This paper hypothesizes that the over one thousand years that slavery took place in Africa, the constant capturing and selling of Africans by their fellow Africans to Arabs and Europeans, engendered certain spillover effects on Africans, such as their current corrupt cultures where few persons seem to care for the public good and the psychological pathologies seen in many Africans, such as paranoia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
THE ENDURING EFFECTS OF AFRICANS KIDNAPPING AND SELLING AFRICANS TO ARABS AND EUROPEANS ON AFRICANS AND THEIR CULTURE
Ozodi Thomas Osuji, PhD
I read Joy Degruy Leary's (2005) book, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. She pointed out that slavery and racism was traumatic experience for African-Americans and that the behaviors that we see in many of them that seem pathological may be the effect of their traumatic slave experience (passed from one generation to another). Trauma, she said, produces pathological behaviors, behaviors that are passed from one generation to another.
What we need to do, she said, is to understand the nature of trauma and the behaviors it induce and heal them so as to prevent those involved from passing it's pathological behaviors to future generations. Denying what is does not make it go away; what helps is to understand it as it is and address it realistically (scientifically).
Dr. Leary's thesis got me thinking about what possible effects were left on Africans in Africa itself by slavery?
In Africa slave catchers roamed around capturing people, even children and marching them to the sea coast and selling them to Europeans whose slave ships were parked at the coast (some were marched to the north across the Sahara desert and sold to Arabs in North Africa and Arabia).
Instead of being abstract let me give specific example of how it worked. In 1500 AD the Portuguese discovered Brazil. They tried using the local population of Indians to do their plantation and mining work and those either died or ran away. They came to West Africa and arranged with coastal people to go get Africans to be sold to them.
In my part of Africa, Alaigbo, the coastal people, Ijaws and EFik arranged with those Igbos close to them, Aro, to go get Igbos and sell them to them and they, in turn, sell them to the Portuguese. (See Uchendu, 1965)
The Aro hired a group of headhunters known as Abam, and those roamed around Igbo land capturing Igbos, some as young as ten years old (Olaudah Equiano, 1999). They would march these captives sometimes over two hundred miles to the sea coast (at Calaba and Bonny) and sell them to Efik and Ijaw who in turn sold them to the Portuguese.
This arrangement lasted from the 1500s to 1900. In effect, Igbos were captured for 400 years and sold into slavery. This is a known fact.
Before the transatlantic slave trade, slavers captured and marched Igbos and other West Africans up north and across the Sahara desert and sold them to Arabs. The Arab slave trade probably started around 700 AD and did not end until the 1900s. (See Davidson, 1961)
It is therefore safe to say that for over 1200 years Igbo slaves were captured and sold to either Arabs or Europeans. These Igbo slaves are now part of Arabia and the two Americas.
What took place in Alaigbo took place in other West African ethnic groups, from Senegal to Namibia. West Africans were terrorized by slave kidnappers.
In East Africa the same phenomenon also took place, except that this time the Africans were mostly marched to Arabia and sold to Arabs and Persians and only God knows who else bought them in the Middle East.
My goal in this paper is to focus on the possible effects of slavery on Africans in Africa. Kidnappers roaming around Africa capturing Africans and selling them into slavery must have affected those Africans who were not captured and sold into slavery (or before they were captured and sold into slavery...in which case they came to the Americas and Arabia with already existing effects of living in a precarious environment where life was not safe).
Imagine those living in Igbo villages and other West African villages constantly aware that any day could be their last day of being with their kinfolk as they are grabbed by slave catchers and marched south and sold.
A woman going to her farm could be captured and she is heard from no more (imagine the effect on her children now deprived of their mother); a child out playing with other children could be captured and is seen no more; a man out visiting kinfolk could be waylaid by a group of kidnapers and captured, bound with ropes and marched south and sold.
Sometimes Abam and Aro people stimulated inter village wars with the sole purpose of villagers capturing some of their people and selling them to Aro folk who subsequently sold them to Efik folk who sold them to white slavers at the coast.
At night some of the catchers could sneak into a compound and grab sleeping children, women and men, gag them and take them off to be sold.
