In the course of social, political and cultural development we have been recognizing and feeling our power, our influence on the world and everything surrounding us. Humans understand that they are capable of controlling and changing almost every aspect of life. Our “white” civilization had experienced much through the history-making us stronger and cleverer. But all this has also made us sense our supremacy above the others. Reveling in strength, intelligence and influence, white people have come to overestimate their powers and rights to dispose of the lives of others. Since the 17th century we, the Americans, have been exploiting the Africans on a permanent basis considering them to be inferior to us just because they are different. It is important to understand that this widely used practice (especially in the south, of course) has led us to the verge of radical racism and literally playing God. Many of the slave-owners would argue that their charges are properly treated, fed and dressed in return for their work on plantations and wheresoever. And that is a rather reasonable justification. But it is too weak for a pro-slavery argument, as slaves are deprived of the universal – primary – rights: these people are deprived of the right for themselves, their lives; deprived of freedom. Historically, they have been taken for a good labor force and treated as private property. But we as intelligent and forward-looking people of our age should be brave enough to take a deep look in the evidence of the slaves’ lives and admit the inequity and prejudice affecting both them and us. The vibrant life records published recently and depicting the loves and miseries of people unfortunate enough to be born slaves give food for reflection for those who are still doubtful and uncertain in the issues of slavery practices and abolition.
Life of Frederick Douglass
Imagine you were born a slave and – what is even worse – you don’t even know that it could be different; you don’t get the idea that you have the primary right for freedom. This is how the story of Frederick Douglass began. Born by the slave mother, he knew neither his father (who was white) nor his age. In his book there is reflection concerning the right to know his age: he always wondered as a child why white children knew their age, and colored ones weren’t even allowed to make inquiries concerning this information (Douglass). Owing to the mistress who taught him to read in his childhood, Frederick realized the power of education and knowledge. Bound both in body and mind, Douglass then began his long and hard way to freedom – first mental and then physical. His vivid life record and experience shows the community that the main obstacle built upon the way of the colored people by the slaveholders is ignorance. By keeping slaves ignorant, our compatriots go against the universal laws of humanity and morality and make the value of their lives and personalities inferior to their owns.
Nevertheless, the story of the will for freedom and self-fulfillment told by the prominent abolitionist activist Frederick Douglass presents the inspiring example for all of us. Why shouldn’t we let the people (who are, in fact, equal to us) have the right to dispose of their own lives? Now bound with everyday physical labor for the sake of their masters’ wellness, the colored could realize their potential in different areas. And I would mention that important fact that the blacks are no way inferior to the white people in terms of realization and education which was abundantly proved by Anthony Benezet (Abolition Project).
A story of a female slave
Let us take a look at one more life record of a former slave – in this case, a woman. I bet the Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girls would leave no one cold as this is the story of a woman who was born in slavery and has suffered through a range of miseries and misfortunes including sexual abuse on her way to self-actualization. Of course, it is obvious that women experience more difficulties in our society even when they are formally free. Now try to imagine yourselves walking in the shoes of a slave woman. The story of Harriet Jacobs (nicknamed as Linda Brent) is rather dramatic and touching including going into an affair with the white neighbor and having 2 children from him, sexual abuse, work on the plantations and attempts to escape. Even the small example can illustrate clearly into what delusion the white civilization has led itself: Jacobs recalls in her book that the slaveholders thought to teach the slave children that they were human beings to be blasphemous and spoiling (Jacobs).
What is similar between the two stories of the former slaves is that they realized their need for freedom and were ready to take a risk and overcome all the obstacles on their way to the free life and human dignity. As a result, those people managed to fulfill themselves in the society of the whites fighting for the rights of the colored and inspiring them to struggle for freedom as it is definitely worth the fight.
Are we sure we want to carry on like this?
Numerous stories about slaves and hardships they go through reflect the moral decline we are facing. We are humans, we are the crown of creation, but we are not supposed to undertake more responsibility we are able to handle. Even in terms of Christian morality, we are now entrenching the sacred primary rights of the black people despite the biblical law stating each human life to be precious and the original right of every human for freedom.
For those who are still cold towards the humanistic side of the current issue, I consider it important to remind about the economic and national benefit our country would obtain from abolishing this shameful practice. In the long run, slaveholding turns out to be beneficial only for the plantation owners and rather harmful for our economics. If we want our country to develop with spreading the practice of paid labor and increasing wages for all the people – black and white, we will have to reformat the system and abandon the slaveholding practice. Second, the abolition of slavery will allow us to develop and strengthen international relationships with Europe and will elevate us in the eyes of the civilized world as the flourishing evolved nation.