Archive for the ‘History’ Tag

We Were Better Off When We were Slaves? Uhhh!! Time To Go   2 comments

On June 8, I returned to the United States to get my things organized for my move back to Colombia. As I have said before moving to Latin America is a healing contribution to my soul. But I have to admit my elation with seeing friends and family has been troubled by the reminder of why my soul needs healing. The latest salvo comes from The Family Leader, whose mission, as appears on their website, is to be “a consistent, courageous voice in the churches, in the legislature, in the media, in the courtroom, in the public square…always standing for God’s truth.” Described as an Iowa based conservative group with both money and political power, The Family Leader released on July 7, 2011 a presidential candidate pledge document stating “Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President,” As a requirement for The Family Leader’s presidential endorsement, both Rep. Michelle Bachmann and Sen. Rick Santorum signed the original document containing those sentiments.

Though, because of public outcry, the statement has been deleted from the declaration one has to wonder what level of thinking; what social, political, economic or spiritual agenda lead to such an oration in the first place. And what are potential presidents of the United States thinking, believing and valuing leading them to affirm such a perspective. To say that the lives of slaves in North America provided African Americans with a more intact family structure than they have today is both ludicrous and insane. The fact is that families were torn apart by slavery. Women were raped by their masters. Children were sold from their families. Husbands and wives were treated as chattle to be sold either separately or together depending on the will of their masters. People were murdered because of the color of their skin.

When I say that I am moving to Colombia some people are quick to point out the fact that Colombia has its own racist history. This is true! Yet, somehow, it seems, the slave trade and the millions of lives affected by it must have taken a more insidious turn when it reached North America. To quote Kjartan Sveinsson, Senior Research & Policy Analyst, The Runnymede Trust, “Some historians have argued that, because of this combination of economic, cultural and legal factors, Colombian authorities and slave owners were more ready to accept slaves as human beings with – albeit not equal – at least some basic rights. This is not to say that a slave’s life in Colombia was a good one, but slaves appear to have enjoyed more freedom than their counterparts up north. Liberty, for example, was a legitimate goal for a slave who could gain his or her freedom through a variety of means. Furthermore, and to a great extent through the influence of the Catholic Church, family bonds amongst slaves were fostered and encouraged. Up to two-thirds of all adult slaves in Colombia lived in family units, and parents had rights over the fate of their children – when sale occurred, it was more often than not the sale of families.”

Let me also point out that slavery did not exist in Latin America for the length of time it existed in North America. Most accounts hold that slavery began in the United States in the early 1600’s and did not end until 1865 or so; the Emancipation Proclamation did not free all slaves. Afro Colombians proudly celebrate that in 1757 the first emancipation of slaves in the Americas came in eastern Antioquia in the town of El Retiro where 127 slaves were emancipated by their slaveholders. Though the process of full emancipation did not get started until 1821 and was only achieved in 1852, the overcoming of this horrible practice, by whatever means necessary is seemingly a source of pride for many Colombians.

In my last post, July 5, 2011, I talked about the connections between Latin American culture and African Americans. Connections that go back, at minimum, to the slave trade and the common struggles experienced by generations afterwards are just a part the journey we share on a spiritual level. When I am in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Colombia’s Atlantic coast I no longer feel like I am being treated differently; being judged differently; having different rules apply to me; having different penalties for breaking those same rules; and more, because of the color of my skin.

Statements, like the one made by The Family Leader seemingly lament the good old days. These beliefs and sentiments are really the tip of the iceberg. The ongoing assault that “minorities” face in the United States of America is wearisome. I have chosen not to spend the rest of my life waiting for the next racist salvo to be launched. Or worse looking in the mirror and wondering why I am allowing my soul to be contaminated by these kinds of thoughts and beliefs. So, again, don’t call me gringo. I may be from North America but there is no way in God’s universe that I can even begin to embrace values such as these nor the ideals from which they spawn.

Posted July 12, 2011 by Wayne in Uncategorized

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