Because we are having a really good discussion here (and I thank James for his contributions to the discussion) – I thought I would throw this one in as indicative of what Africans think of the Gates article. This one is from Modern Ghana by Paul I. Adujie. I haven’t been able to pull up reactions from Nigeria yet.
Ending The Slavery Blame-Game By Henry Louis Gates, A Rejoinder
It is with considerable agitation, and extreme irritation, with which I read Henry Louis Gates’ pedestrian essay on slave trade and reparations, published in The New York Times, titled Ending The Slavery Blame-Game.
Louis Gates is obviously seeking relevance and redemption after his arrogant altercations with a Cambridge police officer in 2009. Louis Gates it will be recalled, engaged in a shouting match in belligerent, intransigent and cantankerous manner, as he prevented a police officer from carrying out legitimate police work. At that time, it was pointed out by some, that Louis Gates was merely engaged in racial racketeering, as he accused the police officer of racism without basis. An accusation and serious charge of racism against a fine police officer, which was not based on the facts and the evidences.
Perhaps it is Henry Louis Gates’ calling card and nature, to make sundry conclusions while shirking away from the intellectual dexterity required to sift through facts and evidences, and engage in empirical analysis, particularly so, for anyone with pretension to academic credentials, and with desire to be taken seriously. In the all important matter of slave trade, slavery and overdue reparations, Gates has come with a claptrap and a hack job to absolve, exculpate and exonerate his historical tormentors?
Louis Gates lazily, engaged in this silly pretensions to rewrite and revise the well settled history of the profound evil of slavery, the worst evil, in human history, and yet, Gates offered obfuscations and parroting of recycled garbage, and sought to cover all these with his happenstance of being a Harvard University employee!
Gates’ inane contribution to revisionists efforts at retelling of the horrors and brutalities of slave trade is shameful. Gates writes about the slave trade as some sorts of friendly business transactions between willing seller and equally willing buyer, as would seller and buyer of pork barrels or barrels of sweet crude or commodities at the New York or Chicago Stock Exchanges; in which merchants of equal statuses seal deals with warm and endearing handshakes, with scheduled caviar and cocktails to follow.
Gates’ flimsy portrayals of Africans as conspiring, conniving and colluding collaborators, with those who came from thousands of miles to far away Africa, to kidnap, snatch and bundles and brutalize Africans into slavery, is an effort, which is worse than useless on the part of Gates. Gates’ melodramatic lies failed to inform his readers of Oba Ovoramwen of Benin, a king of the Bini Kingdom who was dethroned and exiled outside of his domain, because he opposed Europeans horrors and brutalities and oppression in his kingdom. And there were many others like Oba Ovaramwen and the Mau Mau, during slavery and colonialism, who opposed Europeans, and paid with their lives or were jailed by Europeans! Gates obviously have not read a single page about Belgian Congo and King Leopold?
Gates through his published trash and falsehoods, has joined resurgent revisionists and others, who seek to reconstruct and falsify facts and evidences of slave trade and the enslavement of Africans in the Americas, in Europe and in the Arab world.
Gates and others are merely engaged in spreading recycled garbage in their attempts to absolve, exonerate and exculpate Americans, Europeans and Arabs who originated and practiced for hundreds of years, the forceful enslavement of African. Gates in doing so, is lazily and spuriously relying on anecdotal nonsense such as an incident in which a continental African political office holder, Mathieu Kerekou who in 1999, 600 years after the fact, drops to his knees in Maryland, Baltimore in the United States during a church service as he “apologized” for continental Africans role in slave trade? The African, Gates’ anecdotal “empirical” point of reference, is held up as “evidence” as if he was an eyewitness or that he found an ancient document or some sorts of divine revelation which establishes the buffoonish assertions made thereafter? An academic relies on this?
Gates should be seen for what he really is; He is an apologist for the heinous crimes, horrors and brutalities which slavery was! Apologists for slavers and sundry revisionists such as Gates, pretend to reconstruct and retell what transpired during slave trade some 600 years ago? This revisionism completely ignores the evidence and facts of history, in connection with slave trade, colonialism, apartheid and racism. Anyone with half a brain should clearly see that slavery was designed and implemented by America and Europe for their own benefit and without consultations and without intents to benefit Africans. American and European economic growth depended on it. Gates and his revisionist crews, would want the world to believe that Africans sent memos and emails and tweets to command Americans and Europeans into slave trade, these poor hapless, harmless Christian Americans and Europeans, compelled into wickedness of slavery by those darn African elites! No one should believe Gates’ lies!
Slavery just like its twin evil, colonialism, was inflicted upon Africans without regard to the lives, interests and aspirations of continental Africans. Case in point is the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 during which the African continent and peoples were portioned between Europeans nations or powers. First among the sins of the Berlin Conference was the fact that no African or African representatives were invited. Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy etc were the nations in attendance.
