“Misusing History”

Thomas Sowell:

If the history of slavery ought to teach us anything, it is that human beings cannot be trusted with unbridled power over other human beings — no matter what color or creed any of them are. The history of ancient despotism and modern totalitarianism practically shouts that same message from the blood-stained pages of history.

But that is not the message that is being taught in our schools and colleges, or dramatized on television and in the movies. The message that is pounded home again and again is that white people enslaved black people.

It is true, just as it is true that I don’t go sky-diving with blacks. But it is also false in its implications for the same reason. Just as Europeans enslaved Africans, North Africans enslaved Europeans — more Europeans than there were Africans enslaved in the United States or in the 13 colonies from which the nation was formed.

The treatment of white galley slaves was even worse than the treatment of black slaves who picked cotton. But there are no movies or television dramas about it comparable to Roots, and our schools and colleges don’t pound it into the heads of students.

The inhumanity of human beings toward other human beings is not a new story, much less a local story. There is no need to hide it, because there are lessons we can learn from it. But there is also no need to distort it, so that sins of the whole human species around the world are presented as special defects of “our society” or the sins of a particular race.

I picked up that extended quote from the middle of Sowell’s column, so you have to hit the link and read it from the top to understand the “I don’t go sky-diving with blacks” line.

In noting that slavery was a world-wide phenomenon, Sowell is trying to break the spell of the decontectualized history that American students are constantly fed throughout high school and college, which in turn leaves them believing that America is a uniquely bad country.

America is actually a uniquely good country that had the usual serious flaws associated with all of humanity. What made it exceptional was being founded on principles that recognized the intrinsic dignity of human beings, which in turn gave it the vital impetus to fulfill and live up to those principles.

And those principles are the universal principles of natural law, not the principles of race and gender identity politics.

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