A History of Racial Conflict w/ Daniel Schmachtenberger and Gilbert Morris

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Welcome everyone to this session on The Stoa, a conversation between Professor Gilbert Morris and myself. Thank you to Peter Limberg and the people at The Stoa for letting us host this conversation here and for the community that will be engaging afterwards. Gilbert, thank you so much for making this time, you and I have had so many conversations on the way to this public conversation that have taught me so much. Would love to hear your opening thoughts on our intention for this dialogue, your intention.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Thank you so much Daniel, and thank you to your colleagues at The Stoa. Anytime that one can engage in a meaningful discussion about a great and important social issue that becomes important as I myself believe in the marketplace of ideas as John Stuart Mill once called it. And that is where there’s a continuous dialogue moving back and forth on social issues without necessarily the intention to win an argument as much as understand its coordinates. And so, I’m pleased that we have that relationship in exchange. And so I welcome the opportunity for this discussion.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

I’ll share a bit of a long preface of my intention and hopes for this piece before we dive in, because I asked for us to do this piece. Actually, we discussed what turned towards us doing this piece starting during the George Floyd protests, which is quite some time ago now, and have intended to do this ever since. So this is going to be a conversation on the topic of race, racial inequality, injustice, the history of it, and where understanding some of that history brings us to today in terms of framing up what possible better way of going forward might look like. And so for my side, these are not the topics that I am schooled in, that I was a student of in any deep, more than just cursory ways, someone who’s been interested in activism, and human welfare in general.

 

And during the George Floyd riots in particular protests, I was not mostly engaging in the deep scholarly work, but the things that made it on their way to YouTube. So I was seeing the public intellectuals and I saw arguments from people like Ta-Nehisi Coates or Cornel West on one side, people like Thomas Sowell or Glenn Loury on the other side. And I didn’t see what seemed like a bridge towards an agreement that was a way of moving forward. I saw what seemed like arguments that landed for people who already resonated, gave more intellectual support and ethical support for the people who resonated. But the continued polarized approach.

 

And so I was really without being able to become a deep enough student in the topics to make sense of it myself, wondering if there were any people who had a sense of what a synthesis position between the various positions, that might be able to help us forward look like. And Professor Morris, I’ll call him Gilbert throughout, as he’s asked me to. And I had actually talked other topics previously regarding mostly his work in the history and philosophy of ideas, history of philosophy, legal scholarship related to some of my work on catastrophic risk.

 

But when we had discussed these topics, and I knew he had actually been a director of racial studies at George Mason University and taught and worked both in academic contexts and as an ambassador to many different countries around the world, had both an American and an international and a kind of legal and philosophical perspective. He was able to steel man all the various positions. Well, here’s how the libertarians would think of it, and here’s how the critical theorists would think of it, in a way that was legitimately sharing their points of view very well. And this was extremely valuable for me. And so, as I was in this fortunate position to be getting educated on these topics by someone who could share the historical, philosophical, economic contextual perspectives and share the various different groups perspectives and how those perspectives had evolved over time, I felt I was getting such an invaluable opportunity that I hope to be able to share with other people.

And so, one of my aims in this was simply to be able to take a little bit of what I’ve got over dozens of conversations with Gilbert and introduce that to other people who may be like myself, care, would like to understand, are not already well educated and don’t know how best to approach the topic. So, that’s one of my goals.

 

The goal that had us starting to talk originally was, is there actually a way forward for how deeply entrenched the American racial injustice issues are and the various perspectives on it. Is there a way that could be anti polarizing? And I don’t think we’ll get all the way there in this conversation, I think we’ll lay groundwork. Because one of the other goals that it merged for me is that I’ve done talks that have wound up adjacent on the internet to a bunch of anti woke perspectives, and that’s strange for me. I think it’s because I’m interested in synthesis of different perspectives and a conciliant approach. And so I’ll often try to explore a heterodox, orthodox distinction, and find the dialectic, which put me in the heterodox camp, which put me where the main trending heterodox thoughts are anti woke. And I’m super uncomfortable, being in an anti woke camp is not my position.

