The BBC reports that about 500 people marched yesterday in the St Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March, organized by the Scottish Trades Union Congress, to mark the anniversary of the British act to abolish the trade. I have to wonder as I do each time I read about anti-racism rallies outside the U.S. why there are no similar events organized on this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps it is the partly due to the fact that so few Americans really know the history of the transatlantic slave trade, or the debates in the U.S. about it, including the following quote from Abraham Lincoln in 1858:
“I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about the social or political equality of the white and black races – I am not … in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to inter-marry with white people.”
“There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.”
And, then again, in 1862, while President Lincoln said:
“If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it, and if I could do it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would do that also. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union.”
(Thanks to Richard Woodley at The Fifth Column for reminding me of these quotes.)
It seems to me that what Lincoln shares with some of the contemporary advocates of racial inequality, biological and otherwise, is what historian George Fredrickson calls the arrogance of race.