With a week to go until Columbus Day, it’s been quiet on the Indigenous Peoples front. President Trump’s impeachment inquiry may be sucking the “1492 genocide” oxygen out of the media. But, perhaps even the media is tired of the usual complaints from revisionists.
The real problem in dealing with revisionist history is that our side has all the documentation – some self-damning – while the revisionists rely solely on mythology. Indigenous revisionists cite Spanish sources to show how European diseases wiped out millions of Natives within a generation of 1492. They can’t cite Indigenous sources because the Caribbean peoples left no record in stone or on paper. But, they can find records of Aztec and Inca atrocities – human sacrifice, wars, and slavery – which were carved in stone and evident in archeological digs. Yet, they choose to ignore them and insist that the Americas were a paradise despoiled by Europeans.
Another myth, in the same vein that springs from a manufactured narrative, is that Europeans “kidnapped” African slaves from the gentle bosom of that continent. This was conveyed recently in the New York Times: “The 1619 Project,” commemorating the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship arrival at Jamestown. Kidnapped is the operative word used in many of the essays in the Project. Among them was featured an homage to Queen Njinga, a 17th Century warrior queen who resisted Portuguese intrusions into Angola. The homage wasn’t quite complete, as this knowledgeable African American letter-writer noted:
“As I pointed out in my [published] biography of Njinga, [she] also sold slaves to the Portuguese. Estimates of the number of slaves Njinga sold to the Portuguese might be as high as 50,000 over her 40-year reign…Indeed, an overwhelming majority of Africans whom Europeans shipped to the New World were victims of wars between African states.” – Linda Heywood, professor of African history and African-American studies, Boston University. [NY Times Magazine 8 Sept. 2019, p. 7-8)
For their own safety, European slavers preferred to remain near their ships rather than venture into the African hinterlands. Clearly, the slave brokers were Africans themselves.
In his 2019 book The Human Tide, Paul Morland spreads the blame for African slavery still further:
“The Atlantic slave trade alone is estimated to have taken 12 million people. The Islamic slave trade may have taken as many as 14 million…” [p. 271)
The truth is that Muslims (mostly Arab) were pillaging Africa for centuries before Europeans. Not so well known are their attacks on Europeans and Americans (remember the Barbary pirates?) in the Mediterranean, enslaving Whites at sea and along the European coast, to an estimated one million souls. Where is this narrative taught or discussed?
When perpetrators of doctored narratives are cloaked in religion be doubly skeptical.
I recall Malcolm X often praising his Arab Muslim brothers as color blind. He famously used his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964 as an example of Arabs welcoming Muslims of all races as equals. Even Mr. X, who labeled the white man as evil incarnate, failed to acknowledge centuries of the Arab slave trade in Africa. Did he even know during his pilgrimage that slavery had only been abolished in Saudi Arabia two years before, in 1962?
The classic case of history doctored for religion is Moses at Mt. Sinai. Last week in the religion column of Newsday, a rabbi wrote that the stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments that were stored in the lost Ark of the Covenant were replacements for the originals. The originals were cast down and broken by Moses when he descended Mt. Sinai and saw his people in rebellion. The rabbi left the reader to picture the scene of Charlton Heston from the movie Ten Commandments hurling down the tablets causing the earth to open up and devouring sinners. In fact, a few years back, the rabbi’s late writing partner, a Catholic priest, actually related that Hollywood scene as “gospel.” I wrote to correct him but no retraction ever appeared. The reason becomes obvious. I quote the Torah:
“’[Moses commanded]…go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay brother, neighbor, and kin.’ The Levites [the priestly class] did as Moses had bidden; and some three thousand of the people fell that day.” -Exodus 32:28
Religious interpretation has its privileges! -JLM