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Response to Number23 (Original post)

Wed Mar 23, 2016, 02:18 PM

56. When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren’t Called ‘Hitler’

Take a look at this monster


His name is King Leopold II of Belgium.

He “owned” the Congo during his reign as the constitutional monarch of Belgium. After several failed colonial attempts in Asia and Africa, he settled on the Congo. He “bought” it and enslaved its people, turning the entire country into his own personal slave plantation. He disguised his business transactions as “philanthropic” and “scientific” efforts under the banner of the International African Society. He used their enslaved labor to extract Congolese resources and services. His reign was enforced through work camps, body mutilations, torture, executions, and his own private army.

Most of us aren’t taught about him in school. We don’t hear about him in the media. He’s not part of the widely-repeated narrative of oppression (which includes things like the Holocaust during World War II). He’s part of a long history of colonialism, imperialism, slavery, and genocide in Africa that would clash with the social construction of a white supremacist narrative in our schools. It doesn’t fit neatly into school curriculums in a capitalist society. Making overtly racist remarks is (sometimes) frowned upon in ‘polite’ society; but it’s quite fine not to talk about genocide in Africa perpetrated by European capitalist monarchs.1

Mark Twain wrote a satire about Leopold called “King Leopold’s Soliloquy; A Defense of His Congo Rule”, where he mocked the King’s defense of his reign of terror, largely through Leopold’s own words. It’s an easy read at 49 pages and Mark Twain is a popular author in American public schools. But like most political authors, we will often read some of their least political writings or read them without learning why the author wrote them in the first place. Orwell’s Animal Farm, for example, serves to reinforce American anti-socialist propaganda about how egalitarian societies are doomed to turn into their dystopian opposites. But Orwell was an anti-capitalist revolutionary of a different kind—a supporter of working class democracy from below—and that is never pointed out. We can read about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, but “King Leopold’s Soliloquy” isn’t on the reading list. This isn’t by accident. Reading lists are created by boards of education in order to prepare students to follow orders and endure boredom. From the point of view of the Department of Education, Africans have no history.

Leopold was just one of thousands of things that helped construct white supremacy as both an ideological narrative and material reality. I don’t pretend that he was the source of all evil in the Congo. He had generals, and foot soldiers, and managers who did his bidding and enforced his laws. He was at the head of a system. But that doesn’t negate the need to talk about the individuals who are symbolic of the system. But we don’t even get that. And since it isn’t talked about, what capitalism did to Africa, all the privileges that rich white people gained from the Congolese genocide, remain hidden. The victims of imperialism are made, like they usually are, invisible.


Photos of Leopold's genocide are too hideous to include here and not for the faint of heart.

http://www.walkingbutterfly.com/2010/12/22/when-you-kill-ten-million-africans-you-arent-called-hitler/

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