Thursday, August 14, 2008


Occasionally you come across a jackass whose bray is so much more offensive than the normal cacophony that you have to acknowledge it. This, my dear friends, is one such jackass. This article appeared in the Jamaican Observer recently and, well, read for yourself. My response follows.

Slavery was good for the black man

Michael Dingwall
Saturday, August 09, 2008

As we celebrate emancipation and independence, we are being reminded of the horrors of slavery. According to our leaders, academics and others, slavery was the worst institution ever created. However, while it is popular for most to agree with this claim, I beg to disagree. Indeed, contrary to the belief that slavery was bad for us blacks, I believe that slavery was good for us.
Have we ever stopped to consider where we black people, especially those of us in the West, would be right now if it weren't for the Atlantic Slave Trade? What state do you think black Africa would be in today? Do you think that we would have been better off without slavery? I don't think so!

When the Europeans went to Africa to buy slaves, what did they find? They found a society and people vastly inferior to theirs. While the Europeans had emerged from their feudal practices, our ancestors in Africa, for the most part, had not developed for many centuries. We did not understand the concept of nation or government. Science and technology (and innovations in these areas) were non-existent in black Africa of the 15th and 16th centuries. Indeed, as a people, we had no sense of self-identity. In many respects, we were uncivilised.

Slavery was our most important contact with modernity. It is through this "most heinous system ever created" that we blacks were able to understand some of the principles of global trade. Our ancestors were introduced to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade between Europe, Africa and the West Indies. Black Africa's part in the trade was the importation of European technology and the export of slaves. The importation of European technology was important - even though the Africans did not appreciate this importance at first. The export of slaves was also very important, especially for us in the West.

As time went on, we blacks, both in Africa and especially in the Caribbean were, in many ways, being Europeanised and thus civilised. We adopted several aspects of their culture - their systems of government, their technologies, their sense of order and their languages. In doing this, we discarded those aspects of our culture that clearly placed us at a disadvantage - like our lack of sense of self, loyalty to the tribe and our non-participation in modern technology.

Although not a believer in any god myself, the Christianity that came with slavery and European control would be of immense value to us black people. Back in Africa, we were preoccupied with the worship of animals, trees, spirits of the dead - even stones. These primitive religions that we were practising ensured that our ancestors in Africa were backward. The relatively superior Christianity, with its greater sense of order and responsibility would help, in many ways, to pull the black man out of the Stone Age. This could only have happened with slavery.

Our relatively stable societies today, especially in the West, are testaments to the benefits of slavery. While it is true that black Africa has, for the most part, squandered the opportunities that slavery offered in the past, the positive influence of European civilisation cannot be denied. The black nation states of Africa and the Caribbean have given black people a sense of nation, a sense of identity, a sense of order and a sense of purpose - things we never had before.

While we continue to demonstrate our inferiority in the areas of science and technology, through centuries of being exposed to Europe on account of slavery, we blacks are now aware of the need for us to start excelling in these areas.

Those of us who continue to see the millions of blacks who died crossing the Atlantic and the displacement of what we had in Africa as proof that slavery was a bad institution don't understand the mechanics of human development and evolution. Similar processes had to be endured by countless peoples thoughout history. The development of the human race has always involved the need for change. Slavery was one such means, and like it or not, we blacks are the beneficiaries. It is not for us today to judge the means through which societies have changed in the past.

We blacks were changed, for the better, I might add, on account of slavery. We are a better race today because our ancestors went though slavery. The millions of lives lost were not lost in vain. The Europeans proclaimed the need for us to be civilised through slavery and though this may be hard to understand, they were right. Indeed, based on what is happening in black Africa today - slavery for us in the West was, in many respects, our salvation.

Michael Dingwall is a freelance writer.

Hottie's response

Dear Mr Dingwall – and how appropriate that surname of yours has turned out to be – it was with a certain amount of disbelief and incredulousness that I read your column in the Jamaican Observer dated 9th August 2008. As I read your column I hoped that it would be revealed as a satirical piece. As I came to its rather distasteful end I had to accept that this vain hope would have elevated your disastrous writing to a level you appear incapable of attaining.

I will push aside your bad grammar and terrible, lazy use of cliché and tackle the more serious error you have committed – inaccuracy. This article releases a malodour of desperation; of someone who slapped together the mandatory 800 words in order to meet a deadline so as to collect a much needed cheque. As a columnist myself I am insulted by your failure to take serious the importance of the job you sought to undertake. The overall falling standards of journalism worldwide should not operate as your personal measuring stick for the standard you should try to attain. Anyone who writes for the public must take seriously their responsibility – you are disseminating information that will not only last for a long time but will be accepted as fact by many who may not have access to other more reliable sources of information. It is your duty to ensure therefore that what you write IS fact.