Children could go to bed and wake up in the morning with their parents gone as those were taken by slave catchers and marched away. Now who would take care of those children? Relatives? Those may in turn be captured and sold; thus, many children were left uncared for and died.
African villages were literally depopulated by Arab and America slavery. African people were literally transferred to Arabia and the Americas. There were probably more Africans sold out of Africa than were left in Africa itself. Where are the majority of Africans? They are now in America and the Arab world!
In my area you find a village that is now composed of several hundred people that only a few years ago may be twenty people. It was not like in the past the people were not procreating, they were but their offspring were invariably captured and sold into slavery. With the stopping of slavery in 1902 by the British the people were no longer captured and sold into slavery (domestic and external slavery) and the population is now growing in leaps and bounds.
In 1901/1902 Frederick Lugard (Lugard, 1965; Perham, 1960), a Briton, with his West African Frontier Army, composed mostly of Hausa soldiers, used it to storm the Long Juju of Arochukwu. Apparently, the Aro were still selling Igbo slaves at that date. Having destroyed the Aro, Lugard and his army went all over Igbo land, and, as he said, pacifying the people; that is, preventing them from capturing and selling their people into slavery and, of course, making them amenable for British rule. In the wake of Lugard's conquest of Alaigbo Christian missionaries from Europe descended and converted most Igbos to Christianity. The Christian missionaries set up shop in my area, Owerri in 1906 and today most Igbos from Owerri area are Christians.
If you extrapolate from the present rate of population increase and subtract those that would have died natural deaths and imagine that slavery did not exist some of these villages population probably would be in thousands today; many of them would have become urban areas, cities. Simply put, slavery decimated African peoples.
However, the primary focus of this paper is the psychological effects of living in villages where folks could be captured at any moment and sold into slavery and were seen no more by their relatives. What do you think would be the effect of this scenario on the people?
I think that the people must have lived in terrible insecurity. Their lives were not safe. They could be killed and or captured and marched off into slavery at any point in time.
One's look at one's children and or relatives in the morning when one went to the farm could be the last time one would see them again! Any day could be the last day one was with ones people and friends.
The people must have lived in what Thomas Hobbes (1651), in his book, Leviathan, described as what life was like in the state of nature: war of all with all and the result was that life was nasty, brutish and short.
Those who were not killed or kidnapped lived in constant fear for their lives. Their emotions swung from anxiousness/fear to depression at the loss of loved ones to paranoia; that is, fear that one could be captured at any time.
Since one never knows who is going to capture one or who is going to betray one to be captured one had to be afraid of one's own neighbors, even of one's family members (if family members have issues with one another some could arrange for slavers to come take their supposed enemies away and cart them off to slavery).
The people must have lived in a terrible state of paranoia (this probably accounts for the higher level of paranoia found in Igbos and other Africans).
Life must have been hellish in Igbo and other African villages for at least one thousand years. I can imagine many of them wishing to be dead (to join spouses killed during inter village wars to capture slaves or to join kidnaped relatives).
I can even imagine some people wishing to be captured with the fantastic hope that may be they could be sold to where their relatives were sold to so that they would see them and be with them.
Dante (1265-1321)described what he imagined are the various levels of hell; I can imagine that living in Igbo and African villages were worse than living in the highest section of hell that Dante imagined in his Inferno. Africans must have lived in literal, not figurative hell. This was a terrible way to live.
And the worst part of it all is that Africans did this to their fellow Africans. It was Igbos who roamed Igbo land capturing Igbos and selling them to Efik and Ijaw folk who then sold them to Europeans. It was Africans that captured their people and sold them to Arabs and Europeans.
It was Africans that inflicted this extreme physical and psychological suffering on their people. They did it for monetary gain. They sold their people to Arabs and white folks to make money.
And what did they do with that money?
I do not see mansions in Igbo land built with the wealth acquired from selling Igbo slaves. Europeans used African slave labor to accumulate wealth. The palatial buildings one see dotting the European landscape were built with money obtained from selling Africans to the Americans. Americans literally worked African slaves to death; throwing dead ones into holes in the ground dug for that specific purpose and their makeshift graves not marked.
