18 April 2016

Walter Williams Does the Hustle


The very premise of American colonialisation vis-à-vis the Indians was racist. Imperialism in virtually every case is rooted in the idea that one people is better than another and has a 'right' or even 'obligation' to take lands and resources from lesser people and in many cases enslave them.

Slavery has existed throughout history and yet the chapter involving Black slavery has been particularly egregious. Blacks were viewed as something less than human and treated accordingly. Slavery, usually rooted in conquest and thus war captives was bad enough to be sure. In the case of Africa, from the Age of Exploration onward, we find a deliberate and determined project to exploit and enslave a population that was viewed as something between man and beast. They were wanted for the harsh agricultural conditions of the New World. It is of a different character than previous forms of slavery that existed in the Middle Ages and Ancient World. This needs to be acknowledged as unfortunate as it is to the narratives of the triumphalist West.

And yes, from the beginning there were plenty of people, plenty of Christians questioning the morality of the enterprise. You cannot legitimately argue that everyone went along with it. Most did, but there was always a vigorous voice of dissent.

Both the Left and Right oversimplify the issue and are thus both somewhat guilty in misrepresenting the complexity of views and issues at hand. There were some who disliked slavery but couldn't imagine a world without it. Some couldn't conceive of how to end it without unleashing social disorder or destroying the economy.

Some of the American Founders were flat hypocritical. Washington said he disliked slavery but did nothing about it until his death. Visit Mount Vernon, see the slave quarters, gaze upon the burial ground. At the end of the day, the man was not going to give up his estate, an estate which could not function without slave labour. Much of Southern agriculture was absolutely dependent on slave labour. White people of European extraction were not going to labour in the hot lowlands of the Carolinas to grow indigo. We're not built for hard work in that kind of climate. And so, due to greed and lack of conscience, Whites exploited men of other races forcing them with violence to work in brutal conditions.

Jefferson sometimes spoke against slavery and under his administration the import of slaves was officially banned and yet nothing was done with regard to the institution in the United States itself. And with the advent of the Cotton Gin even the ban on the slave trade could do little to stop the trade. The demand and the rewards were just too great. Slavery was wed to America's agrarian culture and Jefferson envisioned an empire of farmers. It wasn't going to happen apart from slavery.

In no case did these Founders advocate that blacks should be accepted as citizens. They didn't want Free Blacks in their society and if they were to be freed, they wanted them shipped back to Africa. There's a reason why the capital of Liberia is called Monrovia.

The selected quotes of Walter Williams do not reflect an honest assessment of the historical record and he has no interest in doing so.

His discussion of the 3/5 compromise is laughable. He wants to argue it was pure politics. No doubt, the fight over represented population was political but the underlying assumption of the compromise is completely racist. No one (North or South) viewed Blacks as worthy of citizenship. While true they didn't actually consider them 3/5 of a person, many didn't consider them persons at all. Yes, it was that South that wanted them counted, but not because they wanted Blacks represented, they wanted the numbers for more clout. It was a political compromise but it certainly reflects the view that they were viewed as something less than fully human and unworthy of equally humane treatment, let alone some kind of civil or legal status. They were property and not people. The foundation of the whole discussion is rooted in a racist premise.

Williams as is often the case is playing the role of 'hustler' here and avoiding the real issue.

His question about the ratification of the Constitution and whether or not it would have been better for slaves begs the question. He's assuming that things would have been better. Counterfactual history is speculation. He's entitled to his opinion but others are just as entitled to question it.

He thinks criticising the Founders is hating America and hurting the nation. Well, I guess if we want a nation based on myths and lies then I supposed Williams is right. And there are certainly plenty who would agree with him. If you concerned with the truth, then you have to follow that road wherever it leads. Progressives are perceived as misguided (as they often are) because they don't believe in unqualified celebration of the past. They believe the United States stands on principles that have made it great and are helping it to become even greater. They look forward. The golden age is ahead not behind. In many ways this reflects a fundamental American value, a modification of the pioneer spirit. A case can be made for this view. I personally don't accept it but it's no less valid or American than the view Williams and his paymasters would promote.

The Founders and early Americans were not looking back. They left the past behind and were happy to do so. That said, there's no doubt that many of them would be shocked at the implications and outworkings of American values and how they have developed over time in terms of law and society.

I'm not suggesting the Founders or pioneers would find harmony with Bernie Sanders. Far from it. Both the Left and Right are guilty of weaving false narratives and gross oversimplification.

And that's what we have with Walter Williams. He, like his friend Thomas Sowell strike me as pathetic figures. Neither exhibits any great profundity of thought. They are where they are because they have been promoted by the Right. The Right wing desperate to obscure its own racist agenda and past is eager to promote any minority who will echo its views and promote its agenda. Sowell and Williams have long served in this capacity and have been vigorously backed and rewarded.