The bulk of the internecine crises on the African continent today, are a consequences of that original sin by Europeans, in which lumped Africans or separated Africans arbitrarily, without care to similarities and or differences of the peoples of the continent, but instead, the emphasis was the interests and suzerainty of Europeans nations. Europeans sphere of interests, national and strategic, from raw materials to navigation “rights” throughout the African continent. America and European nations repeated and replicated this attitude of utter disregard and contempt for African during the Cold War, during which African nations were used and exploited in the chasms and schisms between Western nations on the one hand and Soviet Union East Europeans on the other.
Gates in arguing against reparations, sought to make exceptions the general rule. All through history, it is the case that in human conflicts and wars etc, there are traitors, collaborators and profiteers in every race, nation and continent. However, it is ridiculously absurd, for anyone with a scintilla of reason and logic, to seek to make traitors, collaborators and profiteers, the main story of any conflict or war. It is illogical to say that Haliburton Inc and BlackWater Inc caused Iraq war, because it received no bid contracts and profited from the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It is equally illogical to blame Ahmad Chalabi an Iraqi exile and opportunist, for the predetermined invasion and occupation of Iraq by Bush-Cheney administration. Similarly, there are American citizens who have collaborated with Al Queida and Taliban in terrorism against America, but only an ignorant person and a complete fool, would believe that those American citizen collaborators whatever their excuse, share equal responsibility with Al Queda and the Taliban terrorism upon America, in design and implementations!John Walker Lindh, Jose Padilla etc, are not the source Al Queda and Taliban’s strength.
An example is the fact that some Jews may have been collaborators and colluded with Nazis and other Jew haters. But how does that excuse Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany? How do such roles played by collaborators and complicit Jews become the main story of the extermination of the Jews and Jewish Holocaust and reason to have denied reparations to the Jews? He engaged in his preachment with the zeal of a paid Holocaust denier and anti Semitic bigot!
And history also documents Africans American traitors who infiltrated the Civil Right Movement on behalf of the police, FBI and others who were opposed to equality for African Americans… these were nevertheless the exception to the rule. But imagine anyone demeaning the Civil Rights Movement and the horrors and brutalities faced by catapulting and vaulting these exceptions to the rule betrayers and treacheries by some African Americans as if it were the main story of he Civil Rights Movement gains and losses?
Louis Gates is essentially a hack job for those who have been forever opposed to reparations for over 200 years
Louis Gates is a flimsy and a self-loathing intellectual. His silly presentation seeks to absolve, exculpate and exonerate his white handlers of the egregious and heinous horrors and brutalities of slave trade.
Louis Gates is arguing that persons such as Thomas Hagan, the killer of Malcolm X, is reason to demean the horrors and brutalities which were visited on African Americans as they sought equality of citizenship in the United States.
The majority of African Americans were not conniving, colluding and betraying the cause of equality… but there were those who infiltrated the Black Panther, and other Civil Right Movement organizations on behalf of the police, the FBI etc to undermine the worthy cause of freedom and equality… imagine using the infiltrators and betrayers to define the era?
Henry Louis Gates emphatically used his stated conjectures as if they were sacrosanct and incontrovertible immutable evidences and facts akin to finding a smoking gun! Gates repeatedly used words, such as “significant” “considerable” “the truth” “90 percent” and Gates failed and neglected to substantiate such assertions. Failed and neglected to elaborate or provide his readers with sources and references for “estimates” as basis for his fawning didactic and pedagogic abracadabra!
Argument against reparations, Louis Gates flimsy presentation will fall nicely into the hands of those who have been opposed to reparations for slavery for continental Africans and peoples of African descent. The other side can now argue that slavery was caused by Africans themselves and as such, no need for apologies or reparations and compensations, and quote a “BLACK MAN” Louis Gates of HARVARD!
Slavery, colonialism, apartheid, the Cold War were all conducted over the heads and contrary to the interests of the governments and peoples of Africa, and the conduct of world affairs continues to follow that lopsided pattern of disregard and contempt for the Africans.
Louis Gates apparently does not possess the intellectual prowess. A robust and superb intellectual would seek empirical data. Gates apparently does not possess the intellectual rigor with which to engage in profound research and painstaking analysis of available data. He is instead, seeks to rely on his peonage, as such impose his baseless, hazy, lazy sweeping generalizations. Continental Africans and peoples of African descent must reject and resoundingly condemn Louis Gates for his revisionist reconstruction and reductive silly retelling of history through falsifications of the known world. Henry Louis Gates condescendingly, arrogantly and in utterly patronizing ill-manner, retorted in his silly-trashy essay, his preconceived notions of how he expect African Americans to misunderstand his blame the victim pseudo intellectual rewriting of the well known, well established horrors and brutalities of slave trade
Perhaps the onset of old age and dementia, intellectual declines and regressions, both physical and mental in nature, are demonstrably responsible for Louis Gates current affronts and assaults on continental Africans and peoples of African descent with his simplistic oversimplifications of the heinous crimes, horrors and brutalities of slave trade?
