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But Slavery Ended 160 Years Ago!

Why Slavery Still Matters Today

The argument that African-Americans cannot possibly be at a disadvantage today before slavery ended 160 years ago, is an argument so frequently heard that it needs to be addressed in detail.

How does Past Events Influence the Present?

An African-American today didn’t live through slavery, nor did his father or mother, so how can he or she possibly be affected by it?

Memes Transmitted Through Irish Farming Culture

This incentive structure plays itself out in numerous circumstances. The Irish who emigrated to America where tenants in Ireland subject to the whims of the British landlord. They could be moved from their farm at any time. Any extra improvements bestowed on the land by the extra efforts really only benefitted the British landlord.

East German Work Ethic

Growing up in East Germany caused an entirely different set of memes spreading through the population than growing up in west Germany. These memes keep replicating themselves even after German unification.

But Why Are the Japanese Successful in America?

So we have the argument that somehow the internment of Japanese-Americans 75 years ago should count the same as enslavement 160 years ago.

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Rice paddies in China
  1. Build complex set of dikes for irrigation.
  2. Dig channel with gates in dike to precisel control flow of water. Cannot have too much water on your fields.
  3. Paddy must have a hard clay floor to avoid water seeping out into the ground.
  4. But rice seedlings don’t can’t be planted in clay so you need mud on top of that. And this has to be setup to carefully drain in the right way.
  1. Rice has to be planted in a specially prepared seedbed, after some weeks it would have to be transplanted into the field.

How Whites Forced African-Americans to Develop Poor Work Ethic

The experience of African-American slaves was quite different. What memes developed in their world? What values got instilled in them?

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Weighing cotton

Are White Appalachians an Inferior Race?

Why is Appalachia so poor? It is populated by white people. Why have they not succeeded when Japanese and Chinese immigrants have succeeded?

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The Value of Human Capital

There is another way of looking at human development other than memes. This is through human capital. We can use the language of capitalism. Capitalism states that your economic output is i relation to the capital you employ. The guy with a calculator can make more calculations than the person with just a pen and a paper all other things being equal.

Slavery Never Really Ended

The biggest problem with stating that slavery was over 160 years ago is the implication that somehow starting in 1865 African Americans where suddenly having the same playing-field as whites. Of course they did not. It was just the beginning of a long list of creative and discriminatory laws and practices to keep black people down. A practice that never really ended. It just become less visible.

The Convict Lease System

To retain slavery what the Southern States did after the emancipation of slaves was to devise a string of laws that basically criminalized being black. Through this approach blacks could be brought back into slavery by simply relabling slavery as forced labor by convincts. This was the convict leasing system.

Institutionalized Racism and Segregation

Until 1968 we have racial segregation which obviously meant discrimination. Blacks got considerably worse schools and worse social services of any kind. Worse public health care, you name it. And of course there was red lining.

Blame Black Single Moms!

The last point to add to this, is a favorite conservative accusation against struggling African-Americans. It is all their fault because they are not in good conservative family units with a mother and a father. If these hapless people only knew what was best for them and build solid wholesome families, they wouldn’t be in the predicament they are in!

Jewish Advantage Over African Americans

That Jews got killed in concentration camps and where subject to pogroms all through their history is not the same kind of oppression as African-Americans experienced. This is not some kind of marathon in oppression.

  1. Jews may have been persecuted but where generally allowed to pick their own wives and raise their family as they wanted.
  2. Jews where allowed to learn how to read and write unlike African-Americans in slavery. In fact their written tradition is very strong and a source great advantage.
  3. African-American slaves primarily worked as simple agricultural workers and did not pick up skills with a varied application. Jews in contrast where denied the right to own land and hence became craftsmen over 1000 years ago. Thus over centuries they acquired far more valuable skills than African-Americans.

Written by

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

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