Monday, April 4, 2011

Built on the Backs of Slaves

What does the phrase "built on the backs of slaves" conjure up in your mind? Egypt and the Israelites? Stone temples in far east jungles? I'm sure most of us don't think of our country as such, but it was, and sadly, is. History tells us that we gained great wealth in the slave trade in the United States. This wasn't a north vs. south issue as it is often painted in the history books. The north gained as much as, or possibly more than the south financially from the slave trade. I have just learned that some of the biggest slave traders were northerners who sold the slaves to plantation owners in the south. And, after the abolition of slavery, slavers just kept slaves in places like Cuba where the laws weren't restricting the trade.

There were interesting parallels between the slavery then and the slavery and near slavery that goes on today. I learned that when slaves were kept in Cuba, producing America's and Europe's sugar cane, loads of fish and bread were being transported from northern states to the West Indies. This, I learned, was because the slaves were too busy producing sugar and had to be shipped food rather than fish for themselves. Today, farmers in impoverished countries producing for large corporations which import fruit, vegetables, coffee and chocolate to northern countries (U.S., Canada, European countries) export more than they themselves consume. The difference is, we don't send them any food (or pay them decent wages)to keep them alive in return. So, it's still the south feeding the north at their own expense and with no recourse. Our food, our clothing, our electronics, our toys, our cookware, our dishes....the list of imports made by people who are making rich corporations richer is unending. We got a lot of cheap stuff out of the deal, a better quality of life perhaps? All on the backs of slaves.