By Bashir Muhammad Akinyele
“Just think that race of black men, today our slaves and the object of our scorn, is the very race to which we owe our arts, sciences, and even the use of speech. Just imagine, finally, that it is in the midst of peoples who call themselves the greatest friends of liberty and humanity that one has approved the most barbarous slavery and questions whether Black men have the same kind of intelligences Whites!”
– Count C. F. Volney, (Voyages on Syrie Et En Egypte, Paris 1787 pp74-77) a French Egyptologists under Napoleon Bonaparte
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the term holocaust as a mass slaughter of people. Unfortunately, some members of the human family have experienced a holocaust-the mass slaughter of a people-in the world. Our Armenian family experienced a holocaust. The Armenian Genocide was the systematic mass murder and expulsion of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians carried out in Turkey, and by the adjoining regions of the Ottoman government, between 1914 and 1923. Our Jewish family were the victims of a Holocaust. They experienced anti-Semitism for centuries in Europe and America. When the racist and anti-Semitic Nationalist Socialist (NAZI) Party came to power in Germany in 1933, they initiated World War II. But their quest for world domination included the racist extermination of the Jewish people from 1939 to 1945. This horrible and inhumane event is called- the Jewish Holocaust. Six million Jews were intentionally killed by the Nazis regime, their allies, and their collaborators. When the Nazis, and her allies, were defeated in World War II, Germany had to pay billions of dollars in reparations to the Jewish people. However, a similar horrific event happened to Black people less than a hundred years prior to the Jewish and Armenian Holocausts. It is called in the Afrikan American community-the Black Holocaust. Although the Black Holocaust has not been widely received by the world as a holocaust, it is imperative that Black people demand humanity to recognize slavery as our holocaust. The Black Holocaust was the slave-trading of Afrikan people by White Americans, Europeans and Arabs from the 1440s to the late 1800s. The Black Holocaust happened concurrently with the Indigenous peoples Holocaust of the Americas. Yes, indigenous peoples experienced a holocaust as well. They were nearly exterminated by European’s “discovery” of Native American lands staring in 1492 by Christoper Columbus. Europeans waged biological and violent warfare upon Native Americans to rob them of their territories. With the stealing of Native American lands, Europeans needed free and exploited labor to work these land into cash crops, roads, bridges, schools, houses, churches, colleges, state houses, and government buildings. Europeans tried to enslave Native Americans, and other whites, but the practice of slavery did not work well with these groups. Eventually, Europeans began look to Afrikan people to be slaves. They began to use Black people by the millions as enslave labor in the Americas. In the Middle East, Arabs began looking at Black people as cash products to expand their economic power in the world. Eventually, Arabs began slave trading Black people on the eastern side of Afrika. The Black Holocaust began on both sides Afrika in world history. Millions upon millions of Black lives will be changed forever by slave trade. The slave -trading of Black people was one of the most racist, savage, bloodiest, and inhuman events in human history that lasted for nearly 500 years.
The slave trade financially benefited Whites and Arabs. Some of the first European nations to become enslavers of Black people were the Portuguese, the Dutch, the Spanish, the French, and the English. With the invention of guns, the development of mercantilism, the discovery of “new lands” in what we now call the Americas, the early formations of nationalism, the early developments of White supremacy, and a thirst for lands and power; Europeans became one two dominant forces in the slave trading of Black people. The other dominate force in the slave trade were the Arabs. By the 1600s slavery is full effect, but it’s politics and customs differs from slavery that existed in the ancient world. Slavery practice by Europeans, and some Arab groups, will limit slavery racially down to Black people. Despite the fact some Arabs believed in the religion of Al-Islam, they were still involved in slavery. But some Arabs Muslims, because in Al-Islam slavery was permissible under certain conditions and rules, will allow Black people some degree of rights. But whatever the laws and faiths traditions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Al-Islam) that govern slavery by Europeans and Arabs, eventually Black people became its chief victims.
The consequences of slavery devastated Afrika and the lives of Black people for generations. In Kiswahili, there is a term the Afrikan centered conscious community uses to describe this Black Holocaust. The term is called-Maafa. It means a great disaster that forced Black people from Afrika to the world. But the late Dr. Khalid Abdul Muhammad, a respected Black nationalist freedom fighter, who led the New Black Panther Party from the late 1990s until his passing in 2001 and the former national spokesman for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, used a stronger Kiswahili term as an addendum to the term Maafa to explain the horrors of the international American, European, and Arab slave -trading system of Black people. The Kiswahili term is Maangamizo. It means when someone, or something, intentionally works to annihilate a person or a group of people. Kiswahili is a Pan-Afrikan language spoken in many parts of the continent of Afrika. The Maafa and the Maangamizo are two conditions that happened to Black for nearly five hundred years during the Black Holocaust.
