneteenth, as fits neatly between Memorial Day and Independence Day, both of which it is related to. It’s the day the last slave in America was freed, in Texas, on 16 June 1865. It only cost more than 300,000 American casualties (Union only) and 4 years of total war on ourselves.

A nation with substantial economic ties with the U.S., Saudi Arabia, only got around to ending slavery in 1962. Yet I would never define Saudi Arabia by its history of slavery, and I bristle when people define America that way. Virtually all peoples have histories of enslaving and brutalizing others, so obsessing over America’s sins while ignoring everyone else’s is anti-American in the purest sense. Alas, such views proliferate in the media, academia, and politics.

Remember that, the next time some fool starts denigrating America.

For that reason, I commemorate Juneteenth by re-reading Thomas Sowell’s classic essay, “The Real History of Slavery,” written in part to debunk popular misconceptions spread by the likes of Alex Haley’s Roots. A part of his collection of mainly original essays in Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Sowell’s essay teaches politically incorrect lessons no longer taught in higher education or pop culture.

First, slavery impoverished rather than built societies, by stigmatizing work and thrift while exalting as role models a slave-owning leisure class. In some respects, slave owners were like Hollywood stars, widely envied, and notorious for their conspicuous consumption and reckless disregard of others. Within places as distinct as China, Brazil, the Middle East, and America, locales with high concentrations of slaves were the poorest and most backward.

More important was the evolution and spread of Western ideas about individual worth and self-determination. As Sowell writes, slavery pitted “Western civilization against the world” at a time when the West had the power to prevail. Non-Western people generally did not end slavery on their own; indeed, most fiercely resisted abolition. Great Britain played the indispensable role in ending slavery, choosing ideals over interests in the process.

18th century Britain was the world’s largest slave trader, with powerful interests profiting from human trafficking. Yet under religious pressure, 19th Century British parliaments abolished slavery and increasingly employed the Royal Navy and colonial governance to erode the global slave trade, at enormous cost in blood and treasure.

In Sudan, for example, British General G.C. Gordon fought slavery, imposing the death penalty on those convicted of castrating enslaved men to market them as eunuchs. After Mohammad Mahad defeated Gordon at Khartoum, human trafficking again went untroubled until British soldiers returned, among them a young Winston Churchill. Under British pressure, Sudan eventually formally abolished slavery, though informally it exists there to this day.

Sowell attacks the hypocrisy of criticizing the 19th century West for falling short of modern standards, while far more culpable non-Western societies get a free pass. Today, universities rebrand buildings named after long dead slave owners, while courting wealthy sheiks who may have owned people in their youths. President Obama, who removed a bust (in fairness, one of two) of Winston Churchill from the White House, probably never learned at Harvard that Churchill fought slavery in traditional Sudan, Nazi Germany, and Communist Russia.

Always remember that there are two countries in the world that paid most of the price for ending slavery in the west, they are Great Britain and the United States. Britain mostly but not completely in Gold, and the US mostly but not completely in (its own) blood. Does that carry a lesson about why the US and UK are still hated all over the world?

Yes, yes it does.

Simple really, Evil always has and always will hate good.

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