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Race is central to the politics of slavery in America. Incorrectly, it assumes that African Americans were descendants of slaves and all whites were descendants of slaveholders. Nothing is farther from reality. Slave owners were of all races, including Indians and African Americans. Many of our original immigrants also experienced some form of bondage. Most early immigrants, including the 1619 Africans were considered Indentured servants who had traded freedom for passage to the colony. The roots of slavery is not race, it is economics. Slavery is as old as mankind itself. The modern American slave trade begins with the Portuguese taking advantage of inter-tribal warfare in Africa. In Africa, as in the rest of the world the spoils of war included slaves. Those prisoners who were not enslaved by the tribe were killed or, otherwise disposed of. The Portuguese demand for slaves created a market for the spoils of war, which the African Tribes were willing to supply. The unintended benefit to the descendants of these Africans was that many of their ancestors today owe their lives to slavery, since otherwise they would not have been spared. The Portuguese had provided an alternative solution to what do with the surplus.
Our founders saw the need to eliminate slavery but lacked the will to do so. The economic need for manpower initially caused them to ignore that it had moral ramifications. Laws governing slavery and indenture were passed in Virginia in 1652 & 1705. These state laws, authorized slavery and dictated the actions and relationships of everyone, which included: slaves, slave-owners and freedmen, and they restricted manumission often contrary to he wishes of the individual slave-owners. The laws were the result of powerful interests by a small portion of the British Rulers and local population in the 17th and early 18th century. This is long before the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. It is imperative that we work together to peacefully resolve our differences and resolve the challenges of our colonial past.
We have worked for almost 240 years to change what was once a worldwide phenomenon. Martin Luther King’s desire, that men be judged by the quality of their character and not the color of their skins suggests that the key to racial conflict is inclusion not exclusion. Racial groups while fighting for their rights, cannot ignore the rights of others. Our country was based on equal rights and equal opportunity. It is the goals they established that is important for us to remember, not their actions as imperfect individuals. To put the rights of any one group over another goes against the principals established by our founding fathers.
Neither equal rights nor equal opportunity is a guarantee of success. Success is a guarantee, an entitlement or a gift. Success occurs only when individuals combine opportunity with education, preparedness and hard work. Generations of dependence on handouts restrict the desire or ability of the disadvantaged to change their situation. Education is a key but without changing the individual’s motivation and commitment to change success is unattainable. To change the future one needs to learn from the past. Great men are self made men who are not limited by others. Race was not a factor in their success, it was their drive and motivation which allowed them to overcome the obstacles they faced.