In the western world, the enslavement of Black people made us a permanent underclass in the America and in the world. Millions of Black people lost their lives to European slavery between 1400s to 1800s. Some historians estimate that 12 to 100 million Black people lost their lives during the middle passage in the European slave-trade alone. The middle passage was the route taken by Europeans ships importing enslave Black people from Afrika to the Americas. Once in the America, Europeans sold Black people off to plantations in the Western Hemisphere.
On the American side, White slave masters were also directing and profiting from the enslavement of Black people. In fact, the first enslaved Afrikan Americans landed in Jamestown, Virginia on 1619. Before the American colonies united to become the United States of America on July 4, 1776, White American colonialist were interwoven into the economic fabric of the slave-slave. White American colonists were Importing and exploiting millions of enslave Black people that made White people wealthy for generations. When America finally became an independent country from the British, the United States of America continued on the pathway of enslaving Black people by the millions. America’s involvement in the slave trade made United States one of the richest and most powerful capitalist nations in world history. It would take a Civil War from 1961 to 1865 to physically end the enslavement of Black people in America. But the cultural, social, psychological, and economic scars of American slavery will rage onward in Black America to this present day.
However, the Arab international slave-trading of Black people existed for centuries before the European Slave -Trade, but ended in 1909. Zanzibar became the main slave-trading port in Afrika. Before the Arab slave -trade ended, millions of Black people were victimized by the Arabs slave -trade. Tidiane N’ Diaye, an Afrikan continental Senegalese scholar, told the non government and nonpartisan sponsored German newspaper Deutche Welle (DW) in 2019, “that 17 million East Africans were sold into slavery: Most people still have the so-called Transatlantic [slave] trade by Europeans into the New World in mind. But in reality the Arab-Muslim slavery was much greater. Eight million Africans were brought from East Africa via the Trans-Saharan route to Morocco or Egypt. A further nine million were deported to regions on the Red Sea or the Indian Ocean.” (https://m.dw.com/en/east-africas-forgotten-slave-trade/a-50126759)
The enslavement of Black people was justified and protected by guns, the military, government laws, government policies, international law (the Asiento), the police, western religions, Arab Muslims, Popes, the Catholic Church, the White Protestant Church, White supremacist ideology, and racism. (The Asiento was a Western law to keep European nations from going to war with each other over the slave trade. As the Spanish (the European people of Spain) Explorers colonized the Americas and took control of the captured land, called colonies, the slave trade was thought to be unchristian. To get around this problem, slave traders petition the Spanish government and the Catholic Church for permission to bring Black people to the Spanish colonies to work as enslaved Black people. This special permission was called the asiento. The traders, to whom the asiento contracts were granted, were required to pay a tax to the Spanish government on each Black person brought to the colonies.
In America, Black people were brought to Jamestown, Virginia from Afrika in chains by White people to be tuned into slaves in 1619. But wherever Black people ended up in the Americas, the European practice was to de-center Afrikan people from their Blackness. Slavery in America, and in Europe, violently stripped Black people of our Afrikan names; of our Afrikan culture; of our Afrikan religions; of our Afrikan spiritual systems; of our Afrikan languages; of our manhood, of our womanhood; of our childhood; of our norms; of our values; of our folkways; of our mores; of owning land; owning businesses; of our civil rights; of our human rights; and all of our connections to mother Afrika.
Because of slavery, the disparities between White and Black generational wealth have gotten more entrenched in the millennium. Unfortunately, not one red cent, nor a written apology, has been given to us by the governments our former slave-masters to repair the psychological, cultural, social, and economic damages done to Afrika and Black people.
In America, and in the world, the remnants of slavery forced Black people down into the lowest realms of society to be the permanent exploited group. As a cultural consequence of slavery, Black people developed issues of Black self-hatred.
The ideology of Black self-hatred is a European and Arab psychological and cultural propaganda tactic that manipulates Black people into thinking that our dark skin, our kinky hair, our full lips, and all things associated with Afrika ugly and heathen.
There were many words used to denigrate Black people during the slave trade. However, the slave trade produced two of the most derogatory words used by Europeans and Arabs to dehumanize Black people-the n-word and Ibade. The word Ibade is an arabic word for a Black slave. These two negative words are still in use today to describe Black people. The n-word and Ibade are by-products of White supremacist ideology.
But it was Europeans that employed the fictitious ideology of White supremacy and the system of racism to keep Black people subjugated in slavery.
