At Real Clear Politics, a curious incident leads Thomas Sowell to think about how the history of slavery is taught, and how its one-sided presentation leads to the wrong lessons:
Just as Europeans enslaved Africans, North Africans enslaved Europeans– more Europeans than there were Africans enslaved in the United States and in the 13 colonies from which it was formed.
The treatment of white galley slaves was even worse than the treatment of black slaves picking cotton. But there are no movies or television dramas about it comparable to “Roots,” and our schools and colleges don’t pound it into the heads of students.
The inhumanity of human beings toward other human beings is not a new story, much less a local story. There is no need to hide it, because there are lessons we can learn from it. But there is also no need to distort it, so that sins of the whole human species around the world are presented as special defects of “our society” or the sins of a particular race.
If American society and Western civilization are different from other societies and civilization, it is that they eventually turned against slavery, and stamped it out, at a time when non-Western societies around the world were still maintaining slavery and resisting Western pressures to end slavery, including in some cases armed resistance.
Only the fact that the West had more firepower than others put an end to slavery in many non-Western societies during the age of Western imperialism. Yet today there are Americans who have gone to Africa to apologize for slavery– on a continent where slavery has still not been completely ended, to this very moment.
Sowell argues that those teaching only one aspect of the story of slavery, how America enslaved Africans, for example, are doing so because they have an agenda: the derogation and slighting of the civilization in which they live. They also miss the real story, that of the dangers inherent in letting one group of people have unconstrained power over another.
And thus they do their students no favors.