Nov 8, 2012

"You don't own my body."

Slaves as Property

Plantation owners in the Americas were dependent upon slaves to ensure high profitability. In Britain, 18th-century laws were designed to support a trade in slaves that was sanctioned by the king and parliament. A decision by the Solicitor General stated that 'Negroes' ought to be 'esteemed goods and commodities within the Trade and Navigation Acts'. Such a ruling permitted slave owners to use property law with regard to their slaves 'to recover goods wrongfully detained, lost or damaged' as they would any other property.

The use of property law meant that the enslaved were considered not humans, but commodities. This view of Africans would have a detrimental and lasting effect on the Black community well into the 20th century. The historian James Walvin concludes that 'the State, as an institution, dehumanized African men, women and children for its own ends'.

During the recent foolishness that passed as a national campaign for the Politics of the United States, the claim of a "War on Women" came to the front. Among those claims was that the Republicans wanted to interfere with a woman's "right" to destroy a life in her womb, a right essentially because it was "her body" and what was in it was "her property."

I was struck by how similar the language used by an anti-GOP woman was, who posted a video on YouTube called "You Don't Own My Body," to the language used by English slave traders regarding their property, and their right to destroy it if it was inconvenient to them.

Liberalism has come a long way since the likes of giants like William Wilberforce.

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