The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Ironic Journalism

Posted on | June 28, 2023 | 6 Comments

Reuters decided to go digging up the past, and perhaps didn’t calculate the possible consequences of what they would find:

In researching the genealogies of America’s political elite, a Reuters examination found that a fifth of the nation’s congressmen, living presidents, Supreme Court justices and governors are direct descendants of ancestors who enslaved Black people…
President Joe Biden and every living former U.S. president — except Donald Trump — are direct descendants of slaveholders: Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and — through his white mother’s side — Barack Obama. Trump’s ancestors came to America after slavery was abolished.

By the way, I hate this newfangled way of referring to slavery, using the verb “enslaved.” Did the person who owned slaves actively enslave them? The verb implies that, had it not been for this particular slave owner, the slave would otherwise have been free — but it wasn’t like that at all. The first African slaves in Virginia arrived aboard the White Lion. Originally from Angola, then a Portuguese colony, these slaves had been part of a cargo aboard the Spanish ship San Juan Bautista, bound for Santa Cruz, Mexico. Before the Spanish ship reached Mexico, however, it was attacked by English privateer ships, the White Lion and the Treasurer, who took about 60 slaves, most of whom subsequently ended up in Virginia. Had this raid not happened, these Angolan slaves would have ended up in Mexico instead, but either way, they would not have been free — because they were “enslaved” before they ever left Africa.

Why do most Americans know nothing about this? Why is it that we never hear any criticism of the Portuguese, Spanish, French and Dutch who were involved in slavery? Or why isn’t it pointed out that slavery in Africa had existed for centuries before any Europeans ever began purchasing slaves and sending them across the Atlantic? Why it is made to seem that the only guilty parties are white Americans?

If you start asking questions like that, and are willing to devote many hours to researching the subject — as I did, long before The 1619 Project provoked controversy — you may come to the realization that this grievance-mongering approach to the history of slavery is Marxist in its origins, traceable to the anti-American propaganda of the Soviet Union and Communist Party (e.g., Herb Aptheker). The reason Americans (but not Mexicans, Brazilians, etc.) are so incessantly guilt-tripped about slavery is because the guilt-trippers hate America.

It is strangely amusing (but not really surprising) to learn that Barack Obama is descended from slave owners, as is Joe Biden, and while my own genealogical research has not revealed whether my distant ancestors owned slaves, it’s quite likely at least some of them did, and so what? I did not inherit a Greek revival mansion surrounded by live oaks draped in Spanish moss. My grandparents were born on small farms in the red clay hills of Randolph County, Alabama. When discussing what life was like growing up in rural Alabama in the 1930s, my aunt said, “We didn’t even know we were poor — everybody was poor.”

The idea that we should feel shame about our ancestors, who never lived in our world of air-conditioned comfort, is absurd and insulting. The past in which slavery existed is, as has been noted, Gone With the Wind — destroyed by the bloodiest war in our nation’s history — and there is nothing to be gained by hindsight recriminations over that past.




6 Responses to “Ironic Journalism”

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