What You Can’t Say in America

Jon Hubbard, a Republican member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, has a book, titled “Letters to the Editor: Confessions of a Frustrated Conservative.” Among its statements for which Hubbard has been criticized and disavowed by the Republican Party is, “The institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise. The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth.”

Hubbard’s observation reminded me of my 1972 job interview at the University of Massachusetts. During a reception, one of the Marxist professors asked me what I thought about the relationship between capitalism and slavery. My response was that slavery has existed everywhere in the world, under every political and economic system, and was by no means unique to capitalism or the United States. Perturbed by my response, he asked me what my feelings were about the enslavement of my ancestors. I answered that slavery is a despicable violation of human rights but that the enslavement of my ancestors is history, and one of the immutable facts of history is that nothing can be done to change it.

The matter could have been left there, but I volunteered that today’s American blacks have benefited enormously from the horrible suffering of our ancestors. Why? I said the standard of living and personal liberty of black Americans are better than what blacks living anywhere in Africa have. I then asked the professor what it was that explained how tens of millions of blacks came to be born in the U.S. instead of Africa. He wouldn’t answer, but an answer other than slavery would have been sheer idiocy. I attempted to assuage the professor’s and his colleagues’ shock by explaining to them that to morally condemn a practice such as slavery does not require one to also deny its effects.

My yet-to-be-learned lesson — and perhaps that of Rep. Hubbard — is that there are certain topics or arguments that one should not bring up in the presence of children or those with little understanding. Both might see that explaining a phenomenon is the same as giving it moral sanction or justification. It’s as if one’s explanation that the independent influence of gravity on a falling object is to cause it to accelerate at 32 feet per second per second could be interpreted as giving moral sanction and justification to gravity.

Slavery is widely misunderstood, and as such has been a tool for hustlers and demagogues. Slavery has been part of the human condition throughout recorded history and everywhere on the globe. Romans enslaved other Europeans; Greeks enslaved other Greeks; Asians enslaved Asians; Africans enslaved Africans; and in the New World, Aztecs enslaved Aztecs and other native groups. Even the word slave is derived from the fact that Slavic people were among the early European slaves.Hubbard — is that there are certain topics or arguments that one should not bring up in the presence of children or those with little understanding. Both might see that explaining a phenomenon is the same as giving it moral sanction or justification. It’s as if one’s explanation that the independent influence of gravity on a falling object is to cause it to accelerate at 32 feet per second per second could be interpreted as giving moral sanction and justification to gravity.

Though racism has been used to justify slavery, the origins of slavery had little to do with racism. In recent history, the major slave traders and slave owners have been Arabs, who enslaved Europeans, black Africans and Asians. A unique aspect of slavery in the Western world was the moral outrage against it, which began to emerge in the 18th century and led to massive efforts to eliminate it. It was Britain’s military might and the sight of the Union Jack on the high seas that ultimately put an end to the slave trade.

Unfortunately, the facts about slavery are not the lessons taught in our schools and colleges. The gross misrepresentation and suggestion in textbooks and lectures is that slavery was a uniquely American practice done by racist white people to black people. Despite abundant historical evidence, youngsters are taught nothing about how the Founding Fathers quarreled, debated and agonized over the slave issue.

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.

  • Danny Caplan

    Sensitive historical issues such as slavery cause people to impose upon themselves restrictions in not only speech, but also in thought. It is not an overly sophisticated concept to hold that while slavery was a horrible nightmare for Blacks, it has had a possitive unintended consequence, namely that the descendants of slaves were lucky (as are all Americans) to be born and raised in America. Slavery was bad, being a descendant of a slave is good–these are not contradictory ideas. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to go overboard, but it doesn't make anyone appear to be more opposed to racism (and consequently a finer person) to think illogically.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "Sensitive historical issues such as slavery cause people to impose upon themselves restrictions in not only speech, but also in thought."

