Dr. Boyce Discusses Problems with Henry Louis Gates’ Analysis

24 Apr

Henry Louis Gates gets slavery's history all wrong

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. recently wrote an interesting piece for the New York Times called, "Ending the Slavery Blame Game." In the piece, Gates effectively argues that the fight for reparations is convoluted and somewhat mitigated by the fact that African elites participated in the slave trade. While describing complex business deals made between some African leadership and the Europeans who brought Africans to the New World, it almost appears as though Gates is saying that this disturbing relationship somehow undermines the right of African-Americans to hold our government accountable for its involvement in crimes committed against our people.

At very least, I am under the assumption that by "ending the slavery blame game," Gates is arguing that we should stop blaming the United States government and white America for the rape, murder, castration, lynching and beating of our ancestors.

Sorry Dr. Gates, but I must respectfully (or perhaps not so respectfully) disagree. If a young girl is sold into prostitution by her own parents, the pimp must still pay for the suffering he caused the young woman. He can’t simply say, "Her parents made a deal with me, so you should stop the blame game."

In other words, the United States, as a broad and powerful industrial entity, benefited from slavery to the tune of several trillion dollars. Much of this wealth was passed down from one white man to another, and was always out of the grasp of the black men, women and children who gave their lives on American soil in order to earn it. As a result, the median net worth of the African-American family is roughly one-tenth that of white American families and we have consistently higher unemployment due to our inability to create jobs, since white Americans own most businesses. These facts hold true without regard to how the African-American holocaust started in the first place. They also hold true because wealth and power are commodities that are passed down inter-generationally, and we missed out on all of this because we were slaves. What occurred after we left Africa can and must be considered independently from what happened while our forefathers were in the mother land.



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2 Responses to “Dr. Boyce Discusses Problems with Henry Louis Gates’ Analysis”

  1. Coreen Fields April 26, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

    I must defend Dr. Gates. We are so in love with Africa that we Identify with Africa by Hyphenating ourselves and refering to ourselves as “African-Americans”. The truth is,all of mankind originated in East Africa, making all mankind partially African. We walk around in African atire and do not even know which of the 52 African nations the garb came from. We love Africa so much, that we celebrate Africa, the continent despite the fact that certain African Nations participated in our enslavement as did the British, Spanish, French and Portugese. My ancesters were sold into slavery by the Africans of Angola and Ghana.

    I choose to call myself American. I do not celebrate any group that participated in the enslavement of my ancestors–either the people of Angola and Ghana who sold my ancestors or the Britsh who purchased my ancestors or Southern Planters who fought to maintain the enslavement of my ancestors.

  2. Laurie May 8, 2010 at 12:27 am #

    Okay, so Dr……refresh our memory as to how long ago slavery ended in America…….and also, while you are talking about white people holding black people as slaves….would you also like to talk about the Africa Muslims took white europeans as their slaves over just about the same time period.

    Or discuss the book Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 (Palgrave Macmillan).

    or talk about how black slaves were brought to American between 1500 and the year 1650, long before we were established as the United States of America.

    So, Dr. maybe you might even like to discuss how it is that the white Europeans got over and moved forward with their lives and sorry, but I do not recall any of them even recently talking about their ancestors history of being enslaved. Sorry…..but you know what….your continued insistence on holding your people back by not being able to let go and finally take responsiblilites for their own lives instead of having the American taxpayer support them.

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