Just got back from visiting Elmina and Cape Coast castle. I am still feeling a bit emotional. I was starting to feel down after Elmina but not so much, as I said this is now the 5th time, but Cape Coast castle was my first time, and knowing that the castle was built specifically for the slave trade well that is enough to make me destroy my British passport. Well not exactly, I am not a fool, it takes me a lot further in the world than the black one does.
There are five things that came out of this visit, well for me anyway, the consolidated list would be endless when I get other peoples thoughts on the matter. But for me, the first thing is: the slave trade, it was profitable for 400 years, they used black people as commodities, not minding a bit whether they lived through that journey to the new world or not. The fact that you survived meant that you were strong enough to pick cotton and sugar cane when you got to the other side. But the trading came to an end, not because they realised how inhumane it was, or because anyone had a conscience, but because it just wasn’t profitable anymore. In the same way they had taken all the ivory and gold to the point where they couldn’t find anymore, but it just wasn’t worth their while to keep trading so left us. It would take nearly 200 years more for people to recognise black folk as human beings with equal rights.
This leads me to the second point. Folk in the western world are complaining about migration and that the country is overburdened with foreigners. Should have thought about that centuries ago when you were picking up people and leading them to these same places and putting them to work. The only difference now is that people are doing it freely but it is still for the same reason. Why do you complain now that these people are not having a gun put to their head to come over and work, and 9 times out of 10 these people are just doing jobs that you feel that you are too righteous to do (cleaning, factory hands, any low paid job), their isn’t really much difference in 2011 as there was in 1611 except the immigrants pay taxes.
My third point is about the British. Yes I cannot deny I got a good education and standard of life from there, which it pains me more to know how wicked these people were. During the slave trade time, the Dutch occupied Elmina and the British occupied Cape Coast. Both parties were privy to raping the local ladies. When the dutch learnt they had impregnated a native, they would set her up in a house in the village and take care of their child and the lady was more or less free (or as free as you can be in those circumstances). The british, well they would just put the lady up long enough to give birth, keep the child and then back she goes. Worse still if the lady is found to be pregnant on the way to the new world, she was thrown overboard. Just so people wouldn’t know what they were up to when that little mix race baby popped out. Yes times have changed but really by how much? I have not been in a mixed race relationship but I don’t condemn them. But my little sister went out with a spanish guy not to long ago and during the course of one of the conversation says to her, “there are no black women in Spain, the only ones that are there are prostitutes”. Not impressed with that kind of talk in this day and age and I have to wonder how many people still have this negative view on black women, that they are good for a f*** but not much more.
My fourth point, when people talk about “this is all in the past, get over it, why should it even bother you as your ancestors were not affected”, I wonder if they knew the magnitude of what these people went through. People were taken from their homes as far as Nigeria, Burkina and Togo, walked all the way to these castles, if they survived that journey, they had the 3 – 4 month wait, packed like sardines in cells, if they survived that, they had the journey on a very cramped boat not to the promise land but to work like animals in a foreign country. This was not because they had caused any harm but because some people thought that by virtue of where they came from they had more right over these lesser people. Yes I can trace my ancestry back to the days of yore but that’s because my ancestors didn’t get caught. But some of my friends cannot and that makes me sad.
My fifth and final point is. Well we have no-one really to blame but ourselves. The white man didn’t come in burning villages, this wasn’t a CIA conspiracy. We sold ourselves out for gun powder, fags and booze. I don’t know exactly how the story goes about the idea behind getting black folks to go and pick cotton in the new Americas and the newly discovered West Indies, but I know that the majority of people taken was because the black man got greedy, and not for anything better. Not because he was a family man of 10 with 3 wives and no place to live in, but because he liked the feeling of getting high.
Officially, slavery has ended. In the West there are countless news stories highlighting black on black crime, mainly gang members, because one drug dealer has stepped on another man’s land. It may be hyped up, the news broadcasters may be making a mountain out of a mole hill, but it is happening and one is one too many. We could say that only 25 million people were taken from the shores of Africa, but I dare anyone to go to that tour and tell me they would come out and say “it is only….it is all over-hyped”.
Secondly on the same point, and this is for my fellow Ghanaians a point that I raised before in various other capacities. Why is it that we still look up to the white man as slave masters. Why is it we look to the white man to run our businesses for it to function well. If back in the day we all stuck together and said “no, get off our land”, would we have suffered the same fate? I work for a swiss multinational. It functions well, the people work like there’s no tomorrow, and it is one of the most profitable companies in Africa. Why because the majority of country managers and business heads are white men. When people work for their fellow black man they work in their own time, they feel that they are making money for their own black man and why should he benefit. They will come in at their own time and work at their own pace. For example, we have a guest house where those of our short term employees are housed. The people employed to cook for them, because it is for their own people they feel cooking for them is too much a job, so they cook the same oily stew and rice/yam every day. Put a white colleague up for a while and their culinary skills come out. Very sad.
Some black folk running the business too, well they are not any better. You will find a restaurant, nice food but service is slow, toilets leave a lot to be desired, paint is peeling on the walls. Do you wonder why your customers stop coming to eat there. Another example is the guy who runs a forwarding and clearing firm. He has the “rob Peter to pay Paul” attitude. He will take money to clear goods, use the money for something else. He uses the little remainder on women and Guinness. He managed to swerve his landlord for nearly a year. After running out of excuses, they padlock the office until he pays his rent. Why are you surprised when this happens my friend.
So people, if we want a better Ghana, a better Africa, we shouldn’t blame the guy who took all our gold and diamonds, as really, we played our part in allowing it to happen. So what do we do now, we need to have a major change in attitude!