      Not quite right. It is the cultural values and taboos that impose restrictions, not the topics. Culture is taught, it is not innate. It is not self-imposed until the individual is programmed or coerced to do so.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "It is not an overly sophisticated concept to hold that while slavery was a horrible nightmare for Blacks, it has had a possitive unintended consequence, namely that the descendants of slaves were lucky (as are all Americans) to be born and raised in America. Slavery was bad, being a descendant of a slave is good–these are not contradictory ideas. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to go overboard, but it doesn't make anyone appear to be more opposed to racism (and consequently a finer person) to think illogically."

      I agree and I'll add that a favorite trick of the propagandists is to take the bare essence of any topic that suits the process of reducing to a dichotomy to supposedly prove their points. They manipulate emotions and let the student-victims infer the rest.

      "Was or wasn't slavery evil? Yes or no!"

      'Well, yes but I'd like to say that today…."

      "Making excuses then?"

      'No…I just wanted to say that I…'

      "Racist!!!! Now let's talk about the conservative war on women!!!"

      The point is that having nuanced conversations where points and counterpoints are tolerated before rendering judgments would be teaching students how to reason. We don't do that any longer. We teach them what to think and what is acceptable to say.

  • ffortnightly

    "Slavery" in America is used as an excuse to justify hatred of white people. It doesn't matter that few white American have any connection to slavery. ALL white Americans are assumed to be the spawn of slavers, by racists!
    Grobbbbbbbbbbbbb

    • objectivefactsmatter

      ""Slavery" in America is used as an excuse to justify hatred of white people. It doesn't matter that few white American have any connection to slavery. ALL white Americans are assumed to be the spawn of slavers, by racists!"

      Topics in America like slavery are used by collectivists to justify class warfare. It's not really about slavery.

  • Chezwick

    I actually understand the strong emotional reaction of liberals to the issue of slavery. It reminds me of my own moral outrage when liberals try to dispassionately explain the phenomenon of Palestinian suicide bombing. After the typical disclaimer ("it's not that I support such a thing"), they go on to try and rationalize the deliberate targeting and murder of women and children with such language as "a response to oppression", "occupation", "lack of other means", etc. It's tantamount to saying the Palestinians have no other recourse but to commit such indiscriminate violence. I find such rationalizations not only false, but nauseating.

    Some things are wrong…and they're always wrong. Slavery is one of those things. The Palestinian predilection for deliberately killing non-combatants is another. A little moral indignation is not just appropriate, but essential, if we are ever to fully cultivate our humanity….and the distinction between the civilized man and the savage..

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "I actually understand the strong emotional reaction of liberals to the issue of slavery."

      There are few people do don't understand the emotional impact of the history on those who lived it. Showing cause and effect for today's culture is another matter entirely, and that is where the problem lies. There probably are still some legacy effects of slavery, but I'm convinced that we aren't even properly managing the legitimate issues. Emotional arguments should give way to reason eventually. How long should we wait for this?

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "Slavery is one of those things. The Palestinian predilection for deliberately killing non-combatants is another"

      One is past and dealt with (or should have been by now) while the other is a clear and present danger. It makes a big difference in attitude.

      Having said that, there's nothing wrong with showing moral outrage for slavery because it does exist today, it's just not happening much here in the USA, but is being used to justify class warfare. That complicates how anyone approaches the discourse. Sorry, but there are important distinctions to be made, that are often not given the time needed to consider them.

  • aspacia

    Right On Sowell:-) Oh, I do teach about the continual in house fighting between our founders regarding numerous issues including slavery:-) Facts are Facts, and revisionism is bs.

  • Goemon

    The first slave-owner in USA was a lack man named Anthony Johnson. Before then slaves were undentured but his slave Mr. Casor was the first slave for life.

    • Goemon

      I meant black man not lack man

      • ebonystone

        You also mean indentured, not undentured. Many whites were also sent to the colonies as indentured servants.

    • Horace

      Good thing they were undentured, since that made sure they wouldn't be asked to do like the Eskimo women and chew their husbands boots daily to keep them pliable.

      • objectivefactsmatter

        I was thinking an undentured servant would be cheaper since rope was cheaper than chains.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "Before then slaves were undentured but his slave Mr. Casor was the first slave for life."

