Ben Sullivan, American Renaissance, July 13, 2022
There is a huge literature that tries to explain the disparities between different racial groups, especially between blacks and whites. The most popular titles blame geography and conquest. Unfortunately, their ideas blend together in the public consciousness and create an inaccurate view of history that portrays the population of sub-Saharan Africa as victims. In my experience teaching secondary and post-secondary history, a majority of students have trouble putting events within an era or epoch. The result is a hodgepodge of fantastic narratives, memes, and baseless arguments.
When an instructor begins a course, he needs to evaluate the knowledge of new students. Today’s students cannot correctly place the Civil War, World War I, or World War II within 50 years of their actual occurrence. Needless to say, they are hopeless with subject matter of greater antiquity. The result is that students do not understand cause and effect. Even those who have learned an adequate amount of material have learned it in unrelated pieces, without understanding their impact on other events.
Part of the problem is that so many learn history from documentary films; they do not read books. Some teachers are no better. A fellow graduate student once told me how excited she was to teach her class Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. I asked her about the merits of the book and probed to see what other reading she had done. To my amazement, she admitted that Prof. Zinn’s book was the only history book that she had ever read. She could not even name another historian.
Zinn’s anti-white book is widely used, but even Stanford University has an article on its biases. Any serious historian who has read it would find it laughable. For example, it assumes the American colonists were anti-Indian because of simple racism. In fact, in King Philip’s War, which broke out just 55 years after the Mayflower arrived, tribal animosities were the main cause. The colonists aligned themselves with the Mohegans, Pequots and Mohawks against the Wampanoag, Nipmuc, and Narragansetts.
Another major source used in modern classrooms is Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel. Most teachers do not actually read the 480-page book; they show the documentary to their classes. Part of Prof. Diamond’s thesis is that Africa lagged behind Europe because it did not have animals that could be domesticated. The best candidate was the zebra, but Prof. Diamond says Zebras are too easily frightened to be domesticated. Europeans tried to tame zebras in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but they never got beyond basic taming for pulling carriages as a luxury for rich people.
Of course, other easily frightened animals have been domesticated; it just took a long time. Rabbits are easily frightened, but they were fully domesticated in Germany as pets by the 15th century. Prof. Diamond cannot tell us how the dog or horse were domesticated because that was long before documented history.
Another problem for Prof. Diamond is that West Africans were involved in trade during the late Roman Empire. The Ghanian Empire, as it is called today, was a major commercial hub. Even if draft animals had not been domesticated in Africa by the third century AD, Africans could have traded for them.
Prof. Diamond’s book does not even have footnotes — only suggested readings — but it has been cited over 30,000 times in academic papers and books on Google Scholar.
Many students believe Africa is weak because Europeans colonized and looted it, an argument popularized in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney. I hear this so often that I ask students to pull out their phones and do a Google search for the dates of African colonization. It did not start until after slavery had ended in the United States. Why was Africa weak until then?
Africa’s rivers with rocks and rapids could not be navigated with large wind-powered boats. Long-distance travel on these rivers was impossible until the invention of small, steam powered vessels like the one in The African Queen, which could be disassembled and reassembled. Also, colonization was partially spurred by the American Civil War. The North’s naval blockade of the South led the Spanish and French to begin vying for power in Indochina as a way to get raw materials instead of backing the Confederacy. The race for colonies in the era of New Imperialism led to a new push into Africa. Africa was not colonized until the late 1800s, so it was not the cause of Africa’s weakness.
The obvious reason for black Africa’s backwardness is low average IQ, for which there is overwhelming evidence, but Thomas Sowell tries to offer other explanations in his book Intellectuals and Race. Tribalism was based on physical strength. Africans resolved disputes by bringing as many friends as possible to the battlefield. There was no rule of law. Other societies that had legal systems culled violent criminals who could not adapt. In Facing Reality, Charles Murray notes that British population records show the disappearance of last names associated with criminality. These people were jailed or executed and failed to reproduce.
American academics use any excuse to explain black failure, but any serious study would have a control group. For example, is there any sub-Saharan country where blacks are better off than they are in the United States? No. Does having a black teacher improve black grades? No.
Put a Japanese student anywhere in the world and he will turn out like a Japanese. The same is true for a student from sub-Saharan Africa. Making scapegoats of Europeans for black failure makes it impossible for our country to understand the problem, much less try to solve it.