We make a lot of decisions based on money. We purchase half price shoes when we might have done without, if the shoes had cost full price. Some of us select jobs based on salary. Money drives our choices about everything from the cars we drive to the colleges we attend.
People sell drugs, stolen goods, and their bodies for money. Some people sell Amway.
There’s nothing wrong with money. It’s an important tool that affords both survival and resplendence. It’s the love of money that Scripture teaches is the root of all evil.
As I continue my self-education about slavery in this country I love, I’m increasingly aware of what white people were willing to do for money as the United States was becoming established. My ancestors – and perhaps yours – were even willing to enslave innocent human beings, treat them like personal property, and take everything away from them – all while calling themselves Christian.
It’s not enough to say that we in the South sacrificed our souls in order to keep the farm – and in some cases to become millionaires off of tobacco, sugar, and cotton. The North was also complicit.
According to Edward E. Baptist in The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism
“A majority of northern Unionists opposed emancipation. Perhaps white Americans’ battles with each other were, on one level, not driven by a contest over ideals, but over the best way to keep the stream of cotton and financial revenues flowing: keep slavery within its current borders, or allow it to consume still more geographic frontiers.”
Yes there were people in both the North and the South against slavery. But most of our ancestors already settled in the United States by 1861 benefited from the free labor of enslaved Africans or people of African descent.
It’s my ongoing hope that we will talk about this in Church. Slavery in the United States is not only our original sin; it continues to perpetuate injustice and the (predominantly White) Church is called to speak out about that. The predominantly Black Church has been talking about it for 200 years.
What are we willing to do for money? Cheat on our taxes? Overcharge for goods and services during natural disasters? Traffic human beings?
We who call ourselves White must face the terrible truth that many of our ancestors were willing to hold other human beings captive against their will for the sake of money. It means we have some humble work to do.
Image of a book I enthusiastically suggest: The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist (2014)