Slavery In The Twenty First Century; Ben Affleck And The Ghost Of Slavery’s Past

It was the year 1492 and an Italian explorer by the name of Christopher Columbus set sail from Palos hoping to find a new route to exploit for the kingdom of Spain*. The world is still reeling from the wreckage he created. In one day every corner of the known world viz. Eurasia the Middle East and Africa would be dramatically and unimaginably recalerbruated into the image of old and new. The kingdom that would set the template for all to follow was Spain and her dominance lasted well over three hundred years until the Anglo’s finally hammered the last nail in the eighteenth/nineteenth centuries. As we know, history is written by the winners. Ironically Spain and Portugal image’s have benefited greatly by having the spotlight shifted to the Anglo’s. Most Americans have little to no knowledge of slavery outside of the American South namely Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia et al.. But North American slavery was just child’s play compared to the Hispanic colonialist South of Texas.  By far the Portuguese and Spanish in Latin America  benefited the most from the slave ships and the human cargo they carried into the American Continent.

When news broke that Ben Affleck had asked Henry Gates Jr. to suppress the former’s family connection to slavery the general public’s reaction was justifiably baffled. Why would someone hide from a past they played no part in? But what I find troubling is the lack of awareness of slavery through out the rest of the Americas (i.e. Latin America, and the Caribbean). The tendency to exclusively associate Southern Antebellum slavery with all of slavery in Western Hemisphere indicates how very little we know. Chances are if you or your antecedents came from Puerto Rico Cuba or Brazil and if you’re white (Hispanic) you probably also have a long history of slavey in your family. As for the modern day descendants of slaves hailing from countries outside of the American South, they have even less of written histories of the unspeakable horrors committed by their masters than their modern day Anglo North American counterparts. Indeed, history is written by the winners (Anglo’s) and the losers (Spain/Portugal) are quite content with the outcome.

* Present day Spain is dominantly a representation of the Castilian kingdom. Much like the Anglo’s came to dominate Britain the Castilians subjugated their rivals (Catalonia, Basque, Galicia, and Valencia) but with less brutality than their arch-nemesis.