Perhaps Louis Gates seeks relevance and redemption from his racial racketeering and melodramatic episode of last year in which he labeled a police officer’s reaction to his unruly, ungentlemanly arrogant and intransigent behavior racism? Or is it the case that Louis Gates is an Uncle Tom, a House Negro and a mere token at the hallowed halls of Harvard University, merely speaking with his masters’ voice?
April 29, 2010 at 10:15 AM
While I’m appreciative that you sought out an African perspective on this issue, I’m afraid that this opinion piece is neither reflective of African opinion nor even remotely reasonable.
To be sure, there are Africans who deny the African role in the slave trade, or who attempt to minimize it. They generally use the same rhetorical tactics of denial that Gates referenced in his essay, including distorting history.
However, as Gates noted, many African leaders (as well as scholars and ordinary citizens) have openly acknowledged their continent’s role in the slave trade. In many cases, they have even sought forgiveness or healing.
When we visited Ghana in 2001 to film our PBS documentary, “Traces of the Trade,” we encountered some Ghanaians who were reluctant to believe the truth. However, we also encountered local scholars and leaders who were eager to confront them with the truth, in order to be candid about the past.
This particular essay makes two grave errors. The first is to be devoted largely to ad hominem attacks on Professor Gates — and highly speculative, unwarranted attacks at that. Just consider that the author claims that Gates is “an apologist” for slavery, when in fact Gates argues for the U.S. to confront its role in slavery and racial discrimination!
The second error is more serious, however, and that is to deny the plain truth about the African role in the slave trade.
After all, much of the response to Gates in the last week from supporters of reparations has been premised on the notion that this is well-established history. Yet here we have an example of someone trying fiercely to deny it.
Thus, the author asserts the nonsense that the African role in the slave trade wasn’t voluntary, or wasn’t conducted as a series of profitable business transactions. And he goes on to suggest that instances of Africans resisting European demands during European colonialism somehow either show that Africans weren’t full, equal participants during the slave trade, or that this later history reduces their complicity in the trade. (Gates fully agrees, of course, that colonialism shapes what kind of response to this history African nations should offer, just as matters would be different if later history had left the U.S. a struggling, developing nation and Africa the home of the richest nations on Earth.)
October 23, 2018 at 3:51 PM
The logical cause slavery and it’s ramparts gratuitous brutality is because slavery was what Africans wanted and the Africans insisted that Americans and Europeans buy Africans and brand Africans as if farm Animals? Africans wanted slavery, colonialism and apartheid and the altruistic/benevolent Americans and European were compelled by the Africans? That’s the sorts of nonsense which I expect from racists, the Klu Klux Klan and David Duke friends!
April 29, 2010 at 1:59 PM
I have to agree with James, though I am not crazy about Prof. Gates article, and the point on why now is a good question. I could not see Obama talking about reparations. This man took it too far, where there would be no disagreement on 1845 and Jim Crow Century, which I hold that and the Homestead Act, reinforced Euro-American social wealth and power till this day. With the refusal of the new whites to ally with their black counterparts here, even today working class whites will call our POTUS a nigger. There is the problem where we as American do not understand the individual and our common milieu, for no black, no white.
The power in Africa, did not heed their counsel about the whites who were coming. I believe this for it was passed down through stories of elders. The Yoruba were the strongest and lead many slave trades all the way up to Gambia and Mali. And know their mistakes. Africa must take leadership of its own common milieu. Though every generation must renew for its self, it can not allow unsolved pains and hurt from the past to remain either and this is what happen to the issue of supremacy by one ethnic group on others. Why we had a Rwanda. As the Bantu sage say, the past and the future walk today. Time is an illusion, and kindness is everything
May 25, 2010 at 6:41 PM
The focus on slavery is diverting because it ceased as a legal entity in The USA more than a hundred years ago. However, post-slavery racial exploitation and terrorism against blacks continued for another hundred years, and institutionalized disparities which inflict significant harm on American descendants of the slave trade and slavery continue today in every department of American life. How do we redress these harms– essentially taking away the possibilities of life , liberty and the pursuit of happiness from a huge segment of the population based on their former status as slaves, something that was ostensibly forbidden by the 13th and 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.
August 10, 2010 at 3:33 PM
The attack on Dr. Gates truly is unfounded allegations on the pretense of opposed hypothesis. I would propose Dr. Gates literary mannerism are that of empirical evidence and unbiased. Passion and incendiary rhetoric are not attributes in social historical accounts. I believe the professor’s ideology is to give factual accounts as a social scientist and to find humanity in an inhuman environment.