During Senator Tim Kaine’s remarks yesterday on the Senate floor (actually, since this post concerns the use of words and accountability thereof, I guess I should clarify: he wasn’t speaking about the floor. Nobody talks about the floor in the Senate) as the Virginia Democrat addressed the issue of police department accountability , he uttered this remarkable passage:
“The first African Americans sent into the English colonies came to Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619. They were slaves. They had been captured against their will. But they landed in colonies that didn’t have slavery. There were no laws about slavery in the colonies at that time. The United States didn’t inherit slavery from anybody. We created it. It got created by the Virginia General Assembly and the legislatures of other states. It got created by the court systems in colonial America,We created it.”
“We” did not “create” slavery. There is no rational dispute on this point. Even if Kaine was saying that Virginia, his state, created slavery, that’s not true either. The colony of Virginia is not “we”: it is not the state of Virginia, and it is not the United States of America. “We” used here is transparent white guilt peddling by Kaine, and it is inaccurate.
That transgression, however pales by contrast to the head-scratching statement that “we” created slavery. Of course the United States didn’t create slavery: slavery existed before the United States did. (Nor did slavery create the United States, which is the discredited and intellectually dishonest thesis of the New York Times’ “1619 Project.” which somehow won a Pulitzer Prize for its “creator,” Nikole Hannah-Jones , who, like Kaine, was just making stuff up.) The United States certainly did inherit slavery from somebody (that makes two words in this bizarre passage that Kaine either deliberately misapplies or doesn’t know what they mean): the U.S. inherited slavery from the colonies, which had inherited them from Great Britain.
In the 17th century, the British colonists (and the colonists of other European nations) used African slaves in North America rather than European indentured servants. Althoughit didn’t “create” slavery either, Spain, not “we,” probably deserves credit for introducing (but still not “creating”) the commerce of slavery in the Americas. (Native Americans practiced slavery long before Europeans arrived.) Historians estimate approximately 6 million to 7 million enslaved people were taken to North America before the United States’ founding. Inherit, the description that Kaine rejects, is an apt word: the colonies inherited slavery from its European owners.
It’s not unfair to expect a U.S. Senator from Virginia to be familiar with the Declaration of Independence. Why did Thomas Jefferson, who authored the first draft of the the founding document, condemn King George III over England’s participation in the slave trade if his own colony “created it”? Tom wrote,
“He has waged cruel War against human Nature itself, violating its most sacred Rights of Life and Liberty in the Persons of a distant People who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into Slavery in another Hemisphere. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain.”
After intense debate, the Second Continental Congress removed Jefferson’s passage condemning slavery, thus setting up the conflict that metastasized into the Civil War, but allowing the Declaration to receive the indispensable support of the slave-holding colonies, which were, like the other colonies then, part of the British Empire.
Conclusion: Senator Kaine’s statement that the United States “created slavery” was untrue by any historical and linguistic measure. It was either dishonest, stupid, or ignorant, and there is no defending it. He was engaging in U.S. bashing, because that’s what the George Floyd mob’s purpose is, and his Party is along for the ride.