A good book to read on the Black Holocaust was written by the late Afrikana Studies Professor Dr. John Henrick Clarke. He first published his work on the devastating effects and affects of the enslavement of Black people in 1993. The book is called- Christopher Columbus and Afrikan Holocaust: Slavery and the Rise of European Capitalism. He writes in his book, “The Middle Passge. Our Holocaust. It is our holocaust because this is a holocaust that started 500 years ago and it is not over. We do not start our count at 6 million, we start counting at 60 million, and we have just began to count. Now I do not mean to negate the German and the European Holocaust. Whether the number was 6 or 60 million, it was wrong. But even if it was wrong, it was a problem started in Europe by Europeans that should have been resolved in Europe from Europeans. There is no comparisons between this tragedy and our tragedy which was the greatest crime in the history of the world….
The most disastrous of all their [Europeans] colonizations was the colonization of the image of God. They denied the conquered people the right to see God through their own imagination or to address God in a word that came from their own language……
Every effort was made to wipe from their [Black people] memory how they ruled a state and how they related to their spirituality before the coming of Europeans. Most of the people of the world were forced to forget that over half of human history was over before anyone knew that a European was in the world. Non-Europeans, especially in the Nile Valley civilizations, had laid the basis for the spirituality that would later be converted into the major religions of the world. They [Black people] had also developed the thought pattern that would later be developed into the philosophical thought of the world.”
Dr. Na’im Akbar, the great Afrikan centered psychologist wrote a very popular book on the affects of American slavery upon minds of Black people called-The Chains and Images of Psychological Slavery. In the 1990s, the Chains and Images of Psychological Slavery was a must read book. Although published in 1984, his professional analysis of the affects of slavery are still true today. He writes, “slavery was ‘legally’ ended in excess of 100 years ago, but the over 300 years experience in its brutality and unnaturalness constituted a severe psychological and social shock to the minds of African Americans. This shock was so destructive to natural life processes that the current generation of African Americans, though we are 5-6 generations removed from the actual experience of slavery, still carry the scars of this experience in both our social and mental lives. Psychologist and sociologist have failed to attend to the persistence of problems in our mental and social lives which clearly have their roots in slavery.”
The denial of reparations to Black people for being the victims of slavery is heartbreaking. Every group (Native Americans, Japanese Americans, and Jews) oppressed by a racial or religious holocaust in the world has been given reparations except Black people.
The Brookings Institute, an nonpartisan public policy based in Washington DC, recently published a report on the importance Black Reparations titled, Why we need reparations for Black Americans written by Rashawn Ray and Andre M. Perry. It was published on April 15, 2020. They said, ““Reparations—a system of redress for egregious injustices—are not foreign to the United States. Native Americans have received land and billions of dollars for various benefits and programs for being forcibly exiled from their native lands. For Japanese Americans, $1.5 billion was paid to those who were interned during World War II. Additionally, the United States, via the Marshall Plan, helped to ensure that Jews received reparations for the Holocaust, including making various investments over time. In 1952, West Germany agreed to pay 3.45 billion Deutsche Marks to Holocaust survivors….
Black Americans are the only group that has not received reparations for state-sanctioned racial discrimination, while slavery afforded some white families the ability to accrue tremendous wealth. And, we must note that American slavery was particularly brutal. About 15 percent of the enslaved shipped from Western Africa died during transport. The enslaved were regularly beaten and lynched for frivolous infractions. Slavery also disrupted families as one in three marriages were split up and one in five children were separated from their parents. The case for reparations can be made on economic, social, and moral grounds. The United States had multiple opportunities to atone for slavery—each a missed chance to make the American Dream a reality—but has yet to undertake significant action.” (https://www.brookings.edu/policy2020/bigideas/why-we-need-reparations-for-black-americans/)
In summation, although we as Black people have a great history before slavery, we must devote time to the remembrance of the Black Holocaust. We must use the terms Maafa, and / or the Maangamizo, to help humanity understand that Black people experienced a holocaust. But must importantly, we must remind humanity that the Black holocaust has created a bottomless pit of Black oppression in America and in the world. Equally important, we must remind humanity that to make all things equal in America and in the world, reparations must be given to Black people to repair lives and cultures broken by slavery.
Asante sana (Kiswahili for thank you very much) for reading my commentary.
O Dabo (Yoruba for go with God until we meet again)!!!
-Bashir Muhammad Akinyele is a History Teacher, Black Studies Teacher, Community Activist, Chairperson of Weequahic High School’s Black History Month Committee in Newark, NJ, commentary writer, and Co-Producer and Co-Host of the All Politics Are Local, the number #1 political Hip Hip radio show in America.
Note: Spelling Afrika with a k is not a typo. Using the k in Afrika is the Kiswahili way of writing Africa. Kiswahili is a Pan -Afrikan language. It is spoken in many countries in Afrika. Kiswahili is the language used in Kwanzaa. The holiday of Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 to January