Three Hundred Years a Slave

I’ve been wanting to write something about the riots since they started.

But sitting here cocooned in my white privilege I don’t have the right to say anything.

So instead I’m trying to imagine what life would be like now if those first European explorers setting foot on lands that were new to them had said ‘Hi, we were just passing.’ instead of ‘This is ours now.’

If they’d had the imagination to see people who were different as still being fundamentally the same in so very many ways.

If they’d had the ability to realise that they were the ones who were, in fact, ‘different’ in that place and at that time. If they’d had just the tiniest bit of humility. If they’d stopped even for a moment and thought about what they were doing.

I’m trying to imagine what life would be like now if those early sea captains arriving on the west coast of Africa and finding that slavery was already commonplace had said ‘Hang on a minute’ instead of ‘Let’s ship them to America’.

If those early plantation owners had said ‘No, thanks.’ If those first consumers of cheap sugar, tobacco and cotton here in the UK had just been a little bit curious about how it could be so cheap.

For the slave trade to develop and then to continue for 300 years, an awful lot of good people had to do nothing.

And it’s still only 187 years since slavery was abolished. It’s only 187 years since it was perfectly legal to buy and sell a human.

We can’t change it. We can’t change history. But we can think about it. We can reappraise it.

We can accept that our interpretation of it needs to change. It needs to become more sophisticated. We need to stop seeing historical figures in terms of ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ and accept that things are much more complicated than that. We need to be prepared to tell the whole story.

And we need to stop doing nothing.

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. LittleDreams says:

    We do need to be prepared to tell the full story, in fact we must. Nobody’s perfect but the key to a better world is to keep learning and understanding. To address our own prejudices and to admit that we do all have prejudices- it doesn’t make us bad people, it should encourage us to learn and understand further. Thank you for this blogpost, xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. And yes, totally – we have to face our own prejudices and call ourselves out on them. Never easy, but that’s no excuse for not doing it!! xx


  2. anglosvizzera says:

    I saw on the internet huge queues waiting for Primark to open this morning. I wonder whether people consider why their clothes are so cheap and who makes them? Do we really need so many new fashion items when we see on the news that the countries where our old donations are sent are overflowing with poor-quality used clothing that, even there, nobody needs or wants, and where mountains of the stuff is polluting those countries?

    Our vision of how an ‘economy’ really needs to change from consumerism and profiteering (where those who are would-have-been slave traders are the ones still gaining the most, but in a more ‘acceptable’ way, it seems), to something more meaningful that doesn’t rely on the ‘work-earn money-buy stuff I don’t really need and wreck the planet in the process’ pattern. I don’t know what the answer is, but clearly it would mean ‘work’ in a different sense and less raping of the planet’s resources and creating unacceptable waste.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. anglosvizzera says:

    *”Our vision of how an ‘economy’ works…(didn’t proof read first 😦 )


  4. Exactly – and the fall out from how we are treating people now will still be felt in another 187 years…


  5. FurloughedAndFrustrated says:

    You made me think about how easily people must be prepared to over look something if it’s benefitting them.
    The way that people of such devout Christianity on both sides of the Atlantic either did nothing or actually supported keeping other humans as slaves is shocking.
    If you’ve never been to the Museum of Slavery in Liverpool if highly recommend it.
    I was shocked that it wasn’t just rich traders,people would club together as traders and invest in a boat load of cargo. Ordinary people investing in trafficking humans.

    Totally agree about “goodies and baddies”.
    It’s not difficult-” Baden -Powell set up the scouting movement however in later life he expressed extreme views.”
    Would that be ok as the placque on his statue?
    It’s interesting to read Bear Grylls’ opinion on him.
    Churchill was a great wartime leader,however he was responsible for policies leading to the deaths of millions of Indians, never mind the deals he did to set up Partition.
    We need to present the facts, we can then let people make up their minds, (it worked with Brexit didn’t it?).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And I think it’s too easy to just think that it’s something that only happened ‘then’ and we would never let it happen to us. How many people today have pensions that are at least in part invested in the tobacco industry, or armaments, or GM crops or other stuff that they might not want to be linked with? But as long as the returns are good…

      I haven’t been to the Museum of Slavery in Liverpool (just added it to my post-lockdown list…) – but I was born in Hull so visited Wilberforce House several times as a child. And there’s another one – William Wilberforce, instrumental in ending the slave trade, also addicted to opium. Maybe we just need to stop (figuratively) putting people on pedastals.

      Liked by 1 person

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