Of course to the Right their views and the oddity of Black men echoing the impulses of Archie Bunker is all but vindication. Who would know better than they? They tell it like it is, right? White Conservatives can sleep at night knowing that there are a few Blacks out there that agree with them. All the rest are just brainwashed and shills of the Left. They think this failing to grasp the thought itself is racist and rather disparaging. A whole people group is delegitimised, deemed unable and unworthy to have a viewpoint or narratives of their own. White Conservatives (along with Sowell and Williams) view the whole of America's Black population as stupid and deceived. And this is why many Blacks despise William and Sowell as little more than self-effacing Uncle Tom's, people that have for their own survival and flourishing capitulated to their White masters and now play the role of sycophant.

There's plenty to criticise about African-American culture and some of the values it has embraced but the discussion cannot be divorced from their story in the American context and the fact that 'somebody came and got us' as Sammy Davis Jr. told Archie Bunker. And that's the unfortunate truth. No, Blacks haven't flourished in America. Some have done well and many do better than they would if they were living in Western Africa right now. And yet, that's no excuse for what has been done in the past and the endless cycle of disenfranchisement that continues to the present. Many are caught in a very frustrating cycle and while inspired by Obama the truth is that his assent has done little to improve their lives. They have a right to be frustrated. They have been the victims of great injustice and it's pure fiction to think that was all resolved in the 1860s or even the 1960s.

I don't think Black Lives Matter or other such movements are the way to go, but then that's easy for me to say isn't it?

It is Walter Williams who is ignorant of history and is unable to think critically. Elements within both the Left and Right are grasping for more power and work to undermine the Constitution. Apparently truth is not an American value nor one that Williams is concerned with. But for those who do care about truth one thing is abundantly clear... Walter Williams is a shill and hustler.


  1. One correction that's worthy to interact with: Many figures on the left-wing of American politics would never say that the Founders, Lincoln, etc etc. would agree with them. However, it's the 'spirit' of the politics that they are trying to embody. I don't think Jefferson would want to sit down with someone like Sanders, but that's not the point.

    Ideological, but different than Conservative figures who think Washington's or whomever's politics need to be copied, verbatim, into the present.

    1. You're right, it's the spirit, not the actual views. Those would be considered outdated.

      And yet it's funny.... Hamilton is always the villain and yet Washington favoured his policies. I also laugh about the Whiskey Rebellion. For the Ulster-Scots of SW Penna. the Revolution was a sham and was exposed as such within just a decade of the Constitution's ratification.

    2. It's for such reasons that I'm curious to see, at some point, the musical Hamilton that took Broadyway by storm. The swashbuckling, carousing Caribbean who was captain of finance and essentially was the brains behind many of Washington's policies. Sounds like a good story. It also highlights how the Caribbean was not some other place, but was deeply wound into North American history.

      Also, an interesting historical inquiry worth investigating is even the creation of race. White and Black, and every other coloration, comes when Euro-Americans and Europeans, in an anxiety of their place in the world, built a sense of Whiteness, and its necessary dialectical opposition, which, in a sense, might be found as the root of Hegel's Master-Slave dialetic.

      Thus, those same Scots-Irish clamored for liberty in the Whiskey Rebellion, while slaughtering Indians in massacres like the Paxton Boys and in colonial skirmishes. Whether they were lawful heroes or infamous villains all turned on legitimization vis. colonial/revolutionary governments. Race is a means to de-humanize and destroy. Such is history in This Age.


  2. I will kill Uncle Wilsie!

    The Light in the Forest is a great older movie that depicts the period. I also recommend:

    Peaceable Kingdom Lost: The Paxton Boys and the Destruction of William Penn's Holy Experiment

    Great book that elaborates on what you're talking about. The Scots-Irish are a big complicated group but a fair number of them weren't very nice and did a lot to provoke the Indians.

    Of course there's also the terrible incident at the 2nd Gnadenhutten in Ohio. It was a shame. I am inspired by the Moravians of the frontier who brought the gospel but also earned the respect of the natives. David Zeisberger is something of a hero to me. I often think of him as I hike the woods around here. He preached to the Indians in this part of PA.

    1. I'm working with Moravian records, particularly Zeisberger. I can send you what I might try to turn into a journal article when I'm finished with it.

  3. Sure I'd be thrilled to look at what you have on the Moravians. There are a few historical markers associated with Zeisberger and a highway named after in Western PA.

    I recommend- Blackcoats Among the Delaware: David Zeisberger on the Ohio Frontier by EP Olmstead.

  4. Dissenting view: Love Walter

    1. I'll suffer your link even though Williams is an ivory-tower fool. I found the video ridiculous. He's little more than a black Rush Limbaugh.

    2. I was going to respond similarly but Proto beat me to the punch. The bifurcated thinking intrinsic to libertarianism (i.e. state bad, market good) produces the kind of intellectually bankrupt analyses seen in this video. Welfare has done more harm to black families than slavery? Political and economic power are separate? Who is this guy kidding?

      Never mind the No True Scotsman fallacy committed countless times (i.e. "oh, but that's not TRUE capitalism") in this video.