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Too Easy to Rebut the PC Ta-Nehisi / NYT

The long-suffering readers of this blog know that, like Bilbo Baggins, I occasionally inflict poetry upon you (in deference to this blog’s free speech convictions, I also allow the word ‘doggerel’ 🙂 ).

Whether this poem says anything my prose did not say, I leave to readers, but since Ta-Nehisi is being echoed by Democrat candidates, and the NYT is promising to write essay after essay “demonstrating that nearly everything that has made America exceptional grew out of slavery”, how can we avoid restating truths as they reiterate their lies? In pursuit of variety, I therefore offer as poem some thoughts mostly already expressed in prose. (If commenters know other ways of restating timeless truths to resist the fashionable lies of this time, by all means say.)

When white traders sought a profit in black endless tribal wars,
Where the winners sold the losers, pinioned in their slave collars,
Then the winners were the losers, left behind in Africa,
From the losers came the winners, free men in America.

If you thought that reparations were owed you by those you blame
Then the past you should have had, you would endeavour to reclaim –
Live with offspring of keen sellers, whence your captured forebears came,
Quit the nation that stopped buying, if you thought it owned the shame –

Since a man who claims repayment from a country where he’ll stay,
Clutching eagerly its passport (to live there, not go away),
Knows the winners don’t descend from those who won a tribal war;
He, descendant of the losers, knows he is today’s victor.

For we all have ancestors, and all have some who had it rough.
‘Fixing’ that would have no end, quite cause enough to say “Enough!”.
But to insolently claim repayment for great benefit,
When the losers are long dead, and in world terms you’re doing great,

When you say your country owes you yet remain its citizen,
Shows you don’t think you, today, inherit loss from way back then.
Better not repay your country with your self-indulgent hate,
But rejoice that negroes prosper as it is again made great.

That it is in one way too easy to rebut these idiots – that the antifa woke mob have a power in their fists and in their administrators’ and media-friends’ fraud that they do not have in their heads – prompts me to write parables and poems to make it interesting. But since we believe diversity of thought is the only diversity of value, ‘too easy’ has its dangers – those words are not just in my title for the rhyme. But that must await my next poem.

Meanwhile (reverting to prose), the whole NYT Ta-Nehisian project is like observing that in the 1850s, while a majority of free U.S. blacks were literate and literacy passed easily from them to slaves, a majority of US slaves were not literate – at a time when the large majority of the world’s people were not literate. It is only because the US population was exceptionally literate for its time that one has any basis for complaint. And southern slaveowners worried about slave literacy only because, in the exceptional US, a literate slave might read that all men were endowed with inalienable rights – and then read a map showing routes northwards – which was not a danger in the unexceptional parts of the world.

(This is another of my “Less economy of truth, please” posts – maybe I should make a tag.)

19 comments to Too Easy to Rebut the PC Ta-Nehisi / NYT

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Just a heads-up: the name of the NYT writer I think you are thinking of is Ta-Nehisi Coates, not Ta-Nisi.

  • Ben David

    This is kinda on-topic as it is a brilliant explanation of the modern PC craziness:

  • Natalie, thanks (now corrected). I was (mis)remembering with advantages to the title’s rhyme scheme. 🙂

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Democrat heroine Hillary Rodham Clinton unnecessarily assisted foolish Europeans in bombing out Libya and sending Qaddafi to meet his maker — since when slave markets have reappeared in the ruins of Libya. Arabs selling black Africans. But the NYT and their scribblers are more interested in things that happened four centuries ago — things that no-one can change — than they are in fixing today’s slavery problem created by their lady.

    Back in the much closer days of the Spanish Civil War, American Lefties created the Lincoln Brigade and went to fight in a foreign land in defense of socialism. If Ta-Nehisi and his friends were prepared to create a new Lincoln Brigade, go to Libya, and put themselves in harms way to stop today’s slave trading — I for one would take them much more seriously.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Slightly off-topic — my pet peeve about the misuse of language. In this case, the word “slave”.

    The Daily Mail (which deserves more respect than the NYT, although that is not saying much) refers to some of Mr. Epstein’s young women as “sex slaves”. DM also reports that one of those “sex slaves” was paid $10,000 for spending the ‘longest 10 minutes of her life’ with Prince Andrew. If “slaves” get paid $1,000 per minute (!), then please — make me a “slave”! 🙂

  • (Gavin Longmuir, August 21, 2019 at 3:42 pm), while I take your point that a thousand dollars a minute is not a reimbursement rate we usually associate with actual slavery, it is not the case that slave = no money. In ante-bellum Savannah, the two wealthiest members of the black community were slaves. Readers of Huckleberry Finn will recall the slave Jim’s proud boast that “Ah bin rich once and Ah’s gwyn to be rich agin”. Slaves tending tobacco, unlike slaves tending more easily-supervised cotton, were typically given bonuses based on crop quality. Simon Riverman captained the Mississippi boat owned by the man who also owned him, and commanded its mixed-race crew. Somerset (the slave of Mansfield’s declaration) was buyer for his owner’s firm and handled significant sums. In the free enterprise society of North America, rigorous separation of all slaves from all money was never feasible.

