The gender #paygap myth has certainly been tenacious. Years ago someone threw out the figure that women earn 77% as much as men, and have since successfully been able to portray this as women not getting equal pay for equal work, despite the fact that the 77% is not at all corrected for equal work (when so corrected, for things like actual hours worked and differences between industries, the gap typically narrows to 5% or less).
In the March 2017 issue, Discover Magazine ran a fake story about America’s supposed declining bee population. One would have thought this tired story would have gone away after bee populations hit a 20-year high and honey production a 10-year high in 2015. But the drive for government cheddar premised on fake crises knows no end. Continue reading
The headline should have read “Widely Reported: No Evidence of Wrongdoing or Collusion Between the Trump Campaign and Russia”
This is a last minor point, then in a future post I will attempt to sum up Chapter 2.
Zinn does this weird thing where he first says that Africans were a natural choice for enslavement in the New World because they were easier to enslave than either Native American or Europeans. But then, he spends the last several pages of the chapter discuss the rebelliousness of black slaves and all the ways in which it was expensive and full of hassle and required much government subsidization to keep slavery going.
[The early Virginia settlers] couldn’t force Indians to work for them, as Columbus had done. They were outnumbered, and while, with superior firearms, they could massacre Indians, they would face massacre in return. They could not capture them and keep them enslaved; the Indians were tough, resourceful, defiant, and at home in these woods, as the transplanted Englishmen were not (Zinn 25).
Black slaves were the answer. And it was natural to consider imported blacks as slaves, even if the institution of slavery would not be regularized and legalized for several decades (Zinn 25).
Their helplessness made enslavement easier. The Indians were on their own land. The whites were in their own European culture. The blacks had been torn from their land and culture, forced into a situation where the heritage of language, dress, custom, family relations, was bit by bit obliterated except for the remnants that blacks could hold on to by sheer, extraordinary persistence (Zinn 25).
Then we get page after page of their rebelliousness.
Still, under the most difficult conditions, under pain of mutilation and death, throughout their two hundred years of enslavement in North America, these Afro-Americans continued to rebel.
Fear of slave revolt seems to have been a permanent fact of plantation life. William Byrd, a wealthy Virginia slaveowner, wrote in 1736: We have already at least 10,000 men of these descendants of Ham, fit to bear arms, and these numbers increase every day, as well by birth as by importation. And in case there should arise a man of desperate fortune, he might with more advantage than Cataline kindle a servile war . . . and tinge our rivers wide as they are with blood.
This is an aside, but there is a lot of talk of the death in the colonies. I would like to see how many people were dying back in Europe every winter. Probably not as many a in American colonies, but a lot i’m sure. the point being the era was a rough one, opeople were consanttly being offed. So Zinn talking about the lack of labor of whatever is possibly a joke.
One last thing. Zinn concludes ultimately that slavery in America was a result of historical factors, and is not a – as he calls it – natural. If by this he means slavery is not moral, then I agree. If he means to imply that there are unique historical factors in the Americas which lead to slavery, he is wrong. As we have seen, slavery existed across all races and cultures and across all of history. It was (and still is in many places today) primarily a class issue, not a race issue.
Here is Zinn:
We see now a complex web of historical threads to ensnare blacks for slavery in America: the desperation of starving settlers, the special helplessness of the displaced African, the powerful incentive of profit for slave trader and planter, the temptation of superior status for poor whites, the elaborate controls against escape and rebellion, the legal and social punishment of black and white collaboration.
The point is that the elements of this web are historical, not “natural.” This does not mean that they are easily disentangled, dismantled. (Zinn 37)
On to Chapter 3, Persons of Mean and Vile Condition.
Zinn dismisses the moral agency of the African slave traders when he writes:
[African slaves] were captured in the interior (frequently by blacks caught up in the slave trade themselves), sold on the coast, then shoved into pens with blacks of other tribes, often speaking different languages (Zinn 27).
No, African slaves were not “frequently” captured by other Africans, unless “frequently” is a synonym for “exclusively.” European could not go in to the African continent. The challenges of the language barriers and threat of being killed by the people’s whose land you were trespassing through aside, Europeans moving through the interior would die from disease if they move across the continent. The Atlantic slave trade was only possible because slavery already existed as an institution in Africa and because warring tribes would enslave each other. For centuries prior to the advent of the Atlantic slave trade by the Portuguese in the slave 15th century, Africans had been moving captured slaves to the northern and eastern coasts of the continent for sale into the Arabic slave trade.
But we don’t get any of this context from Zinn. Instead Zinn glosses over this reality:
The conditions of capture and sale were crushing affirmations to the black African of his helplessness in the face of superior force. The marches to the coast, sometimes for 1,000 miles, with people shackled around the neck, under whip and gun, were death marches, in which two of every five blacks died (Zinn 28).
That “superior force” had nothing to do with European slave traders. These slaves were forced to the coast by other African tribes.
But Zinn doesn’t make that clear, because, as the title of the chapter suggests, for Zinn slavery is a color issue, i.e., a race issue.
Later in the chapter he attempts to psychoanalyze the European settlers of the New World, to discover if their drive enslave Africans was a result of, as Zinn puts it, “”natural” antipathy of white against black.”
But Zinn is dishonest when he writes “We have no way of testing the behavior of whites and blacks toward one another under favorable conditions—with no history of subordination, no money incentive for exploitation and enslavement, no desperation for survival requiring forced labor (Zinn 30).”
Not only does Zinn’s own book include a couple of dry anecdotes about blacks and whites marrying and starting families during that era, as I wrote in this previous post, European’s such as Francis Drake saw slavery as an abomination, not as some natural way.