This phrase - educate yourself - seems to be a favourite of the modern wokester. It is, of course, ironic, since my experience of the woke leads me to the conclusion that they are almost universally deeply ignorant about such things as history, geography, politics, technology, and anything involving even simple mathematics.
As a teacher I feel obliged to at least try to lessen this ignorance occasionally. In this post I want to cover a hot-topic - slavery.
The wokesters I have met all seem to share a common set of misconceptions, which seem to result from mistaking fictional drama - such as Alex Hailey's 'Roots' - for actual history. As Hailey himself admitted, his fictional account was really nothing more than an attempt to give 'his people' a 'noble mythology'. Hailey's book was mostly invention and also heavily plagiarized, which is probably the main reason his work has never been included in the authoritative Norton Anthology of African-American Literature.
The most commonly held misconceptions can be summarized as follows:
ALL of these assumptions are wrong - VERY wrong.
Firstly let's deal with history. Slavery has been common to EVERY culture throughout history - even before the Roman and Greek empires. Nor was slavery a racial issue. Europeans enslaved Europeans, Africans enslaved Africans, Asians enslaved Asians and so on. The very word 'slave' derives from SLAVS - who were very commonly enslaved because the Slavs have historically lacked the ability to discourage slavers as most other states did - using military and financial might to make enslaving citizens a risky and potentially costly enterprise.
Africans were busy enslaving each other centuries before Columbus. In fact, when naval might finally allowed western European states to look to Africa as a potential source of slaves (say from the 16th to the 18th century), the majority of slaves were purchased from the existing well developed trade in African slaves. Many were bought from the rulers of the various African states, but most were bought directly from the 'traders' who were mostly Arabs . These traders, unlike their European customers, were prepared to risk disease by travelling deep into sub-Saharan Africa in their hunt for victims. It is also noticeable that nobody seems to mention the fact that between 1530 and 1780, well over a million white Europeans were enslaved by black Muslims from North Africa (the Barbary pirates). It is almost certain that, over history, considerably more white people have been enslaved by blacks than the other way around. (See herefor more on this).
Next let's deal with the myth that the UK's relative wealth is derived from slavery. This is simply nonsense. Most slavers made relatively modest sums. A few did make large fortunes from slavery, but even this was very small potatoes in the wider scheme of things. The overwhelming majority of UK wealth derived directly from the Industrial Revolution, where Britain made over half of the manufactured goods for the entire world, and led the world in agriculture as well as the new industries. The power and wealth of Britain increased hugely from the middle of the 19th century until the first quarter of the 20th century, and it should be remembered that Britain outlawed slavery well before this - in 1808.. The total resources gained from slavery was a tiny, almost insignificant proportion of UK GDP. Britain actually spent significant money and influence enforcing a wider ban on slavery - even threatening to go to war with several states who were reluctant to cease involvement in slavery. It is also interesting that among the most reluctant states to change their practices were, yes indeed - African states. It is also true that slavery carried on in Africa well after the British abolition. Indeed slavery was a feature of some African states well into the 20th century and was still legal (and still practiced) in Mauritania until 1981. In fact the UN and other agencies report that slavery is STILL found in that country, and in several other African states.
When it comes to slavery there IS one important thing to be said about the British. We were the first AND ONLY state in history to abolish slavery, and to attempt to enforce that abolition globally.
So this whole notion of 'white guilt' is based on myth, aided by a total ignorance of history. Yes, white people made money from owning and selling slaves. So did brown, yellow and black people. It was ubiquitous and generally not considered an issue, let alone an immoral practice. Why the good people of the time accepted slavery so readily is something I do not claim to know, but I do know that it should act as a warning against trying to impose modern notions of morality on previous times, places and peoples.
It is actually quite possible that as many white UK citizens could trace their line back to slavery as could black UK citizens - especially if we extend the entirely arbitrary time period usually referenced (ie the time at which the African slave trade was at its height - roughly 1750 to the end of that century - a mere two generations). *
So, next time some purple-haired wokester tells you to 'educate yourself' about whatever their latest whine is, do as I do - smile as patronizingly as you can before walking away from them without a word. Never try to argue with these people - they generally cannot be reached by reason and logic, and their ignorance is so great that it would require an unfeasible amount of time just to teach them enough to hold a coherent debate, rather than simply yell moronic catchphrases
I am aware, of course, that writing this makes me, in the eyes of the woke, a racist, an apologist for slavery and, no doubt, many other kinds of evil bigot. Once this would have worried me but these days such accusations are so commonly misused that they have ceased to have any real stigma and are mostly just ignored.
* Please note that the situation in the US is different. The UK never had large numbers of slaves on the territory, unlike the US, and most of our black population comes, and came, from former colonies, rather than slave ships.