But still we rise: Part II
The beginnings of Oppression
Africa in her glory days before the advent of slavery was a land of many kingdoms, empires and societies. Rich and diverse, the cultures that thrived on the continent include Ancient Egypt, Cush in the North, Songhai, Mali, Asante in the West, Kitara, Buganda and Ethiopian societies in East, the great Zimbabwe and Zulu kingdom in the south. These societies had all the core necessities for relations in a functional society; education, production, trade, security and religion for a moral campus. A traveler to ancient Mali wrote; “The ‘Negroes’ are seldom unjust and have greater abhorrence of injustice than any other people. Their sultan shows no mercy to anyone guilty of the least lack of it. There is complete security in their country. Neither traveler nor inhabitant in it has anything to fear from men of violence.” This was Arabic Scholar Thus Ibn Battuta’s impression of 15th century Africa. At the time, inland Africa was mostly unknown. Only Egypt and surrounding areas were subject to direct foreign influence.
Meanwhile in the Europe, The Ottoman Turks were conquering the Byzantine strategic city of Constantinople and launching military attack campaigns in the Balkans. The French and British were at war many times in the Hundred years war. War was the language of Europe. With little contact with the war-ravaged West though, inland Africa was at risk of a string of murderous invaders raining on its parade. And invade they did.
When the Portuguese sailors landed on the coast of what we now know as Sierra Leone in 1460, the stage was set for Europeans to start their not-so-discreet violation of the freedoms of the African people. The fleet would go back home to Portugal and report their discoveries of a vast plush green and rich land of Africa. Soon their European counter parts would learn about inland Africa’s riches and they wanted a piece of the action. Who could have predicted the action would be the trade human beings?
After Europeans had exported their murderous colonisation project to the Americas, they needed labour to work the newly looted vast plantations in America. Enter the African solution. The Africans, bred strong and hard, were ‘clearly’ born to do the job. As opposed to acquiring the labour the civilised manner, exchange of payment for services offered, the Europeans so it fit use the superior weapons they had acquired from their vast experience in war to uproot, transport and enslave the strong and productive population of Africa. (ironic how it’s the Africans considered barbaric.) So Africa was robbed of its productive population. (which would explain some of its economic “backwardness”)
The lucrative shipping of Africans from the continent to the Americas continued for some 300+ years, shipping an estimated 10 million people to a strange land devoid of anything resembling to human rights so (again super ironically) loved by Europe today. (So much so that they are now the keepers of human rights through the International Criminal Court). And the conversation about how all the convicts of the ICC are Africans is for another day.
The new owners of ‘the new world’ (the Americas) had ridden themselves of a very big cost in the production process. A one-time payment and acquire a money making live human being. They grew rich and built cities and a country for themselves. As for the Africans that had just touched down in what is mostly now known as United States of America, they had absolutely no idea what they had just gotten themselves into.
They were in a strange country with no rights, no means of subsistence but their labour and treated like a lesser human being than their white ‘masters’ for centuries. Condemned to live fighting for the right to live, to work and to exist as a human being.
So here we are in 2020, and protests are destabilising the big cities the whites built. It has been weeks since the killing of George Floyd in the city of Minneapolis, but protests are still going strong across the US and Europe. Protestors in London and New London recently brought down statues of Robert Milligan and Christopher Columbus who made fortunes from slave trade. So what does the taking down of the statues over 500 years later really mean?
My thoughts on the answer are in the series