Emily’s blog post noted a quote from Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery. The quote, “Slavery is Indeed an American institution” is something that I haven’t stopped turning over in my head. At first the statement may seem a little shortsighted when you realize that other European countries, including Britain, had been participating in the slave trade. However, when you look at the definition of the word “institution,” the truth of the statement becomes more evident. The online O.E.D has multiple definitions for “institution,” but the one I’d like to draw attention to is, “An established official organization having an important role in the life of a country, such as a bank, church, or legislature.” This seems important to me, especially the phrase, “important role in the life of a country.” When looked at in the context of slavery, this definition has a special, contemporary pertinence.
Next I want to draw attention to Dr. McCoy’s paper, “The Archive of The Archive of the Archive” specifically the line, “possession of civic law by the (white) lwa of possession.” I find the concept of a white “lwa of possession” to be incredibly insightful to why slavery is “an American Institution.” If there is indeed a white lwa of possession (whom would probably look a little like this guy) then I think it’s also fair to say that this lwa probably has close encounters with the white lwa of economics, if they are not simultaneously the same entity.
The round-about-point that I’m trying to make is that there is no higher power in America than the economy itself, and that the economy is systematically entwined with racism. Historically our economy is based in ideas of possession, and the lwa(s) of possession/economy are the entities that justify what Dr. McCoy references Joan Dayan as calling the “sorcery of law.” Because while one of our Country’s most hallowed documents states that “All men are created equal,” another one states that some men are only to be considered 3/5ths of a person, and obviously this is contradictory and irrational, but through the “sorcery of the law,” and the sake of the economy, it is permitted.
Finally I’d like to mention that it’s worth keeping in mind that the slave trade was not only the majority of the American economy, but its basis from the time of the country’s earliest inception. The far reaching tendrils of slavery’s economic institution is the exact reason why Jacob can’t get away with saying, “Flesh was not his commodity.” If it wasn’t for slavery, would the United States even have lasted long enough to become what it is today? Regardless of the answer to that question, the current American economy can still trace its heritage back to the Atlantic slave trade. Maybe this is a stretch, and I hope others comment on it, but if we benefit from the current economy, then is it fair to say that we also benefit from the Atlantic slave trade? Can any of us get away with saying flesh is not our commodity?
I leave with this, “All of it is now It is always Now.” (Morrison 248)