 

And I would hope that, and this is one of the reasons why I think The Stoa is a good place, is that the people in The Stoa are really interested in synthesis. How do we explore the thesis of anything, the antithesis, the synthesis? How do we explore more clear, nuanced, trans ideological thought? And Peter Limberg’s original work that helped launch it on Mimetic Tribes was, can we actually inhabit everyone’s Mimetic Tribe and feel what the world feels like from their perspective? So I’m hoping that after this dialogue, The Stoa community that chooses to engage with this will be able to have deep rich dialogues about these topics and Gilbert and myself are both happy to come back in and engage in those dialogues if it makes sense.

 

But I found so many people critiquing straw mans of the woke perspective, or particularly unsavory aspects of how some people were expressing what they called woke ideologies without seeming like they had ever steel manned the underlying real issues of systemic inequality and systemic injustice where woke originally meant awake to systemic injustice. And so I actually feel obliged to help to steel man that perspective. To say, if we’re being anti woke, make sure you actually understand, because otherwise you might be a very moral person taking a position that is immoral in ways you don’t know, because of the depth of the history.

 

So, I think the main thing we’re seeking to do here is to construct elements of the history and the critical pieces of philosophy and law that happened, some of the tenant economic elements, to really get where the racial issue in the U.S. is today. What’s unique about the U.S. issue relative to other global issues. So that then if someone wants to say, well, how do we better move this issue forward? We at least have some better shared understanding of the history up to this point. So that would be it for my intention of why we’re here.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

I think that that’s an excellent introduction. One of the things that I talk about when I lectured on this, as you mentioned at George Mason. George Mason is the most conservative, if not one of the most conservative schools, I served on that faculty with Robert Bork, who I found to be an absolute genius. Kenneth Starr was also on that faculty and so was Carl Ruth. And everyone knows Walter Williams, the great economist, great personality. And so at the same time, Roger Wilkins was on that staff, whose father was one of the founders of the Urban League and for a time [inaudible] for Martin Luther King Jr. And A. Randolph Philip and so on.

 

So one had these two sides, and coming from both a Caribbean and a British perspective, you can understand that I had been schooled in all these perspectives, but being in the thick of it at that time, raised a great deal of questions, of least of which they then appointed me as chairman of the African American Studies Department, which meant that the knives were out, should I step in the wrong direction or concede the program in a manner that had not been conceived before.

 

But it was an excellent time with a bunch of great scholars, Professor Jeffrey Stewart, Rose Truman and Ben Carson, Katya Vladamirov, and so you hear that already, quite a diversified group of people teaching in the African American Studies Department. And so I enjoy that kind of Catholic in the small sea sense, that Catholic spread of ideas because it’s consistent with J.S. Mill’s concept of the marketplace of ideas.

 

When I teach this subject, I explain, the overarching frame that we want to get is whether on the whole we are moving our behavior towards our values, or our values towards our behavior. Because no matter what side of an equation you’re on, if you establish a set of values that you’re not living up to, it is important for each group to exercise some self-policing and culpability to ensure that what we say about what we believe is what others can expect of us, both in the way we continue to speak and certainly in our behavior.

 

In addition to that, or within that, there’s the Christian virtue, which when you talk about slavery and race that’s relevant. There is the legal issue, which when you talk about human bondage and the removal of freedom, that’s an important issue. I already mentioned the values proposition. And then there’s an economic issue, and some people say that the other three are inflected by the economic issue, but we’ll dive into that and see where that goes.

 

The last point I’ll make in this preliminary phase is that we must be careful about historical monumentalism, and that is where we treat history as a monument to ourselves, so that our status making and our sense of ourselves, our sense of our own prestige requires history with a certain narrative no matter what the actual history is. And when we come up against that, this is one of the ways in which you and I talk about this all the time, Daniel, when someone may have a wrong perspective innocently, and then if that person is curious and seeks a right perspective, but when they’re presented with the facts and still refuses either to engage on the facts, raise questions, or to change their position, then this becomes disingenuous. And that person is not an honest person with whom to speak in an effort to solve social problem or at least generate some sort of understanding.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

And so we have to astute and reject monumental history. And I’m afraid that both sides to some degree, have now gone to the extremes of establishing history as a monument. It’s unassailable, elements of the history cannot be questioned, cannot be challenged, because the historical narrative is so important to us in one way or the other that we can’t bear criticism of it in any degree. And that is those anti-human and anti-democratic. You’re muted.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

