Cynthia and I went to the Cape Coast Ghana slave fort yesterday, one of the main tourist attractions in West Africa. I am reluctant to encourage anyone to come to West Africa; this place is only for special types of tourists. It would be a great place for people who are familiar with these pages of Wikipedia.org. Tribe, Subsistence, Gatherer / Hunter, Ethnology
However, there is one obvious tourist attraction, the Cape Coast Ghana Fort used as a central location for chiefs to trade slaves and other goods with the European merchant ships.
This is a photo taken from the beach outside the Cape Coast Fort in the city of Cape Coast Ghana, about four hours from Accra, the main airport for Ghana. Tourist need to get a visa to Ghana and all the countries of West Africa before they leave, except for Togo, this alone makes tourism almost none existent. Generally, there are about 10 countries on a mental list of countries to visit, and they normally choose the easy ones first, meaning Ghana is not chosen.
Ok, I, Andy, a white guy from the USA taking a Black girl from Cote d’Ivoire to a former slave fort, and then having a tour guide explain atrocities for an hour or more is not a good way to endear myself. I was controlling, and steered her to this Slave Fort because I felt it would be open here eyes to an understanding of this whole region of the world caused "West Africa."
Cape Coast, Ghana West Africa --- Sunday, January 9, 2011
Why slavery existed?
To have a discussion or intellectual inquiry into why slavery existed, is a no-win situation, this topic is so overlaid with anger, guilt, and blame giving that even the most intelligent person stops being objective. I believe Cynthia was in a funk for close to an hour after leaving the fort, brought up the subject later in the afternoon and she said something like,
"That was before, not today, stop talking about it."
Please, try to empathize with our situation, she speak horrible English, I cannot speak French well enough to discuss the intricacies of feelings. She had almost no opinion on slavery before we came here, and now her mind was forced to listen, see, and focus on slavery for one hour. She was very adult, never avoided or laughed, or created any ego defense mechanism moves to stop the observations.
I counted the number in our group, I believe there was 26, in this group, I believe nine were Black, and the rest were White. I do not think any European or American Blacks were in the group, I believe all the Blacks came from "West Africa." Although there was one women from New Jersey who was born in Accra, and spoke Ga or Ashante. I took a photo of this couple and recognized manners and idiosyncratic behavior of an American, and finally asked her where she was from.
Why did slavery exist?
I personally believe it was rather simple to understand, 500-2000 years ago, the simple way of controlling construction labor was to control them by force. Most building constructed over 200 years ago used some form of labor that could be construed to be forced, mandated, conscripted or just out and out slaves. Maybe they created an army, and forced the soldiers to do the work, or maybe they shanghaied groups of people, took away from their homes, paid them almost nothing and kept them working, maybe an indentured servant.
The world needs large groups of construction workers to build buildings; most of these buildings were for religions, and a few to bury people. The Mayans had huge alters built by something like slaves to offer human offering to the Gods, while the Egyptians built pyramids for their dictators called Pharaohs.
As long a there exist a king, a queen, a chief or dictator, there will be people forced to work against their will, these people believe they have the supreme right to tell others what to do, and feel they must obey.
4 in 5 Black Humans Property Died
This was told to the group by the guide, it is difficult for me to believe, that slave traders allowed 4 out of 5 pieces of property to die, that is an 80 percent spoilage.
The Black African Chiefs brought the human product to the Cape Coast Fort, and sold the humans to the white traders. The traders then transported the goods to South, Central, Caribbean, and North America and traded for other raw materials, Cotton, Tobacco etc and took back to Europe, then started the three point trip again.
This was my second time visiting this Fort, on the first trip, the guide was a propagandist, while yesterday, the guide was great.
Slavery was a business, there is this subjective desire of humans to place today’s sense of guilt or blame on people who had slaves 400 years ago. I remember as a child visiting Mount Vernon with my parents, the plantation owned by George Washington and asking,
"Why did George Washington have slave quarters?"
