The Los Angeles Times has congratulated Hollywood for congratulating itself for awarding the Best Picture Oscar to 12 Years a Slave. The gist of the article is that Tinseltown is finally taking “risks” and tackling “difficult subjects” such as black slavery. Why, it’s as if Roots, Django Unchained, Amistad, Lincoln, and Glory had never been made! It’s as if we aren’t helpless baby seals who are constantly clubbed over the head with the long-dead (in America, at least) institution of black slavery everywhere we turn, whether in kindergarten classes, on TV, in public monuments, and even in subway cars.
Black actor Danny Glover has been laboring for years to produce a film that treats the black Haitian genocide of the French as a heroic act, but there’s a still small voice inside me that says he won’t make a squeak about the allegation that French indentured servants in Haiti were said to be treated worse than black slaves and were often beaten to death.
Anytime someone dares shine a positive light on Thomas Jefferson, one is heckled with the unproved allegation that he fathered children with a black slave. This was treated as fact in the 1995 film Jefferson in Paris. Yet I can’t recall ever seeing a film that deals with the fact that in 1775, George Washington offered a reward for the capture and return of eight runaway white servants who’d escaped his clutches.
And for all the countless movies that have been made about black slavery in America—even old ones such as Gone With the Wind and The Birth of a Nation that are now considered blasphemous—I can’t ever remember seeing a film about white slavery. And when I say “white slavery,” I don’t mean sex trafficking—I mean the literal enslavement of white Europeans who were transported against their will to both Africa and America.
The telling of history is largely an exercise in guilt transference. Public perceptions of good guys and bad guys are shaped as much by what is taught as by what is omitted.
There are two types of ignorant people: those who don’t know, and those who know but choose to ignore. While nary a day goes by when our pink snouts aren’t rubbed in black slavery and the Holocaust, I can’t remember the last time the media made a peep about white slavery in the American colonies—nor even its more benign term, white indentured servitude. Then again, one can’t forget—nor even remember—what you don’t know about in the first place.
I can count at least one distant ancestor who was transported to the New World as an indentured servant. I’ve dealt with the white-hot topic of white slavery in my book The Redneck Manifesto and in a magazine article that was factually correct yet allegedly cost the magazine in question significant ad revenue from disgruntled White Slavery Deniers. And every time I’ve dared to raise the subject, I am shouted down, scoffed at, spat upon, pooh-poohed, and falsely accused of trying to say “Black slavery wasn’t bad.” My true motive is to say, “Hey, numskulls—you’re missing the big picture and creating poisonous levels of misunderstanding and resentment.” I’m only trying to show the similarities between white and black slavery, while others seem compelled to deny the similarities and focus exclusively on the differences. Interestingly, black people generally seem far more receptive to my humble mission. Then again, the false narrative that white people have never suffered is usually peddled by white people who have never suffered. Funny how that works.
Why don’t we see Hollywood films about white slavery? Probably for the same reason we don’t see Hollywood films about communist atrocities, nor any films that focus on the tens of millions of white civilians who died in World War II.
Knowing my suggestions will be ignored, I will stubbornly sally forth and suggest two possible Hollywood adaptions of real-life white slavery. The first would involve the Barbary Coast and the estimated million-plus white Christians who were kidnapped by African Muslims and forced to endure hardships and torture that rival and may surpass what black slaves in America experienced.
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