Europeans used Africans to make money in America and repatriated such money to Europe and with it built mansions.
So, where is the money that Africans presumably made from selling their people? It is nowhere. Africans literally sold their people for bottles of rum and pieces of glass (beads) that they wore on their necks to make them seem very important persons.
For committing this terrible crime against their people, and if there is God, against God, Africans have nothing to show for it!
No wonder white men believe that Africans are unintelligent (Herrnstein and Murray, 1994). Africans must have been really unintelligent. They sold their people for rums (from the West Indies) and tobacco (from Virginia)? In my judgment, they were less than human; they were less than animals; they were garbage; they deserved not to be alive; they ought to be killed, as in capital punishment.
I have often wondered what was going on in the minds of Africans as they captured their people and sold them to Arabs and white men; I ask: what were they thinking?
Were they just thinking about the rum and tobacco? Many Africans were addicted to nicotine from tobacco smoking and to alcohol from rum. The clever and devious white man addicted them to alcohol and nicotine and for that they sold their people to him!
Didn't African realize that what they were doing was wrong or were they hopelessly addicted to mood altering chemicals and could not think straight? Were their brains scrambled by drugs so that like drug addicts do in North America they sold their children for drugs?
And if they did not know that what they were doing was evil, were they human beings or the children of Satan?
Are Africans an evil people? How could they sell their people, get some sort of money and use it to live on? How could they tolerate their selves knowing that they sold their people?
What kind of ego rationalization enabled them to justify what they did and live with themselves instead of jumping into rivers and drowning themselves, as evil folks ought to do?
I ask this question for as we speak some Igbos are roaming Igbo land and kidnapping their fellow Igbos and holding them hostage until ransom money is paid to them before they release their victims. Often they kill their victims when ransom is not paid or not paid in time.
And supposing they were paid do they actually go home and spend that money on themselves, such as buy food with it and eat to stay alive, knowing that they are staying alive with money from others suffering? If so do they have conscience or are they born criminals?
Are Africans born as criminals with no sense of guilt and remorse? One would think that they should have preferred to kill themselves rather than sell their people into slavery.
What were they living for, to capture and sell their people into slavery, and that sort of life was worth living?
As we talk their leaders could care less for their people. Nigerian leaders specialize in looting the country's treasury and with the money they stole living well and masquerading around as very important persons while their people are literally starving to death. Are those Nigerian leaders' decent human beings or evil people?
In the past folks used to be judged morally and if their behaviors were deemed amoral they were called evil. Then came the age of social science, especially psychology. Now if people do what folks used to call evil we try to use the parameters of social science to explain away their behavior. Indeed, psychology and psychiatry try to reduce their behaviors to mental disorder and that way excuse them of responsibility for their apparent evil. Why did they sell their people? It was because they were mentally ill. So being mentally ill was used to explain away what folks used to call evil behavior. No one is responsible for his behavior anymore!
We have to answer this question, are Africans evil, for if Africans are evil people it is better we killed them off, and I mean this. If they have no sense of right and wrong and inflict pain on their people without thought I say let us use nuclear weapons and wipe them off from the surface of the earth. I do not see why they should be kept alive? What are they living for, to inflict more pain on their people?
(As an aside, who should wipe out Africans; who among us has not sinned that should cast the first stone at the sinner? White or Arab folks? Were Europeans and Arabs not the ones buying and abusing African slaves? No human being is innocent. As the philosopher of my teenage years, Arthur Schopenhauer, 1844, said, it seems that nature made a mistake in creating people; people ought to not have been created; their sins are too much for some of us to bear. Schopenhauer looked at Americans whites claiming to be Christians yet enslaving and abusing Africans and his sensitive nature could not tolerate that hypocrisy. Their very bible has injunctions for them to love one another, yet they oppressed Africans in every imaginable manner possible; they were really predatory savages and sadists who derived pleasure from inflicting pain on people. Schopenhauer ran away from people and closeted himself in a boarding room where he spent the balance of his life. People are too wicked for him to bother dealing with them. Stay away from actual people and read and write philosophy and that was what the man did. See his World as Will and Idea.)
