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I remember being a child when I first learned how black people came to the Americas. Before then I had just assumed they were immigrants like other visible minorities but to be told they were brought as slaves was too much for a child’s brain to process. I had never even heard of one group of people enslaving another, even in fiction, let alone in reality. WHAT?

I remember being disturbed by this for months as a child, but learning this fact really paved the way for me to believe in HBD. If slavery could be true, then HBD was likely true too; indeed one would seem to lead to the other.

For how else could one race of people have been so advanced they could just march on to a foreign continent and drag millions of the natives kicking and screaming to the New World as slaves?

However as I got older, a more nuanced picture of slavery emerged.

In 2010, Henry Louis Gates Jr wrote the following in The New York Times:

The historians John Thornton and Linda Heywood of Boston University estimate that 90 percent of those shipped to the New World were enslaved by Africans and then sold to European traders. The sad truth is that without complex business partnerships between African elites and European traders and commercial agents, the slave trade to the New World would have been impossible, at least on the scale it occurred.

Advocates of reparations for the descendants of those slaves generally ignore this untidy problem of the significant role that Africans played in the trade, choosing to believe the romanticized version that our ancestors were all kidnapped unawares by evil white men, like Kunta Kinte was in “Roots.” The truth, however, is much more complex: slavery was a business, highly organized and lucrative for European buyers and African sellers alike….

….For many African-Americans, these facts can be difficult to accept. Excuses run the gamut, from “Africans didn’t know how harsh slavery in America was” and “Slavery in Africa was, by comparison, humane” or, in a bizarre version of “The devil made me do it,” “Africans were driven to this only by the unprecedented profits offered by greedy European countries.”

But the sad truth is that the conquest and capture of Africans and their sale to Europeans was one of the main sources of foreign exchange for several African kingdoms for a very long time. Slaves were the main export of the kingdom of Kongo; the Asante Empire in Ghana exported slaves and used the profits to import gold. Queen Njinga, the brilliant 17th-century monarch of the Mbundu, waged wars of resistance against the Portuguese but also conquered polities as far as 500 miles inland and sold her captives to the Portuguese. When Njinga converted to Christianity, she sold African traditional religious leaders into slavery, claiming they had violated her new Christian precepts.

Gates is trying to make it sound like many African Americans are in denial about the role Africans played in slavery, but perhaps it’s Gates who is in denial and thus projecting onto his co-ethnics. You see, for Gates to admit that white people just marched into Africa and simply kidnapped native Africans by the millions is to grant the white man a level of utter superiority that Gates simply can not live with, so instead he pushes a narrative that slavery was somehow a business exchange among equals.

Perhaps Gates would rather believe his own people sold his ancestors out than believe his own people were so utterly dominated by another people. Meanwhile white academics, eager to absolve their own ancestral guilt over slavery, are more than happy to push Gates’s narrative, which also fits the anti-HBD narrative of the elite.

Ironically the issue of who captured African slaves could make for strange bedfellows, with HBDers and reparation advocates both arguing that it was the white man, and black professors & white republicans arguing Africans sold themselves.