    IIRC, in the Ottoman empire, the Grand Vizier was usually (or was it always?) the Sultan’s slave, commanding huge sums of money and many people (including slaves), but conveniently executable without legal forms if the Sultan ever needed to appease the masses over some failure of administration.

    Thus I agree we should not abuse words, but actual legal status of slavery has historically been compatible with some surprising degrees of wealth.

  • neonsnake

    If “slaves” get paid $1,000 per minute (!), then please — make me a “slave”!

    I’m sure we can find a way to let the good Prince know that you’re keen, but with all due respect…

    …I think you might be too old for him.


  • Mr Ed

    The mind plays strange tricks; reading that verse, the Tay Bridge Disaster came to mind.

  • llamas

    I have heard the thoughts expressed here is a much-more simple aphorism, namely, that the African-Caribbean-American slave trade was perhaps-unique in that it is the only instance of slavery that converted humans who were considered as valueless (or even as liabilities) in their places of origin, into valuable resources. Had it not been for this particular version of the slave trade, the progenitors of the current African-American community would likely have been summarily put to the sword by their captors and owners in Africa before they ever saw a slave ship. While transport to the New World and their subsequent lives were likely no bed of roses, it still handily-beats the likely alternatives, as their brute labour and other skills were essentially valueless in the African lands from which they were removed.

    I’m not aware of any other historical instance of slavery in which enslaved individuals were traded halfway around the world in this way – thus proving the value that they embodied. Can anybody else?



  • Chester Draws

    The ancients periodically enslaved whole enemy cities captured. The alternative was being put to death, because they didn’t want enemies in their rear. Carthage suffered such a fate.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    llamas — there are other examples of slaves being traded long distances. Swedes & Norwegians captured & enslaved Slavs from the forests of what is now Russia and took them to the slave markets of Byzantium, from where they were sold on to Egypt and beyond. Those Scandinavians made the unfortunate Slavs carry the furs & other trade items they were also taking to market.

    Barbary pirates from the Mediterranean raided the coasts of England for slaves who ended up far away in the Arab world. Whether the future slaves were valueless in their place of origin, or surplus to requirements, or simply unlucky could probably be debated for a long time.

    This is not to gainsay your point that African chiefs undoubtedly sold the most worthless of their captives (and maybe even fellow tribesmen?) to European & Arab slave traders — perhaps analogous to the way that the English got rid of their troublemakers by transporting them to Australia, where their descendants became productive citizens.

  • staghounds

    Or, more often, Australians.

  • The mind plays strange tricks; reading that verse, the Tay Bridge Disaster came to mind. (Mr Ed, August 21, 2019 at 7:03 pm)

    You are cruel, Mr Ed – but witty. 🙂

    Fortunately, my verses do not just rhyme – they also scan! I rest my case.

  • llamas (August 21, 2019 at 7:07 pm), one motive for trading slaves – especially adult male slaves – over long distances was that they became less dangerous, less in need of slaughtering (or blinding or whatever). A group of slaves from different tribes, speaking mutually-unintelligable languages, who were a thousand miles from home and wholly ignorant of the local geography, flora and fauna, were at a very considerable disadvantage, relative to a same-language group recently captured and held only 100 miles from their own border, when it came to plotting revolt and escape. The example is given above of Norse transporting Slavs from south Russia to Norway, captives from Europe’s ‘slave coast’ could end up in distant parts of the Arab world, 90 Roman soldiers captured in Crassus attack on Parthia ended up as slave-soldiers defending a Chinese city, etc. The British trans-atlantic trade is more an extreme example than unique.

    For the sake of completeness, note I referred late in my post to traders buying “cheap and very cheap” people. Obviously, there is a black community in the states because they also bought women and children. When a village was successfully raided, the captured males who lost their fight for its defence (or were surprised in bed at dawn or betrayed at a treacherous feast or whatever) were accompanied by captured women and children. Their captors kept many women and girls as slaves, and also many boys who, being raised as slaves, would lack the morale to revolt when they were men. However they also had a surplus of these to sell, beyond what their own community could easily support, and even of those they would otherwise have kept, could decide that a bolt of western cloth was worth more to them than another servant or a yet-larger harem.