Many Africans do not feel guilty from their ancestors selling their people. All they do is blaming those they sold their people to, white men (they do not even blame Arabs). I have not seen any African blaming his ancestors for slavery. Instead, the African blames Europeans for slavery.
If you remind them that contemporary Europeans were not engaged in slavery and since Africans believe contemporary Europeans should still pay reparation for what their ancestors' did that by the same logic of holding white folks responsible for what their ancestors did that contemporary Africans should be held accountable for what their ancestors did, they do not get the logic.
If you are going to blame current Europeans for the sins of their fathers then why don't you blame your ancestors for their greater sin of selling their people?
One would think that it was greater sin to sell your people. You know that they are related to you and you sold them.
White folks who bought African slaves did not know who they were and might have considered them animals and not feel guilty from using them as folks use mules to do work and not feel bad from doing so.
So, why don't Africans feel guilty and remorseful for what their ancestors did? Are they born criminals with no sense of guilt?
And there are Africans who actually believe that the white man ought to pay them reparation for selling their people! They actually want those they sold their people to, Americans, to pay them reparations!
Can you image this level of total shamelessness? I can imagine black Americans asking for reparations from their slave masters and even from Africans who sold them but Africans also asking for payment? That got to be the height of amorality.
But, wait, before you condemn all Africans as immoral. I am from, Africa. I know my father's people; I know my mother's people. They are good people; they are the salt of the earth.
I know that they say that one is partial to one's self and people and cannot judge them correctly. Okay. I am still going to ask you to take my word for it.
My mother's people, in fact all her village members, could pass for saints. These people are gentle and humble and God fearing and would give you their last penny. My mother's brother would gather his age mates and they would come to our village to do mother's farm work for her, for free! They were as loving as any set of human beings I have seen anywhere in the world could be. I certainly have not seen white people as loving and caring as my mother's Owerri folk were and still are.
My father's people are like me, arrogant but good people. Grandfather was into egoism. He expressed his sense of importance and if you dared look down on him he would not mind doing something to get you in jail. But despite his arrogance he donated his lands for the village school to be built and did all other kinds of good work for the people. He was not an angel but he was not worse than the men of power I see around the world.
(Generally, I do not like denying responsibility for my actions: I take full responsibility for what I did, good or bad; I do not like to blame other people for my actions, good or bad; I know that if you point two accusing fingers at other people that three point right back at you demanding that you take responsibility for your share in our mutually determined world. Thus, I tend to resent Africans who deny their people's role in slavery and instead only harp on white men's role in buying them. Generally, I seize every opportunity to remind them of their ancestors' role in selling their people and tell them to quit yapping about those they sold their people to. But as I look at the Africans near me, my Owerri folk, I can tell you with good conscience that they did not sell their people. If they did I would be the first to gather them in a gas chamber, spray gas on them and light it. No, these are good people. Aro, Abam, Abriba and Ngwa people, folks from different Igbo clans came to their world and kidnapped their people and sold them into slavery. As we speak, the same savages are roaming around Alaigbo and kidnapping Igbos and holding them hostage for ransom. I am saying that not all Africans were guilty for slavery. My folks did not participate in selling their people. I am not just being defensive. I urge you to go do a study and find out. Okay, we had domestic slaves called Osu; those were used to do the work of the high priests, so as to leave them free to do what they do best, intellectual work.)
My point is that the Africans I see in African villages are good people. Then I ask: but these were the people who only a hundred years ago were selling their people into slavery? Something does not compute here. They do not seem like evil people at all.
What then went wrong to make them do what they did? I do not know but looking at them today they do not seem capable of hurting a mosquito.
Slavery baffles me. Perhaps, Slavery was the will of what Gnostics call the Demiurge, the proud son of God that separated from his father God and invented and runs this world. Could it be that there is Satan at work in this world and he is responsible for the good people of Africa selling their people to Arabia and America in the manner they were?
Alternatively, does history have a will of its own that makes people do what they have to do to meet the needs of the time?