I Have A Secret

I have a secret: My family owned slaves.
(Clue: so did yours!)

My family has also been slaves, and so has yours. Slavery has been a reliable constant of civilization for the 6,000 years or so of human written history, undoubtedly existed before that and right up until Brazil became the largest slaveholders, and the last continental nation to forbid it.

Of course slavery still exists throughout the continents of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Sexual slavery exists worldwide, as close as the recent FBI raids across America earlier this month.

But pure slavery, chained slavery, was the way of the world for millennia, from rowing galleys to working the fields to fighting enemies as canon fodder. The Egyptians enslaved those from sub-Sahara, the Greeks then enslaved the Egyptians, and the Romans enslaved the Greeks.

And yes, no one knew better. Being a Black slave in America from Africa was neither better nor worse than being a Galley slave rowing, chained, in French or Spanish Galleys until you died. (This death didn’t take long, by the way. Once chained, you never left your oar until dead of exhaustion, beatings, starvation or through sinking.)

Oh, yes, my family, at one time, relieved themselves in the street, or in a chamber pot and threw the results into the streets to be washed down the center trench into the river by the rain — and so did your family — because it was, like slavery, universal and expected.

Black, White, Asian, “Indigenous People”…it makes no difference, people behaved similarly at different times. If you are Indigenous or Black, your tribe enslaved other tribes. If you are White your family primarily enslaved defeated nation’s citizens, and if Asian you sold your daughters into brothels because they were not so strong in the fields. Alternately, your family was enslaved by the system, and at different times your family was a slave holder and enslaved.

You can’t put today’s ethics and mores on the pasts’ acceptance of slavery any more than their use of chamber pots. The curve of civilization goes slowly upward, and there are practices today that will be condemned in 2100 but none of knows what that will be.

Now, move that spittoon closer.

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