This was a good read, and I commend the author for his insight. That being said, there are several gaps in the article that the author slyly traverses that I will exploit. I’ll quote some directly from the article, then later list a few key points that take more thought than the usual lazy rationalizing that’s used.
pardon spelling errors, as I wrote this quickly and it’s a comment section, not a dissertation 🙂
“First, let’s disentangle the different kinds of slavery. In America there were two kinds. An indentured servant was typically a European who came to America to work for another European.”
Here’s where I’ll make my first comment. You’ve commenced the article operating on the premise that contemporary conventions such as “race” in relation to society have always been the same. There has always been some concept of “ethnocentralism,” from the West to the East*, and we have tangible evidence of ancient sources depicting “others/foreigners” as barbarians/lacking class, but it wasn’t until the past few centuries that specifically “blacks” were overwhelmingly targeted*. (For instance, Aristotle, Christian Apostle Paul, etc. make reference of certain nationalities (non-greeks, Cretans, etc.) that show “barbaric qualities,” but that’s not due to physical appearance, but reference to their geographical/social upbringing in relation to political leadership (and perhaps their culture’s indulging in contrasting social taboos). We see something similar in, say, ~3rd century China with people who are literally the same race/grander geographical region, conflicting on a socio political level (three kingdoms). Referencing 14th century Arab slavery of blacks in Yemen is also a stretch, considering it’s often directly related to military conquest/religion, and there were prominent black religious muslims that followed.
That being said, the blatant predilection that one institution has (American slavery) toward enslaving/emaciating a *specific* people group categorized by *physical features* should be the conclusion of this rebuttal. Nonetheless, I’ll continue..
“Slavery, according to Wallace, is spiritual sandpaper.”
Ah. Yes I agree with you on this. The concept of “spiritual sandpaper” is often preached by clueless, hypocritical, privileged folk who have no conception of reality. Similar rhetoric was used to justify Donald Trump’s past behavior (and present) by evangelicals who supported him. “God can use anything.” Well, technically yes. But that doesn’t make “anything” ethical. And it sure as heck shouldn’t be used as means of glossing over social sins. I highly doubt the people who use this as an excuse would be saying the same thing if it was them in slavery.
One reason why I believe God made the people who wrote the Bible (i.e., His greatest, most loyal followers) go through such hell (beatings, living poor, outcasts, etc.) was so they had credible ground to stand on when saying “He works everything for our good.” I commented on this because it’s a strawman. Haha, anyone can dismantle that lazy rhetoric.
“remember the cultural context of the ancient world”
Not much different than the previous strawman. (I say strawman not because the author created the claims, but because the original blogger—the author is addressing—made such poor arguments that it’s defacto a strawman.)
Here’s where the original author (and I believe the one addressing him) are off. If you’re addressing the “decrees and nature of God” with the understanding that “God was old in the OT but nice in the New,” you’re completely wrong. For starters, it wouldn’t make sense if an all knowing God changed his mind after creation and decided to “be nicer.” Emphasis on certain things are pushed..on and off.. for a purpose, whilst the grander “theme” and nature remains the same.
Hmm.. I’m not going to comment on the entire article, as I see it’d take forever. I’ll just list a few reasons why they weren’t the same, and if anyone has any comments about specific portions of the article, ask then I’ll address them.
1.) The difference in reach and scope and geographical positioning/colonization of the “oppressors”. Both the East Indian and transatlantic slave operations were set up so powers could have slaves imported from foreign countries. Israel lived in the same land where they made them servants. (It’s also disingenuous to just say “American slavery” when in fact it was several other nations that the U.S. was “working with” for the trade. There’s a huge difference between a transnational “human meat market” for labor and sex than anything the Hebrews ever did.) If the U.S. had a war with a country in West Africa, left colonies there after winning, put the prisoners of war (or overall indigenous peoples) in indentured servitude *with the promise that after under a decade of service you’ll be set free and can assimilate*…THEN you’d have a point. (Year of Jubilee)
2.) The national status as a weak/strong power. Great Britain, especially from the 18th to 20th centuries, was an empire. Israel, as its history repeatedly admits, was just the opposite. Even now. Israel spreading was a matter of national security, not stretching imperial octopus limbs. That, and proving to stronger powers–the Assyrians, Persians, etc.–that they could fend for themselves with Help.
3.) The lack of regional hegemony as an end goal. And here’s the second portion of point #2. They weren’t attempting to colonize the world and spread indiscriminately. The places they “took,” according to the texts, many already being to them before they got kicked out. (An Israel-palestine discussion for another time.) For instance, Russia annexing the Ukraine is a lot different than Germany annexing Poland.
4.) The institution based on race and inevitable vestiges putting one against the other. Take the Exodus, for example. Not everyone who left were racially/ethnically Jewish. But they let Egyptian “outsiders/foreigners” who saw what happened (plagues) and decided to leave with them have relative equal status after assimilating. You’d be ridiculous to assert that if Western Africans voluntarily boarded ships that they’d have the same result. (I also believe Moses’ wife Zipporah’s ethnic heritage was around north east African area, fun fact. Moses is heralded as the greatest Jew (or atleast, one of the greatest) in Hebrew culture. I highly doubt the Founding Fathers (the “greatest” of American figures), for instance, would openly marry another race (particularly a black woman) that was possibly the ethnicity/social status as their leadership would oppress, and still be considered “great.” In other words, the possibility of upward mobility is absent in one and present in another.
5.) And on the topic of point 4, I’ll address the *asterick* that I made in an earlier paragraph. Hierarchy due to inherited class, wealth status, prowess in strength (military), etc. have always existed. Basing someone’s overall status by a people group’s unchangeable physical appearance is a nascent distinguisher. (There have been social conceptions of people being outcasts/low class due to being deformed, but that’s on the individual level. And there have long been social conceptions of women being “less beautiful” because of being tan/darker (and in some cases, men as well), but that’s still related to peasantry/agricultural status (from being in the sun, vs. the aristocracy who didn’t have to work and were naturally lighter) and tied to wealth (Songs, ch1 “I’m black but beautiful”).
6.) Oh, and don’t forget that the indigenous Americans were initially supposed to be slave labor, but they kept dying/escaping (since they were native to the area and knew the geographical scope). And because of that, the colonies then intentionally outsourced/imported labor with no connections to the new world (making escaping unlikely as they didn’t know the terrain, as well as having no way of connecting with family to survive.. so running away was pretty much a death sentence of its own). I missed the bible chapter where Hebrews did anything similar to that.
7.) And lastly, Hebrew “slavery” wasn’t founded/promoted on the concept of racially motivated pseudo science. For instance, drapetomania, Darwin’s Origin of Species and Melville’s The Great Whale were all “published” in the same ~5 year span (1850s), and they heavily influenced America’s justification of the preeminence of the “imperial hue” on a social scale. This is important because if you’re going to assume Hebrew slavery and American slavery were the same, then the “free” people should also be the same. Someone who’s an African Hebrew servant that gets his freedom bought fared a lot better than an American slave who was perhaps set free on his master’s volition (eventually captured, probably re-enslaved, etc. etc.) Free hebrew slaves sometimes even married and were converted/had equal status as other hebrews. Africans, eh… not so much. (Plus, I’m failing to see Hebrew former slaves still harrased by their masters’ social class after being freed, which is different than the 1-3rd waves of the Ku Klux Klan, which is indubitably a vestige of the rhetoric behind American slavery.
Alright, those are all just off the top of my head.
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