If You Don’t Understand What’s Wrong With This Meme, You Are Part Of The Problem

Barbary Slave Trade

What do you want: a freaking medal or something?

I will give this meme one point only for its implication that most American students have never heard of the Barbary slave trade, and that’s because Africa gets short shrift in most history classes. I consider myself a fairly intelligent, well-educated person, but I don’t need all my fingers to count the major African events about which I can speak confidently. It’s not that I don’t care; nobody ever bothered to tell me. Sit through the typical American world history class and you’ll hear about the Egyptian empire, apartheid in South Africa, and…um…yeah. The really sad part is that humanity started in Africa. For the hundreds of thousands of years that there have been humans on Earth, the African continent has been continuously occupied, and yet I struggle to recall more than a few of the critical events that shaped its history. How sad is that?

I guess I should thank the author of this meme in some small way for inspiring me to research a piece of that history. It’s too bad that this inspiration had to come from a steaming heap of Stupid Bad Meme.

The word Barbary refers to the Barbary Coast of north Africa. On modern maps the Barbary Coast stretches across northern Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya; in other words, most of the African Mediterranean coast. From the 16th to the 19th century, the Barbary Coast was indeed the site of much questionable activity, including piracy and human trafficking. The Barbary slave traders dealt in both black Africans and Europeans. The slaves were captured from ships, towns, and villages within the pirates’ area of influence. All of this happened while the Barbary region was nominally under control of the Ottoman empire, although the regions were fairly autonomous and the pirates operated without fear of reprisal.

In the early 19th century the United States fought two wars against the loosely confederated nation-states of the Barbary Coast, crippling the Barbary slave trade. Tellingly, the agreements that ended the war demanded only that the Barbary slave traders cease trafficking white Christian slaves; they were still free to abduct and sell black Africans as they saw fit. The large-scale, open trafficking of black Africans would be phased out piece by piece over the next century and a half.

In modern times slavery is illegal in every nation. That doesn’t mean slavery doesn’t happen; it simply does not happen with the explicit consent of any government. Illegal slavery persists in various forms on every continent (except perhaps Antarctica); to believe otherwise is sheer foolishness. Modern slavers work in the shadows of civilized society, abducting the marginalized. The illegal human trade that continues in Africa is no better or worse than the human trade in Asia, or in Europe, or in the Americas. It’s racist and petty to imply that the persistence of illegal slavery in Africa somehow makes Africans worse than Asians, Europeans, Australians, or even Americans. It’s also foolish to insist that the Barbary slave trade in any way justifies or negates the seriousness of American slavery.

It’s good that the United States abolished legal slavery, as did every other modern nation. It’s bad that some people continue the practice of slavery, but that’s no more a mark against Africa than it is against every other continent on which illegal slavery is going on. So step down off your high horse, Mr Idiot Meme-Maker. The eradication of slavery in the United States doesn’t make white people more noble than black people; it makes non-slave-owners more noble than slave owners. White or black, anybody who doesn’t own slaves is a better friend to humanity than anybody who does.

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20 thoughts on “If You Don’t Understand What’s Wrong With This Meme, You Are Part Of The Problem

  1. I once researched the illegal slave trade for a project and came across a few sources that state that Disney World is the #1 place for child trafficking handlers to exchange hands with another handler, due to all the existing, and immanent, chaos of children and parents everywhere. Sorry I don’t have the sources ready for this comment, but worth looking into none-the-less. Kind of makes me not want to take any of my future kids, nieces or nephews there!

  2. I first came across this Meme in a discussion about Phil Robertson advising that We, America, do to the Islamic State what they are doing to Christians, aka convert or die. I thought this Meme was the most ridiculous thing ever so I went looking for information and found this well written Blog. This inspired me to do some more research.

    Look up Robert C. Davis and the Barbary Slave Trade. You can also check out my own blog for some sources on this. The short version is that the statistic 1.5 million is an exaggeration of 1.25 million, a number that Davis invented. Also Davis seems to be the only scholar who has ever come up with any numbers remotely resembling those in the blog. Inevitably everyone who does try to back this meme up with facts is using Davis and his book.

    This was well done work, I am now a follower.

    • Thank you for reading and for the kind comment. I try to stick to facts as much as possible and avoid buying into someone else’s bias. And thank you for the lead. I will be glad to investigate further. Take care!

