With the International Slavery Remembrance day passing by on the 23rd August each year with little mention, it was the recent slavery remembrance day held in Trafalgar square on the 21st of August that really had me thinking.
Are Africans ashamed of their slave past and descendants, and if so... why?.
All fingers point to the answer being ... yes. For it is very rare to hear an African born African speak about, or have an opinion on the slave trade even though the impact on the history of the continent is undeniable.
What exists is a sense of 'other-ism' towards the diaspora, with Caribbean, America or UK born Africans being viewed in a sense, as the 'exotic' 'mixed', 'not quite right' or not African at all 'other'..
What is that other-ism?.
Well it is possible that the African complicity in the Slave Trade renders it difficult for some to speak as an authority on the ills of the Trade. It's equally possible that as slavery was in practice across parts of Africa even before the trans Atlantic Slave Trade that there exists an underlying belief that perhaps slavery is not all bad at all.
Parallels are often made with the Jewish holocaust, yet these parallels are relatively pointless.
Unlike the Jewish holocaust the African slave trade has never really garnered the same level of recognition as a horrific crime against humanity. Black people who speak about slavery are often met with frowns, deep breaths of tolerance, and in general they are expected to get over it, forget about it, and move on. Comments which will never be spoken to any Jew of European heritage, who do not appear in any way ashamed of their holocaust,but angry, and have found a way to ensure the world never forgets.
One of the reasons I believe these events have been remembered so differently is the sheer scale of the African Holocaust. There are simply too many stories, too many slave owners, too may countries, and the absolute enormity of the dispersal renders most people aghast. Unlike the Jewish holocaust who has a focus of 'one key bad guy' ( Who the 'world fought against and defeated).
It is not so with the African Holocaust.
Ironically, part of the reason for the lack of recognition could be in part due to the lack of interest of the African themselves. I have had several discussions with individuals who in not knowing my own background say things such 'they are not really African', or behave as though black slave decedents or black Africans born outside of the continent have something in their DNA which is perhaps not quite right (forgetting of course as they do... their own children birthed abroad)
Comments made in 2012, by the then-President Abdoulaye Wade, that his opponent, Macky Sall, could not and should not be elected because he was “the descendant of slaves.” further allude to that being a strongly held belief among many.
Whilst this was proved untrue and Sall succeeded in becoming President of Senegal, that level of contempt from a man who ironically received much of his education in France; a former colonial power, is very telling.
For that level of ignorance to have held power is a worry, but is it really an isolated thought, or isolated ignorance?
The former Presidents cronies may have laughed at the time, but the reality is such ignorance can prove to be a real an obstacle to unity and an obstacle to progress.
But it's that 'not quite right' aspect I wish to explore further, as it will help to highlight the erroneous nature of the slave trade and indeed, colonialism.
Africa today is as class-ist as any other class stratified country. How these classes are formed vary, but you can bet that slavery remains an aspect of that stratification, whether many realize it or not.
Poor people are not just 'born poor'. The family you are born into, your name, your tribe... will all tell a story with regards to which class you either hail from, or need to remain in.
To those of us who view these points as somewhat unimportant minor details, in reality for others, they can seriously impact, and often define the value of a persons human-ness.
The 'not quite right' aspect....may not be quite what you think however.
That 'otherness' is not necessarily the European, Indian, Arab or any 'otherness', the 'otherness that is often deemed 'not quite right'
shockingly appears to be... its very own African Identity.
It appears that it's little more than the African identity of Slave descendants that most embarrasses 'Africa'.
Slavery murdered and raped its way into the psychology of the African, leaving a deep rooted mess that can only be understood by the African themselves, but rarely is.
I personally think the Transatlantic Slave Trade need not be a badge of African shame.
To be enslaved is not to be a slave... there is a difference.
It's time that Africans see the 'so called' descendants of slaves, not as slaves.. but as Africans. and it really is as simple as that.
The African shame or denial is an embarrassment to the diaspora.. and pointless.
That is not to deny the beautiful Caribbean Island cultures that are a wonderful creolized blend of African and Caribbean history. That it not to deny the other cultural influences that those of us in the diaspora now have, no. But it's to recognize that to be ashamed or to deny the African in others, is to keep that transatlantic slave trade alive and well for generations to come.
and please tell me 'Haiti' didn't fight the bloodiest revolution for nothing.
What I would say however, and one thing that is very clear to me is that with the current issues affecting the continent, it is understandable that the historical 'blip' of 'that Slave Trade', will not sit at the forefront of pressing concerns,
Yes, now that...I understand.
Sources [The incredible quest to find the African slave ships that sank in the Atlantic]
[How descendants of slaves are stigmatized for life]