Skip to comments.Filtering History (Thomas Sowell)
Posted on 04/26/2010 7:37:49 PM PDT by jazusamo
Many years ago, I was surprised to receive a letter from an old friend, saying that she had been told that I refused to see campus visitors from Africa.
At the time, I was so bogged down with work that I had agreed to see only one visitor to the Stanford campus-- and it so happens that he was from Africa. He just happened to come along when I had a little breathing room from the work I was doing in my office.
I pointed out to my friend that whoever said what she heard might just as well have said that I refused to go sky-diving with blacks-- which was true, because I refused to go sky-diving with anybody, whether black, white, Asian or whatever.
The kind of thinking that produced a passing misconception about me has, unfortunately, produced much bigger, much longer lasting, much more systematic and more poisonous distortions about the United States of America.
Slavery is a classic example. The history of slavery across the centuries and in many countries around the world is a painful history to read-- not only in terms of how slaves have been treated, but because of what that says about the whole human species-- because slaves and enslavers alike have been of every race, religion and nationality.
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 and in the 13 colonies from which it was formed.
The treatment of white galley slaves was even worse than the treatment of black slaves picking 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.
If American society and Western civilization are different from other societies and civilization, it is that they eventually turned against slavery, and stamped it out, at a time when non-Western societies around the world were still maintaining slavery and resisting Western pressures to end slavery, including in some cases armed resistance.
Only the fact that the West had more firepower than others put an end to slavery in many non-Western societies during the age of Western imperialism. Yet today there are Americans who have gone to Africa to apologize for slavery-- on a continent where slavery has still not been completely ended, to this very moment.
It is not just the history of slavery that gets distorted beyond recognition by the selective filtering of facts. Those who go back to mine history, in order to find everything they can to undermine American society or Western civilization, have very little interest in the Bataan death march, the atrocities of the Ottoman Empire or similar atrocities in other times and places.
Those who mine history for sins are not searching for truth but for opportunities to denigrate their own society, or for grievances that can be cashed in today, at the expense of people who were not even born when the sins of the past were committed.
An ancient adage says: "Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." But apparently that is not sufficient for many among our educators, the intelligentsia or the media. They are busy poisoning the present by the way they present the past.
Hits the nail on the head.
Great article. There must be many like Sharpton and Jackson who despise Sowell, because he speaks the truth.
The modern plantation owners of the American left ain’t gonna like this.
Exactly, Sharpton, Jackson and those like them ignore the fact Dr. Sowell even exists.
Thomas Sowell sees clearly and honestly.
I would bet the entire farm that liberals who don’t know who Thomas Sowell is will be up at arms because some RACIST angry white ‘teabagger’ wrote this!
They’re pretty ignorant, the lot of them, aren’t they?
Spot on, Mr. Sowell.
In my reading of the Bible, I came to realize how much more humane slavery was than the alternative: killing all your enemies (men, women, children and all their animals, too). The conquerors brought home the spoils of war, which included human chatel. For a lot the people enslaved, their lives were improved because life on most of the planet was pretty harsh. African Americans who travel back to their home continent realize this, just ask Muhammed Ali and others who will tell the truth. I look at the lives of women across the planet today, and I would not trade places with any of them. America - the last hope for freedom on the planet. I sure hope we don’t screw it up.
Thanks for the the ping to the truth from Dr. Sowell once again jaz.
By the way, some free blacks in the old south (Louisiana mostly) owned slaves too. There is a book called “Black Masters” all about that.
The turkey in the White House right now is working hard to screw it up.
I guess that explains why I have never heard either one of them even mention his name.
Stout guy, Sowell.
I love this man!!!
Sowell BTT. Slavery is rampant in Islamic history. It is, after all, where both the Mamluks and Janissaries came from.
I love this guy.
Matthew 6 verse 34:
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
I never miss reading Thomas Sowell, like Steyn, like VDH
he never misses the mark.
Well ain’t that a coincidence, I don’t go sky-diving with whites!
“If American society and Western civilization are different from other societies and civilization, it is that they eventually turned against slavery, and stamped it out, at a time when non-Western societies around the world were still maintaining slavery and resisting Western pressures to end slavery, including in some cases armed resistance.
Only the fact that the West had more firepower than others put an end to slavery in many non-Western societies during the age of Western imperialism. Yet today there are Americans who have gone to Africa to apologize for slavery— on a continent where slavery has still not been completely ended, to this very moment.”
And the very people who were the only ones to call it immoral and wrong are the ones who are to be punished.
Thanks Dr Sowell once again for stating the truth.
Don’t you just dream of having SOWELL for President? I know I do. That or Walt Williams.
And it’s not simply a desire for “revenge” by having a (real) black man in office.