If you had tried to sell this piece as being purely opinion then it would have to be accepted as that – your opinion is your own and no one has to agree with it. However, in writing this piece you attempted to convince your readers that what you were presenting was fact. And that, pardon the following use of literary jargon, is where the bullshit started to stink.

Now, I’m not going to attempt to correct you because while I do believe in miracles, I myself am not a miracle worker. Besides, quite a number of people have responded appropriately, pointing out the staggering amount of evidence that contradicts your writing. I will question what you consider as being “civilised” and how exactly would you measure a “superior culture”. Perhaps you need to take a trip to Spain where, on certain beaches you stand and marvel at the jellyfish floating around you in the water until you realise that they are actually used condoms. Or perhaps Eastern Europe where in some places indoor plumbing is something seen only on the Hollywood movies watched on communal TVs. Or how about “good old England”, your most recent coloniser, where the dream for the majority of the populace is to live on one of the Caribbean islands you disparage.

And it is important to note that as these countries seek a new level of development they are returning to the ideas and practices they destroyed when they first encountered the countries you so ignorantly described as uncivilised. Of course, there is very little acknowledgment of this fact. And why should there be when the ill read and shoddily educated like you are eager to grind the very organs they demand you dance to?

I must touch on “the relatively superior Christianity” that you’ve compared to the religions of Africa – oh, and by the way, you do know there was and still is more than one religion in Africa, right? The preoccupation with “the worship of animals, trees, spirits of the dead - even stones” that you described sounds alot like Catholicism to me – the endless animal sacrifices in the Old Testament which ended with the sacrifice of the Lamb of God; the Tree of Good and Evil, the Tree of Knowledge and the endless climbing of fig trees, parables about trees, olive trees, etc; spirits of the dead, well, we have Lazarus, Jesus, kings consulting with witches and evil spirits. The stones part? Just visit a Catholic church anywhere and count the stone statues you see and don’t forget the stoning of Stephen, the adulteress etc.

There is one thing I agree with you about though, in case you’re starting to despair. The development of the human race has always involved the need for change. I advise you to seek your own development and become the agent of your own change. May I suggest you start by purchasing a book of rudimentary world history? At the very least, an English dictionary.


Maximilian C. Forte said...

Colonialism, never quite gone, perhaps gone dormant, is now back with a greater vengeance than ever. Dingwall's "piece" is simplistic ideology mixed up with Eurocentric cultural prejudice and a callous disregard for genocide and brutality, which he mistakenly calls "evolution," thereby naturalizing oppression. That such articles gain space around the world is a testament to the fact that we live in a world where once again "civilization" and "savagery" dominate official discourse, such as that of leaders of the U.S., U.K., Canada, Europe, NATO, and even parts of the U.N. We live in a period where some nations are referred to as "rogue states" (read: savage, wild, untamed, uncivilized, eligible for conquest), "failed states" (read: natives incapable of self-governance, needing imperial tutelage), and "terrorists." The latter is being expanded to include all Muslims, and indigenous peoples in places such as Canada, and any African-American with a sharp sense of history that underlies the hypocrisy of American so-called "democracy." You need to be aware of the purposes of articles such as Dingwalls, or cartoons of Robert Mugabe in the Jamaican press that liken him to an ape, because these are meant to cement this wider discourse of civilization, and to bring out the opponents, who can then be relabeled savages, extremists, and terrorists.

Maximilian C. Forte said...

I forgot to mention that I wanted to pass along this "links poem" of mine in case you are interested -- it is located here.

Anonymous said...

great response Hottie Hottie...I felt like weeping when I read that man's piece.

Anonymous said...

I thought Dingwall's remarks to be intentionally and predictably inflammable. It could have been as easy for "The Onion" to have used his post in their satirical piece entitled "Local Idiot To Post Comment On Internet". - xerosaburu

ZMD said...

Great Response...This mister dingwhat needs to update his library with some books on african history or just start with one "capitalism and slavery" ...there is no excuse for ignorance in 2008, especially a man who claims to be educated, i feel sad for him after reading his article....
one black love,

katrice said...

Excellent response, Hottie.

I think he was trying to raise people's blood pressure. It worked on me.

katrice said...
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