    In Brazil, the ratio of males to females bought from the Portuguese colonies was high, and the females were often kept locked up at night to prevent their getting pregnant and so less able to work (the slave owner of course had the keys and could relax this rule for himself). This is why the negro-descended south-American population is largely mixed-race. By contrast, British traders tended to buy in the number-and-price ratios offered – they bought the cheap as well as the very cheap. It would not be accurate to suggest they bought exclusively persons otherwise destined for the murder spectacle, though it would be accurate to suggest that the overwhelming majority of descendants of slaves in the US have some ancestors for whom that or similar was the alternative.

  • llamas

    Gavin Longmuir – your point is well-taken regarding Viking slavers who took slaves as far as Miklagard, and beyond. However, there is one crucial difference, in that the slaves they took – were taken, by force. Almost-all slaves traded by the Vikings were originally stolen from their native lands, from communities that very-much did not want to lose them. A great number of African slaves were not stolen by those who transported them far away, but purchased from local owners who wanted to be rid of them, and who would often kill or incapacitate them if they could not sell them. This aspect is often glossed-over in discussions of African-American slavery.



  • Philip Scott Thomas

    Mr Ed

    The mind plays strange tricks; reading that verse, the Tay Bridge Disaster came to mind.

    I was thinking something more Coleridge-like:

    “When white traders sought a boon in Afric’s endless tribal wars,
    “Where winners sold the losers, pinioned in their ‘slavers’ bonds”

    Unfortunately it rather ran off into the undergrowth at that point. 😉

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Llamas: “However, there is one crucial difference, in that the slaves they [Vikings] took – were taken, by force.”

    Agreed — the Scandinavians took the Slavs by force and enslaved them with the deliberate aim of selling those slaves themselves in the distant slave markets of the Eastern Mediterranean. But this is not so different from the behavior of African tribes who took other Africans by force with the aim of enslaving some for their own use and killing off the others. When the victorious tribes found they could sell off surplus slaves to Arab slave merchants, and later to European slave merchants, it presumably changed the enslaved/killed ratio in defeated tribes. I don’t know enough about the situation in medieval Africa to be sure, but I guess that once African kings realized they had a market for slaves, they (just like the Scandinavians) started attacking other people specifically in order to enslave them and sell them off.

    The only circumstance I have heard of where people became slaves without being taken “by force” was the ancient Israeli practice where someone who had become destitute would voluntarily become a slave to some rich man who would give him food, clothing, and shelter in exchange for his (unpaid) work. Sort of an ancient world welfare scheme. Generally, these kinds of ‘voluntary’ slaves would eventually be freed.

  • Instapundit links to a Baldilocks story about the trans-atlantic illegal alien trade to ask if it is triangular? 🙂

    If it were, what would be the US-to-UK leg carry? Logically, I’d say it should be PC ideology (to complete the triangle) but I fear we can supply that home-grown (and, as Baldilocks speculates, the US PC ideologists can supply funding for ships to carry the illegals home-grown).

  • This article rebutting the 1619 project contains a fascinating oddity (that I did not know) about a key court case in the gradual conversion of indentures into slavery for negroes in the colonies.

    Ironically, a freed black man initiated the court case that moved slavery to a race-based institution. The Angolan immigrant Anthony Johnson was the plaintiff is a key civil case, where the Northampton Court in 1654 declared after the expiration of the indenturement contract of his African servant John Casor that Johnson owned Casor “for life,” nullifying the protections of the contract for the servant and essentially establishing the civil precedent for the enslavement of all African indentured servants by declaring that a contract for such servants extended for life, rather than the fixed term in the contract.

    To anyone with the least grasp of the relative cultures involved, it is in one way not at all ‘ironic’ that a first-generation African immigrant should be ahead of any Englishman in making such a case. However I grant the event is in another way surprising, given the relative rarity of African-born owners to English in Virginia at that time.

    More details of Anthony Johnson’s life are here. The article suggests complexities in the court case. (The link is nominally to infogalactic rather than direct to wikipedia but I think just repeats the latter. I trust readers know that, on subjects like these, wikipedia must be read with a degree of caution, but the article seems sober enough. Perhaps I will find means to learn more. The general facts of 1600s Virginia were known to me but I’d not known these details of Johnson. I note that, after capture and sale by a hostile tribe, Johnson’s route to Virginia went via Angola, a area where the Portuguese, not the English, traded, but also via Arab, not Portuguese traders – so not the conventional later route. I already knew that, as the article indicates, full exploitation of what we think of as the standard triangular trade route was a rather later development.)

    In this thread it is merely relevant that Johnson’s descendants would be liable if Ta-Nehisi were taken seriously.