- Sep 2021
Africanslavery lacked two elements that made American slavery the most cruel formof slavery in history: the frenzy for limitless profit that comes from capitalisticagriculture; the reduction of the slave to less than human status by the use ofracial hatred, with that relentless clarity based on color, where white wasmaster, black was slave.
While we've generally moved beyond chattel slavery, I'm struck by the phrase frenzy for limitless profit that comes from capitalistic agriculture. Though we don't have slavery, is American culture all-too captured by the idea of frenzied capitalism to the tune that the average American (the 99%) is a serf in their own country? Are we still blinded by our need for (over-)consumption?
Are we recommitting the sins of the past perhaps in milder forms because of a blindness to an earlier original sin of capitalism?
Do we need to better vitiate against raw capitalism with more regulation to provide a healthier mixed economy?
Slavery existed in the African states, and it was sometimes used byEuropeans to justify their own slave trade. But, as Davidson points out, the“slaves” of Africa were more like the serfs of Europe—in other words, likemost of the population of Europe. It was a harsh servitude, but they had rightswhich slaves brought to America did not have, and they were “altogetherdifferent from the human cattle of the slave ships and the Americanplantations.”
I like the framing of this.
While Europeans used the fact that slavery existed in Africa to justify their own use of Africans as slaves, the concept of slavery in Africa was akin to the idea of serfs in Europe. These slaves/serfs in Africa certainly had hard and difficult lives, but they did have some rights and freedoms not granted to American slaves in any form.