      I doubt very much that his slave was the first to be kept for life. I do however take your point that the overly-simple narrative of black vs. white as told today is intentionally deceptive.

  • lischelle love, R N

    I think it is high time Mr. Williams and other people whohave the audacity to compare slavery to European CHATTEL slavery and then try to infer some sort of "blessing" was given to black Americans for bringing them from Africa to the Americas in chains.
    How you can apply the politics of today to the politics of that time as some sort of justification for slavery is simply mind-boggling in its ignorance and lack of common sense and humanity. But it also explains why most white people make the familiar comment of their family not owning slaves, so they don't owe black people of today anything in reparations, apology or even consideration and even have the nerve to say black people should "get over it"….like hell!!
    Whether your family owned slaves or not, the entire social and political system was – and still is – set up to benefit whites and disenfrachise blacks on every level of the social strata. If anyone should "get over it", it is white conservatives and the tokens working alongside them.

    • Kufar Dawg

      Do you have anything to say about Arabic muslims, who constituted the supply side of slavery, owned slaves, still own slaves (as in right now, in the 21st century, in places like the Sudan and Mauritania), and were fond of making eunuchs of their slaves? Or do you blame whites for that as well?

      • objectivefactsmatter

        "Do you have anything to say about Arabic muslims, who constituted the supply side of slavery, owned slaves, still own slaves (as in right now, in the 21st century, in places like the Sudan and Mauritania), and were fond of making eunuchs of their slaves? Or do you blame whites for that as well?"

        I hate to say it, but there is no way this person will even understand your point in the slightest. No doubt the brain would explode if it had to digest such a complex set of facts.

      • objectivefactsmatter

        "Do you have anything to say about Arabic muslims, who constituted the supply side of slavery, owned slaves, still own slaves (as in right now, in the 21st century, in places like the Sudan and Mauritania), and were fond of making eunuchs of their slaves? Or do you blame whites for that as well?"

        No! Stop it, you're hurting my head!!

        Class victims:
        Blacks
        Muslims
        Arabs
        etc.

        Get it straight or Obama will have your taxes audited you evil white man, and leave the women alone too. Stop your wars against humanity.

    • Rozell

      Here ya go folks. Iischelle love is the real deal. This is not one of those libby-lefty dead-behind-the-eyes lefty. This is the real deal–this person really truly believes what they just said. This is a pure product of not just the race hustlers but our schools, this persons parents, our government. This is what we get, a completely brainwashed oblivious person–they are amongst us!

    • Jack

      I don’t agree with you.

    • rjr

      Your post exemplifies what Mr Williams is talking about when he wrote.."there are certain topics or arguments that one should not bring up in the presence of children or those with little understanding. Both might see that explaining a phenomenon is the same as giving it moral sanction or justification." Mr Williams is merely stating a fact that black americans have a higher standard of living and greater liberty here than blacks living in africa do. Nowhere does he say that justifies slavery or that it was anything short of horrendous for those living under it.

      Slavery was never fully accepted by the majority of Americans at any time in American history. It has been the topic of debate and has caused a war that eventually liberated blacks from it. It is in the past. It is history. Nothing can change it. There is no one left to give reparations to if Americans were so inclined. America has appologized for slavery over and over. We have an affirmative action system that is more often than not tilted toward favoring blacks over other races. When does it become enough? If you believe you are a victim than you will remain a victim. And the only one to blame for that is you.

    • Drakken

      Your right, I don't owe you a bloody thing period. If you think your going to hang your lack of success on me and mine you have another thing coming. Not happy in the US because we are so racist? Well head on back to the motherland of Africa where I am sure reality will be much different.

