The Role of the Woman King
I remember once posting a thread on Twitter about the history of slavery, which I did years ago in response to too many behaving as though there was something intrinsically American about the creation and the perpetuation of slavery.
The thread was not a popular one. Many choose to respectfully, maybe disrespectfully, disagree.
Today, however, some of the very points I made then are being repeated again and even more forcefully, due, in part, to the most popular movie in the country currently, The Woman King.
The Woman King purports to be “a historical epic inspired by true events that took place in The Kingdom of Dahomey” but seems inspired rather by the historical Black Panther film. Instead of the Dora Milaje -- that film’s warrior women -- we are presented with the Dahomey warrior movie, the Agojie. Instead of an internal power struggle led by Wakandan supermen, we have Africans against Europeans. Instead of superhero fantasy, we have woke propaganda.
What makes The Woman King irksome is not just its wokeism that comes so heavily that it includes a trans character and a tribute to Breonna Taylor, two things that one has come to expect in a Disney+ Marvel series but not so much in an “inspired by true events” recounting of a 19th-century military conflict. What makes The Woman King troubling is that it, like much we see from the wokers, dangerously distorts African American history.
The movie depicts the Agojie, incredibly, as brave and noble fighters who free slaves and battle French colonialism. This is a historical depiction akin to portraying a German battalion bravely and nobly fighting against invaders and freeing Jews while downplaying that these Germans were Nazis.
The Dahomey, as slate.com pointed out, embraced capturing, owning, and selling slaves for over a century:
In 1727, Dahomey conquered the Kingdom of Hueda, which lived along the coast, and took control of the port city of Ouidah, inaugurating its active participation in the Atlantic slave trade. Historians estimated that nearly one million enslaved Africans were put on ships to the Americas in Ouidah between 1659 and 1863.
Far from opposing this enslavement of Africans, the Agojie were an integral part of it. As world history professor Patrick Manning says, “The Agojie were sent out on annual campaigns to conquer nearby kingdoms and capture slaves for trade . . . They also helped to swiftly suppress conspiracies or rebellions among slaves before they could escalate into violent uprisings.”
Even for a fun flick, portraying enslavers as abolitionists is such an extreme distortion that one may become curious about the motivation behind it, if one did not recognize that distorting the history and current reality of African Americans is a calling card for the left.
The truth is that the contemporary civil rights movement is Marxist, and it uses advocates -- often millionaire advocates who charge exorbitant speaking fees -- to convince others that America is a racist nation uniquely scarred by slavery, and the only way to be non-racist and to recover from the “original sin” of slavery is to abandon capitalism, which in itself inextricably racist.
Ibram X Kendi argues thusly:
“Historically, when you look at the emergence of capitalism itself, it emerged in the same place at the same time as what became known as the transatlantic slave trade. And it grew through colonialism. It grew through chattel slavery, particularly in the Americas. And so when you talk about its origin and its growth, it originated and grew side by side with racism itself . . . When you look at it empirically, particularly in our time, you can't really separate wealth from race in the United States and across the world, and you can't really separate poverty from race. And the reason being is because racist and capitalist policies have long intersected to essentially make it such that let's say black people were disproportionately poor and white people were disproportionately wealthy.”
“Historically capitalism + racism are interlinked, which is why I call them the conjoined twins + historians like me call them “racial capitalism” in the singular. But some self-described forms of “antiracism” are not anti-capitalist, which in my book means they’re not antiracism.”
However, capitalism; or a market system that emphasizes a free exchange of goods and services, property rights, and a profit motive; existed well before the transatlantic slave trade. It exists, and continues to exist, in societies too homogeneous to be thought racist. Incidents of racism in Japan must be extremely rare, for example, as it is 99% Asian, There aren’t too reports of racism in Japan as it is 99 percent Asian.
There is nothing intrinsically American or Western about slavery. It is a global sin that existed for as long as recorded history, and America is far from alone in benefitting from it. In fact, the vast majority of white Americans did not own slaves even at the beginning of the Civil War. Even if every white southerner is counted as a slave owner in 1860, approximately 70 percent of white Americans lived in the free states of the north at that time.
The role of the West in fueling African slavery should not be disregarded. Those who buy and use people as slaves are as evil as those who capture and enslave people, whether it is an African slave bought on a Dahomey beach in 1722 or a sex slave bought near the U.S. southern border in 2022. Yet it is relevant to mention that the transatlantic slave trade and slavery itself officially ended in the West while slavery continued in Africa and other parts of the world, despite these Western nations continuing embrace of capitalism.
Thomas Sowell put slavery in proper context in one of his classics, "Black Rednecks and White Liberals:"
"Blacks were not enslaved because they were black but because they were available. Slavery has existed in the world for thousands of years. Whites enslaved other whites in Europe for centuries before the first black was brought to the Western Hemisphere. Asians enslaved Europeans. Asians enslaved other Asians. Africans enslaved other Africans, and indeed even today in North Africa, blacks continue to enslave blacks."
Sowell here highlights a truth that the modern civil rights movement and vehicles like "The Woman King" seek to obscure in their crusade to end capitalism.