  3. This meme isn’t meant to ‘justify or negate’ anything, but was created to say that slavery was the way of the world at the same point in time as North America was operating its slavery institution, and continued even after White Culture disbanded it. It is dumb to paint this as a KKK meme or some slavery-advocate’s propaganda. I highly doubt the maker of this post even knows who Anthony Johnson is without Googling.

    • “It is dumb to paint this as a KKK meme or some slavery-advocate’s propaganda.”
      I agree, which is why I didn’t do that. If you think I did, I implore you: please quote the offending passage.

      • Sure.

        “It’s racist and petty to imply that the persistence of illegal slavery in Africa somehow makes Africans worse than Asians, Europeans, Australians, or even Americans. It’s also foolish to insist that the Barbary slave trade in any way justifies or negates the seriousness of American slavery.”

        If that isn’t painting this meme with such a broad brush, what is?

    • I would ask the meme-maker, “What color were the Africans who enslaved the white Europeans?” Please be advised that “African” is an adjective referring to national origin, not skin color or ethnicity.

      And “Ask the average school student …”–as opposed to those non-school students? In fact and contrary to the anti-political-correctness presumptions of the meme-maker, school children in the US today (as well as in my own childhood way back in the latter 1900’s) are very much aware that, for example, Jews and others were enslaved in ancient Egypt, black Africans were enslaved by other black Africans around the time the black slave trade flourished when white Europeans were colonizing North America, that Ancient Greek white folks enslaved one another, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

  4. Sorry LC, but I lack sufficient expertise to answer your question re. historical facts. Apart from its veracity or otherwise, however, I do know that the story of the Jewish liberation and exodus from Egypt is still being taught in at least some public schools in the US and, I would think, in Hebrew school in the US.

  5. Maybe this meme was aimed at black racist that claim or imply only white Americans owned slaves or that white Americans today are guilty of something because of their racial background.
    To me everyone’s responsible for their own actions not their great grandfathers.

    • Which black person said only whites own slaves? I can tell you that the only people to create the Jim crow were white people and that’s a fact. A black person is not racist for bringing that fact up. Taking people from their country, lynching people because of their race and discriminating against them is racist. Bringing up history is not racist.

  6. “It’s not that I don’t care; nobody ever bothered to tell me.”

    ^That is actually the line that bothers me the most. You obviously have the ability and means to do research and can read and understand things, yet it’s someone else’s fault that you don’t know more about Africa. lol If you really cared you could have done independent research on it instead of waiting for it to be spoon fed to you.

    Stupid agenda aside, the real problem with that meme is that it is WAY too freaking long.

    • I see your point, and I DID do research on my own. My point – and perhaps it was poorly made – is that African history receives short shrift in most public school curricula.

  7. “The eradication of slavery in the United States doesn’t make white people more noble than black people; it makes non-slave-owners more noble than slave owners. White or black, anybody who doesn’t own slaves is a better friend to humanity than anybody who does.”

    The entire rest of your reply to this meme is completely irrelevant, because you didn’t seem to realize that this right here was the entire point of the meme. The point of the meme was never to say that whites are superior to blacks, if you think that, the point sailed right up and over your head.

    • Actually It’s you who missed the point. Either that or you are just in denial.
      The poster of the meme said that whites were the first to end slavery while blacks in Africa still continue to practice slavery. In his post he was pretty much calling blacks savages. What he failed to research is that there are white Europeans enslaving people, so he was wrong when he said that whites are the first to end slavery.

    • Actually It’s you who missed the point. Either that or you are just in denial.
      The poster of the meme said that whites were the first to end slavery while blacks in Africa still continue to practice slavery. In his post he was pretty much calling blacks savages. What he failed to research is that there are white Europeans today who are enslaving people, so he was wrong when he said that whites are the first to end slavery.

  8. Hi! It’s my first visit to your site and my last because you’re a lazy commoner with a low IQ. Slavery is alive and well and legal in much of the Middle East and Africa. Not to mention, you ignoramus, that only 2% of “white” people owned slaves here while a larger percentage of blacks owned slaves here. You dishonest, ignorant buffoon. Verily.

    • Oh no! How will I carry on if you don’t return to my site? Who else will I find to insult me and then say things that are demonstrably false? Please don’t go!

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