    • Horace

      Almost all black slaves shipped to the British colonies and later the USA were captured by other black tribes in Africa in tribal wars or slave raids and sold to local slave traders who also were black, and then in turn to slavers in slave markets who were more often Arab or white, such as Portugese, rarely American. Rather than being killed outright by the victors in tribal wars, they were enslaved. Is that a good thing? Not to those modern libs who dont have enough brain cells left to rub a few together to make a rational unemotional thought. Sure the prospect of making a few pieces of gold off your captives was one of the motivations for tribal wars and raids. It was never right for white farmers to buy slaves or keep them enslaved, but they didn't know that at the time because slavery was a common practice (morally wrong+/-). Slavery still exists today in Muslim lands. Blacks are a good group, and need to be a credit to their race in general. Williams sure is a credit to his race, and to all Americans. God bless him. Lischelle is still mad about it and will never get over it. She'll try to poison other minds about it too.

      • objectivefactsmatter

        "Almost all black slaves shipped to the British colonies and later the USA were captured by other black tribes in Africa in tribal wars or slave raids and sold to local slave traders who also were black, and then in turn to slavers in slave markets who were more often Arab or white, such as Portugese, rarely American"

        Stop it! You're being too complex! My mind is reeling…ah! But slavery was evil and whites did it. Whites did it! WHITES DID IT ALL! I'm a victim, I assure you! Obama told me so and he's our leader.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "How you can apply the politics of today to the politics of that time as some sort of justification for slavery is simply mind-boggling in its ignorance and lack of common sense and humanity."

      Your reading comprehension is too poor to comment effectively on the article.

    • Mary Sue

      Busy digging yourself out of a mire of student debt from taking Womens/Ethnic Studies, eh?

  • boshwan

    Lischelle; My family were German farmers who fled Europe between the wars, to take up farming in America. I am one of those that say "my family never owned slaves" That SOME descendents from slaves carry a burden I can never fully appreciate is something I think about often. That the social structures have been poisoned against blacks has some truth. But to discard the good will of non-blacks who extend a hand, and blacks that have decided to "get over it", is to never heal. Calling your fellows "tokens" when they work toward common ground says to me that you want to NEVER have peace. Why?

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "Calling your fellows "tokens""

      It's just disgusting. Those using this language are collectivists who may never wake up.

  • PAthena

    lischelle love, R N shows sheer ignorance and anti-white racism. The anti-slavery movement started in Great Britain – read John Locke, 2nd Treatise of Civil Government. The slave trade to the United States was abolished by President Thomas Jefferson in 1808, the earliest date allowed by the U.S. Constitution. A civil war was fought about slavery in the United States, and abolished by it – white people fought that war to abolish slavery and passed the 14th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing equality under the law. Blacks have the vote, like all American citizens, so they are not "disenfranchised."
    What distinction does this person mean by talking about "European Chattel Slavery?" That slaves in Europe were bought and sold? What slaves in Europe is this person talking about? Slavery ceased to exist in Europe a very long time ago, with the onset of Christianity. There were slaves in ancient Rome. It was a universal institution, and still exists. The Communist countries instituted it with the Gulag Archipelago – see Alexander Solzhenitzyn; Nazi Germany instituted it. I believe it still exists in the Sudan. And, of course, slaves are chattel.

    • Mary Sue

      It's worse than that. Iischelle has been deliberately indoctrinated. Probably in College/University. Probably In womens/ethnic studies, though I hold out the possibility of a crackpot English/Math/History teacher that went off the reservation and straight to the soapbox. They are taught garbage and the people the professors listen to redefined words, by singlehandedly hijacking the definitions and then legitimizing it with the Ivory Tower of Academia.

      And they all ignore the fact of Slavery in Africa that exists TODAY. Practiced both by blacks and arabs since way back when; guess who a lot of the white slave traders BOUGHT their slaves from! And you will not believe the nonsense that they believe "disenfranchises" people. It's enough to make a regular person's head spin.

  • Ozzy

    Let's see; The Jews are better off for the holocaust for now they have Israel. Russians are better off for the Communist rule for now they know to avoid it. The Japanese are better off for world war II because the emperor is dead. The Chinese are better off for WWII because now they know to mistrust the Japanese. Hey, you can do this with anything.

    Just because one is rich doesn't make one happy one's ancestors suffered. Other than that some very good points.

