Erasing History Is What Notorious Conquerors Did [OPINION]
The understandable Black Lives Matter movement has gone from demands to end disproportionate police brutality against Black Americans to some now distracting from the mission. There are those seeing the opportunity and cause in destroying or banishing a lot of American history, which now somehow includes a historic statue in Boston actually built with the donated dollars of former slaves.
The statue is of Abraham Lincoln with a liberated slave freed from chains. The very gratitude offered by those slaves who were literally kept in bondage and liberated by Lincoln is now offensive to thousands of people, many of who don't seem to know who Lincoln was.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has ordered the statue to be removed from Boston's Park Square and put into storage. It's truly sad.
This movement was brought on by a young Black man who proclaims to be an activist. He is Tory Bullock and he is a Boston resident.
I can tell you this, there is a narrative the far left teach in America, that Lincoln was racist and that the Civil war had little to do with slavery. Social justice communists who teach nearby even promulgate this crap. I have no reason to believe Mr. Bullock subscribes to this but I've invited him to join me on my show this coming Saturday morning to get a better understanding.
I do know he is troubled by the slave in the sculpture being on a knee. I see some irony in this as well but I think I can understand his concern that he sees a Black man "beneath" a White man.
I have a much different and bigger picture in my interpretation but I can see where he is coming from. I just don't think I like where he is going with it.
We are seeing statues and memorials of Thomas Jefferson and Christopher Columbus – the latter of whom had nothing to do with the United States of America as a nation – and others in early American history being removed or destroyed in this frenzy.
History is not there for us to choose what we allow to be seen. It is there to tell the existing and those who will exist what happened, why it happened, and when.
The Christians do not take joy in the suffering of Jesus but they do not hide the cross because of the injustices done to him. Auschwitz has not been razed and paved over. The Hebrew community encourages that people view it, to remind the world what happened, why, how, and when.
At the intersection of Boston's School and Washington Streets is a statue of a famished young Irish woman, crying out in vain as her children stave to death around her. Some, including this writer, believe this was a genocide. I don't want that statue torn down or defaced, and nor am I in any way distressed or ashamed by the image of what happened.
Eradicating truthful history is what Napoleon did in Egypt and elsewhere. The Nazis did this as well, in Europe in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The Islamic State (ISIS) and the Taliban have been destroying art, ancient artifacts, and archaeological sites for a long time.
What was done to Africans who were brought into slavery was nothing short of a nightmare. The fact that the European thrones introduced slavery in the New World is not a happy story, but it is history. It is one of many parts of the history of slavery.
For example, aside from the trans-Atlantic trade most relevant to United States history, one doesn't have to look that far away in distance or in time.
The Muslim Berbers of Africa enslaved white Christians from Europe since the 16th century and through the early 19th century. They would often just take people off the ships they were on and drag them onto their corsairs and back home to the Caliphate states of Tunis, Algiers, Morocco, or Tripoli to which they belonged and sell them off as slaves.
That wasn't the only way they rounded up their slaves, though. They would sail as far away as Ireland or the Netherlands and take people by force out of their homes near the shore and drag them away to Africa to be slaves. By 1780, estimates have been calculated to suggest some 1.2 million white Europeans were enslaved in Africa.
On June 20, 1631, 200 Berber corsairs loaded with slaver pirates, landed on the shore of Baltimore, Ireland, led by Jan Janszoon van Haarlem, a former Dutchman who converted to Islam and then went by the name Murad Reis. They waited until nightfall and surrounded the village. After the attack, they took away nearly every inhabitant of the village.
The numbers vary by historians but the smallest count confirmed including 54 children, 33 women, and 20 men. The females were used as harem whores and the men as galley slaves to row for decades without ever setting foot onshore. Only two lived to return to Ireland.
This continued until a new nation called the United States of America, which also came under attack by them, decided to crush the entire practice. Enter Thomas Jefferson, the creation of the United States Navy and the Marines led by Presley O'Bannon in Tripoli.
Rome had slaves; Ancient Egyptians did as well. Indonesia and the Far-East, too. The Muslim prophet Mohammed had slaves, including Nubian ones from Africa. In fact, in Arabic, the word "Abid" means slave or servant and can often specifically refer to the darker Dinka and Nuer people, those from southern Sudan.
Bringing my point to a head, slavery is one of the world's oldest trades. Yes, it's morally reprehensible to those of us standing today in the early 21st century looking back at it.
Sadly though, it still exists today and I have not seen any American politician introduce the idea that NATO or any alliance of powers on Earth go into Libya, Sudan, and other places where humans are openly sold as slaves. Even sadder, they are the same targeted Dinka and Nuer southern Sudanese, non-Muslims, as were targeted in the very days of Mohammed.
No ethnicity is likely to be free of the stains of slavery if one goes back far enough in history. It's a reality today for some.
So please, steer back to the goal of specifically fixing the tensions between police and Black Americans. You who are violently and irrationally destroying memorials of Thomas Jefferson, or lashing out at George Washington and even somehow Abraham Lincoln with demands for renaming this or that because this founder or that person in history owned slaves are not likely to have slaver-free ancestry yourselves if you go back far enough.
You are also not solving anything related to Black Lives Matter concerns by destroying or banishing statues or memorials of historic important people in the public square (to be very clear, I am not referring to Confederate memorials).
History is never to be contoured or "cleaned up" to be more suitable to those passing it on. Napoleon, Cortez, Hitler, the Taliban, and ISIS did or do those things. Don't be like them.
Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.