It was incongruent in my mind, that a person who has his picture on the one dollar bill, a person who was said to "Never tell a lie," could have slaves. In a child mind, there is only yes’s and no’s there is no middle or maybe. My parents were extreme in their teachings, prejudice is wrong, to treat any human being as an inferior or with no respect is wrong. I am grateful to my parents for their staunch and explicit teachings. When I am around blacks, I do not have some old feeling of guilt. I never heard my family, father or mother say some racist comments, I do not feel guilty coming to Africa, my family was not racist. I do not have some old memory of racism in my family to feel guilty about, this allows me to live emotionally free here.
I hear and still hear racist comments on planet earth, now mostly from Europeans, against the Israel people. I think most Whites in the USA have stopped making anti-black comments. They have shifted to the Mexicans, it will take another 10-20 years before the whites realize how they make slurs against the Mexicans. However, the Blacks and Mexicans often are extremely racist against the whites, so the pendulum has swung the opposite way.
If I married a black girl, I do not worry about the White Americans treating her badly, I worry about the Black Americans treating her badly.
I meet a lot of humans on this planet, it is hard to say the rich people are civilized, they are more than willing to make themselves a "Chief," If there is one thing I have learned from travel, 99 percent of humans want to considered special. It is hard to find a human that just wants to blend in and be part of the group, the intrinsic desire of all humans is to say,
"I am special and keep me separate from the riff raft of humans."
"I deserve to live in better Hotels, because I have the money."
In my opinion, the idea of deserving to live better than people around us is problematic. Cynthia has come from Cote d’Ivoire and is visiting Ghana. There is not a hour that goes by where she does not in someway say,
"Ghana people are below the Cote d’Ivoire people."
This is a black person saying other black people are less, not quite up to the same level of civilization, maybe inferring that Ghana people are primitive. And I often agree, because I do believe the education and civilization of Cote d’Ivoire is more advanced, but sometimes I need to say, it is not a radical difference and slow her comments down, there is a balance, too much and she will take on a sense of superiority.
The Emotional and Mental Challenge to give Respect
When I was with classmates in University, it was easy to have respect for the other people in my class. However, it would and could be easy to return to my hometown and treat my friends who did not go to University as if they were less or not quite up to standards.
Herein lies the essential element of slavery, when we see people who have less money, smaller cars, less education, less of everything than us, the challenge is to treat the person equally. To treat the President of the United States with more respect than a bum in the street is how slavery can exist, they both deserve to be treated equally… At least until the bum or President does something that forces us to separate.
I often write harsh, brutish, and what some people would call insensitive comments in this Travel Journal. I have this ever-present pressure by readers, friends and comments, they want me to back off, be more diplomatic, and somehow say things in a more acceptable way.
There is a maxim, maybe it biblical, I am never sure, many great ideas are plagiarized.
"One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated."
FUN --- This is GOOD Fun
Now, I try and try to get readers to understand, and I constantly fail, but here I go again.
"I do not write to one person."
"I am writing to the wind, who knows who is going to read this."
If you feel I am writing to you, then I did my job exceptionally well, if you get extremely mad at me, then I have made you feel. (Thanks Wade for explaining Hate Mail to me.)
I am not treating others, I am writing, I am treating paper, and there is free will here, people do not have to read, and for sure the majority of readers believe in freedom of speech. That is they believe in freedom of speech, except when they disagree, then the person must stop.
I expect my best friends to tell me honestly what they think, I in turn feel it is my obligation to tell them honestly what I think, without patronizing, or worry that I will hurt their feelings. I have great respect for other humans, and,
"One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated."
To patronize or to pull punches, in my opinion is to elevate myself above someone else, to say to myself, I can understand, but another person cannot, because I am smarter. This just rings of no respect, and what allowed Chief to sell people into slavery, and allowed people to buy other humans.
When I start to edit my thoughts, I start down a slipper road, where it becomes easier to live a lie than the truth.
Slavery existed because someone wanted to fly "First Class."
I can work extremely hard and deserve to go "First Class."
- Then in some leap, my daughter or son could believe they deserve the good life without work, this is the constant challenge the world faces, to reconcile a sense of superiority with reality.
Taking a Black Girl to the Cape Coast Ghana Slave Fort