I honestly can’t think of a white guy I’d rather have as president now.
Sowell is a national treasure and should be required reading for every citizen. A voice of total clarity.After reading this piece I got depress seeing how far down the whole race thing has gotten , how scum like Sharpton and Jackson have degraded our society and how history has been used for propaganda. Half the country wouldn’t even be able to read this article never mind understand it.
Dr. Sowell turns 80 on June 30th. If my mind at that age is half as sharp as his, I will take it and be happy!
Obama's crew are slavedealers. His little trip home in 2006 on behalf of the Raila Odinga "We Barbecue Followers of the Cross"--
Did Obama question the Japanese Emperor regarding reparations for the Chinese vis-a-vis that little "Rape of Nanking" matter--
Did he broach the "Korean comfort women" issue--
My line gave blood at Little Anna River May 25, 1864; somehow I think Obama's on the wrong side--
He rather approved of Japanese genocide--having expressed distaste at "that whole deck-of-the-Missouri-thing"--
What a mad mess is the mind of a Narcissist--
Medved at this hour: Africa practiced slavery for a thousand years before contact with Europe.
It is vile--but is a fire which Gasoline-Hussein refuses to extinguish--why not intercede in Darfur--
Very well said, I’d settle for a little less than half. :)
Thanks Phil, good post!
Someone should send Sowell’s articles to Obama every time they come out .Just to show him what an asshole he really is and what a nobody he is next to Sowell.
A great idea but I doubt Obama would read even a few words. I’ve a list (56) of Dr. Sowell’s columns where he’s been moderate to highly critcal of Obama from the time he started campaigning to present, he really rips him in many. :)
He wouldn’t read it as it don’t fit Marxist ideology.
Truer words were never spoken, and indeed Sowell has gentled his message quite a bit.
The larger lesson needs to be about how Marxists abuse all forms of learning (sc. "Lysenkoism") to promote, relentlessly and pitilessly, their power-seeking snake oil.
Oh, I don't think he approves of the Japanese and their war crimes so much .....
....as that he just can't stand the idea of a great victory by those damned white people...... he'd have preferred a Japanese, a Chinese, anybody's victory over the American Beast People.
What's that written across his forehead in your graphic? Can't quite make it out w/ my poorer graphics.
Moral clarity FTW!
Yes! -- a lot of people (especially young people) have the impression that slavery was an invention of the American South, unique in human history.
I wish liberals would read Sowell. Maybe after reading what he has to say, they would shut up and think.
Europeans and Americans ended slavery. No credit for that. Five or more generations later, the liberals are still playing on the guilt trip in order to undermine western civilization. And replace it with what?
They have this hazy idea of a future Utopia. Ignoring the examples of the past, they lay the groundwork for the next Stalin or Mao. Nature abhors a vacuum. A tyrant will gladly fill the Utopian vacuum of the left if they succeed in bringing down western civilization.
Thomas Sowell is at the top of my list for people I’d like to have a good long dinner conversation with.
Thomas Sowell is an American treasure. May he live to be 200!
thanks jaz, i was gonna paste a paragraph ‘nugget’, but every one was worthy of the bump...
“Europeans and Americans ended slavery. No credit for that. Five or more generations later, the liberals are still playing on the guilt trip in order to undermine western civilization. And replace it with what?”
“There must be many like Sharpton and Jackson who despise Sowell, because he speaks the truth.”
Evil me have always despised good ones. Good men point out what evil men could have been. That must be hard to swallow.
A few years ago, I taught seventh grade social studies which spent about a quarter of the curriculum on Africa. When I would tell my prodominantly balck classes about slavery continuing, they never believed me. I found a Lonely Planet travel video that actually went to a slave trading post, and though they wouldn’t show any slaves for sale on camera, they did show some people who claimed to be runaway slaves in hiding. Very informative for American kids.
Oh, the slave traders?
You guessed it; no southern accents, and not a white person around except the narrator.
I am enamored of Mark Steyn's latest gem:I never miss reading Thomas Sowell, like Steyn, like VDH he never misses the mark. - tet68
Nevertheless, we should be grateful to [Comedy Central's] jelly-spined executives for reminding us that the cardboard heroes of the American media are your go-to guys for standing up to entirely fictitious threats. But for real ones? Not so much.Those who mine history for sins are not searching for truth but for opportunities to denigrate their own society, or for grievances that can be cashed in today, at the expense of people who were not even born when the sins of the past were committed.
The people - whether intellectuals, intelligentsia, journalists, or politicans - who do this have no courage to deal with real villains. So in order to set themselves up as cardboard heroes, they pick easy fights with harmless people.
I agree! Nailed it!