    • boshwan

      It is not as though Mr. Williams said they should be happy about their ancestors suffering. He said that the fallout of that suffering was that the following generations ended up living in a country that – despite some obvious failings – still better for most of them than their country of historical origin. Read "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" by Thomas Sowell.

  • http://tarandfeathersusa.wordpress.com/ Iratus Vulgas

    I think libs tend to view history from a contemporary perspective, as if people in the past thought like people do today. It's why so many on the left view America as an evil country built and maintained by evil men.

  • Shady Character

    @ebonystone-
    Maybe goeman DID mean undentured.
    Many resisted being forced into slavery and in the course of resistance had all their teeth knocked out. :>)

  • Ghostwriter

    Well,my family never owned slaves either. They came over here in the early 20th century.

  • 77patriot

    In the Book of Genesis, Joseph said to his brothers, who sold him into slavery: "what you meant for evil, God meant for good.". But you can't say that to the race hustlers who need to constantly feel aggrieved.

  • WayneRiddle

    Romans 8:28, "And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good…"

    From the Haydock Commentary on the above verse:
    "All trials, temptations, afflictions, must be taken as coming from the hand of God, who ordains or permits them for the greater good of his elect."

  • EJL

    My family never owned slaves. They came at the beginning of the 20th century. Why am I complicit?
    What about all the whites whose ancestors were here, and never owned a slave, and participated in the Civil War or who had relatives who died during that era? The point is: how long can one keep recriminating against whitey? How long can one pretend that there aren't whites who sincerely believe
    in the brotherhood of man?

    • rjr

      "How long can one keep recriminating against whitey" Apparently, to those like lischelle love, until white people agree to subside every black person in America from the cradle to the grave and get up every morning wondering how we can make life better for them.

      It must be nice to have someone to blame for your lot in life. It allows one to opt out of personal responsibility.

      • rjr

        should read subsidize every black person in America

    • Mary Sue

      Just for being white, because dont'cha know, you have a little something called 'White Privilege'. It's something invented by the Ethnic/Gender studies of various universities. White Privilege is basically the concept that just by being white people will fear you less, think you more competent at any given job, will pay you more, will promote you more, and treat you better than any given Person of Color. Just by having White Privilege is apparently oppresive or something.

      How long can recriminations last? Well, forever, hypothetically. Their insistence that only the Oppressed can experience Racism (hijacked terminology) contains the corollary that basically white people should just sit down and stfu when Persons of Color are Speaking, and thus that means they can't object to whatever they're saying, whether it's legit beefs or absolute purple koolaid fuelled paranoia. Only when the Oppressed become the Majority would they even countenance the idea that the current Oppressors (whites) could be victims of Racism if they no longer hold the "power". But even if that were to happen I'm positive they'd weasel their way out of that.

  • Russ P.

    Another excellent article by Mr. Williams. I read the criticisms of it here in the comments. For those of you who criticized the article, please re-read it. Your criticisms only demonstrated your failure to comprehend it.

    • John

      Hit the nail on the head .

  • John

    Clearly living in america is better then living in africa – or put another way I'd rather be an african american than an african african . – But this politician left himself wide open to all the pen and ink attacks he got by simply not wording his point with skill . And words if not crafted well have a way of giving politicians big problems , especially if your a republican politician –

  • objectivefactsmatter

    "A unique aspect of slavery in the Western world was the moral outrage against it, which began to emerge in the 18th century and led to massive efforts to eliminate it. It was Britain’s military might and the sight of the Union Jack on the high seas that ultimately put an end to the slave trade."

    Precisely! And I can't fathom any other source for an anti-slavery movement anywhere in the globe. How often do you hear any thanks or acknowledgement of that?

  • objectivefactsmatter

    Thank you for the article Mr. Williams.

  • fanlad

    It takes courage to dis spell the fact we are not victims, only victims of our circumstance, if we choose to be.

  • Mary Sue

    Speaking of slaves, hero of the Left Omar Khadr, the Canadian al quaida guy, called one of the black female prison guards a "slave" and a "whore"…so now we know what the terrorists think of persons of color. Which makes me wonder why the Left has any part of them.