In October of 1492, Columbus landed on island of Hispaniola in search of the riches of the Far East. Aside from being one of history’s greatest navigational blunders (the actual voyage to the Far East would three times as far: Lisbon -> Hispaniola = 3472 nm whereas Lisbon -> China (going west) is 11189 nm), Columbus and his brother Barthelemy would set in motion one of the greatest crimes against humanity ever committed in the Americas – Slavery. I write this today because the battle we as American have had with Slavery and its history has intensified and as Americans, we must choose how we respond to that rekindled fury. We must choose. Do we take the authoritarian route, long favored by White Nationalist, or do we take the humanitarian route demanded by our protest movements? It will not come as a surprise to anyone where I stand on this issue but let’s implications nonetheless.
When Columbus landed on Hispaniola, he claimed the island and its inhabitants, for Spain. He then began a systematic exploitation of the native population in the hopes of amassing personal wealth. He sent thousands of Taino “Indians” to Spain to be sold, many of which died during the journey. The natives who weren’t sold into slavery were forced to look for gold in mines and work on plantations. Columbus also installed his brother, Barthelemy, as governor of what is Haiti and Barthelemy had any natives who refused to be enslaved or otherwise revolted killed. To prevent further rebellion, he would have the dead bodies paraded through the streets. So complete was the genocide in Hispaniola that by 1517 only 14000 of the estimated 250000 inhabitants found in 1492 remained. Decimating the native population left Spain with not enough labor to support their colonies and its plantations so, other slaves were Hispaniola and eventually, North America.
Long before I was a historical interpreter or even a brewer, I was a physicist and one lesson everyone should learn from physics is that all systems when disturbed from a natural equilibrium seek to restore that balance AT THE LOWEST POSSIBLE ENERGY LEVEL. Exploitation and slavery are NOT low energy political systems. Slaves will always attempt to escape and exploited peoples will always seek to overthrow their overlords. Oppression can only occur with the oppressor has superior force which is why in 1789, 1791, and finally in 1802 Haiti’s slaves engaged in a series of rebellions culminating in open warfare and an attempt to expel all white people from the island. In fact, the Haitian flag was originally the French Tricolor with the center white stripe EXCISED!
So, what does this have to do with today? If you actually asked that question, you are either not paying attention or quite a racist. For the last 155 years, America has been deescalating the racial inequities ingrained in its founding and early history. It has been a difficult journey with long periods of regression back to our exploitive past. Progress was too slow but progress was being made, that is until 2016 when the neofascist arm of the Republican Party nominated Donald Trump. Since that time, we have seen a reinstitutionalization of xenophobia, racism, religious intolerance, discrimination, degradation based on gender and gender identity, and all manner of separation in our country of the population into caste. With that separation comes the brutality and force necessary to rend our society apart to create those caste.
Just like in Haiti, a day of reckoning is coming in our nation. If you don’t believe that BLACK LIVES MATTER as much as white lives, then don’t be shocked when they excise the white stripes from our flag. The followers of Donald Trump say you are either with them or against them. Just like the Polish soldiers who fought to liberate Haiti from its slaveholders, I stand with the revolutionaries. Where do you stand? Do we return to the task of reducing racial tension and injustice for however long it takes or do we ram that cork back into the boiler and wait for it to explode? There is still time to vent the pressure but not much.