Tue, 28 Nov 2023 Feature Article

When Slaves Revolt

When Slaves Revolt

In 1943, after about 250 000 Jews had been transported to the Nazi death camp Treblinka and murdered, the Jewish Combat Organization and the Jewish Military Union were formed. These two organizations started training Jews in resistance tactics. No longer content to allow the Nazis to choose the time, place, and circumstance of their death, Jewish resistance fighters built bunkers and smuggled weapons into the Warsaw ghetto.

Jewish resistance and refusal to surrender eventually led to an iron swords like operation that resulted in the brutal extermination of about 13 000 Jews who were either burnt alive or suffocated. Nazi casualties were extremely low. Of the 110 Nazi casualties there were only 17 deaths. No other outcome could have been expected in this one-sided fight. The realm of fiction is the only realm where the Davids of this world defeat the Goliaths in open warfare.

In 1831, just over a century before the Jewish uprising in the Warsaw ghetto, a small band of Black slaves in America did the unthinkable (at least in the minds of Caucasians) and unleashed a mini-Holocaust on the Caucasian population of Southampton County, Virginia. The Nat Turner slave revolt is remembered in American history as the bloodiest and deadliest slave revolt on American soil. Fifty-five Caucasian men, women, and children were either shot or hacked to death with machetes.

Black people in Virginia, like the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, paid a high price for Nat Turner’s slave revolt. Many of the enslaved who joined Nat Turner in his revolt were killed in a battle with the local Caucasian militia. Nat Turner managed to survive the battle with the local militia but was eventually apprehended and hanged along with 18 other Blacks as a deterrent to future would-be revolutionaries.

The legendary Caucasian backlash was not long in coming after the Nat Turner revolt. Angry Caucasian mobs with an augmented bloodlust began a program of systematic terrorism against the Black population of Virginia and a number of other states. Black people who did not participate in the ‘terrorism’ of Nat Turner and his men were collectively punished. Innocent Blacks were tortured and murdered by Caucasian mobs.

Black people were encircled by new laws that limited their mobility and free assembly. Black education was criminalized in a number of states while other states barred Blacks from settling in their territories. Nat Turner’s status as a preacher led to restrictions being placed on Black religious assemblies. Restrictions were imposed limiting the number of Blacks who could gather for religious purposes.

A tendentious media in the Western world is pretending to be scandalized by an announcement from a spokesman of Hamas claiming that the attack of October 7 would be a reoccurring decimal in the ongoing saga of the nation of Israel. History, however, is replete with instances of the oppressed throwing caution to the wind, and like the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto, choosing the time, place, and circumstance of their death.

The hypocrisy and double standard of the Western media is clearly revealed in the way in which the Russian military operation in Ukraine was covered in contrast with the way the Israeli operation is Gaza is being presented. Fortunately, ignorance of the backstory behind both military operations does not prevent an onlooker from concluding that both military operations have inflicted sufficient civilian and infrastructural damage to raise red flags among human rights communities and the International Criminal Court.

When confronted by the raw savagery of the Russian bombardment of Ukraine, Western leaders and the media were quick to point out that Russia was committing war crimes and genocide in Ukraine. President Biden called President Putin a butcher and a war criminal because of the horror he had unleashed on the poor Ukrainian children and people. President Biden went a step further and called the Russian aggression an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.

If the 10 000 civilian deaths in Ukraine, inclusive of less than 1 000 dead children over an 18-month period qualifies as butchery, war crimes, and genocide against the Ukrainian people, what terms should the people of the global South use to describe the killing of over 14 000 Palestinians inclusive of 6 000 dead children in less than two months? One is force to wonder if the color of the dead determines the classification of the atrocities in the eyes of Western leaders and media.

The right to resist is a human right and can take the form of civil disobedience or armed resistance. Gaza has been described as the world’s largest open-air prison. Since 2007, Israel has enforced a blockade on Gaza that determines what goes in and out of Gaza. The Israeli blockade and intermittent military operations into Gaza have further degraded Gaza into a concentration camp. The savage, ongoing bombardment of Gaza under Operation Iron Swords has finally downgraded Gaza to a death camp.

Slave revolts were endemic historically. In the Caribbean, the Caribs unlike their more peaceful Arawak neighbors, fought back against the European invaders. The Aztecs and the Incas in South America put up some spirited resistance before they were conquered by the superior fire power of the Europeans. Africans fought their enslavers on the continent, on the slave ships, and on the concentration camps that were euphemistically called plantations.

The human spirit will not be caged in Africa, in the New World among the indigenous inhabitants, in North America among the First Citizens, in Australia among the Aboriginal people, in the Warsaw ghetto among the Jews during World War II, or in Gaza among the Palestinians today. The oppressed of the world will always be looking for new opportunities to give their oppressors a black eye and when they are successful, the leaders of the West and their collaborators in the media should not be surprise at the joy of the oppressed.

Lenrod Nzulu Baraka is the founder of Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Teaching Center and the author of The Rebirth of Black Civilization: Making Africa and the Caribbean Great Again.