What you’re saying about viewing history as a monument to our current narrative and position is a special case of the general case of motivated reasoning. And as you were kind of mentioning, the economic case for slavery created a motivated reasoning basis for a whole bunch of weird gymnastics, mental gymnastics in terms of how to interpret Christianity and how to interpret law and how to make the Declaration of Independence commensurable with slavery and really weird stuff. So, what we are seeking to do is to be able to look at which arguments are earnest and they’re partial, they need reconciled, versus actually hold their partiality and claim it to be more complete than it is out of motivated reasoning. And the hope is to be able to strip the motivated reasoning, have an earnest inquiry that can give us a clear enough sense of at least some through lines of the history up to this point.

 

And I think why this is so important, why this is so important for me is, that I’m really speaking to people who might be in a position somewhat like the position I found myself in a couple years ago when Gilbert and I started speaking on this. Is, I would hear people that knew more about the topic say things very differing from each other, and I didn’t feel that I had the knowledge to be able to say, these people who’ve put 20 or 30 years of study and that radically disagree with each other, how am I going to figure that out? And they would say things that sounded superficially compelling. Like people who would argue that mostly the issues of slavery and race are over, and we should take a more libertarian perspective. Would say things like, as bad as slavery was, Genghis Khan killed five times as many people in his own life as the entire Atlantic slave trade ever even engaged with.

 

And there was some sense that slavery was just part of history everywhere, and the American case was not all that particularly unique. And that we actually bought the slaves from African slave traders. And those sound compelling on the surface, as I got deeper, those all were either red herrings or specious, or at least cherry picked in a way that really did not indicate the truth of the overall perspective well. But simultaneously, the critique of the American situation, oftentimes cherry picks in the other direction in a way that doesn’t acknowledge just the real politic nastiness of humans largely. And I really wanted to try to get a fair sense for that. So I’m hoping, while mostly constructing, what about the American slavery system and then post-slavery, the continuity of that all the way up to the current day where systemic injustice associated with race. And it must, I just have to say, we’re not going to be dealing with the issue of the Native Americans.

 

We’re not going to be dealing with the issues of feminism and intersectionality and biracial discrimination and the million nuances that are really critical that are just well beyond the scope of this. And for everyone who has that deeper background. Wonderful. And this is really intended to be introductory, but the hope is an introductory, pre the American slavery situation, to the American slavery through the post-slavery all the way up to current, that can give some contexts of what is unique and uniquely problematic about this case, that makes it so challenging.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes. And so with that, I would say that first we have to keep slavery and race separate for the time being. Let them come together organically as the process goes and they will come together and we will see that the slavery was the thing that seemed to be a forerunner, and then race was brought in to create certain justifications. And even though slavery has ended by certain definitions, the race issue continues in the most pernicious ways.

 

So the beginning of that, if you look, I think it’s well established and it’s basic history that the reasons for slavery were war, so if you were captive in a war. Debt, if you had some debt that you couldn’t pay. That these were the two main reasons why people found themselves enslaved. There’s a sociological and anthropological point to that. And that is, in the ancient period, if you go back as far as 32, 3500 BC, one of the things you find is, if you were engaged in war, so there was a scrabble for resources and so on, hunting grounds and these sorts of things, and if you were engaged in war, once you captured the people who did not succeed, the question was what to do with them?

 

They didn’t have advanced sociology or anything like that and other cities to send them to. And people became sensitive about slaughter. You mentioned, Genghis Khan, it was thought considerably that his own wives said to him at some point, “My God, must you kill so many people, slaughter entire cities and so on?” So if you’re not going to slaughter them and you’re going to integrate them and there’s limited resources and there aren’t other cities for them to go to, slavery was the means of integrating them into one’s society. You see this in Greco-Roman situation where slaves rose to become important, hold important political and official offices. They rose of the Roman. Are setting to become great generals and were trusted aids and allies of the people who enslaved them.

 

So slavery was never about the humanity of the person. It was always about some sort of social process to integrate these people into our society if we did not wish to slaughter all of them. That was a very, very crucial thing. The change-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Specifically in the context where as a people that had just been dominated and captured, loyalty was in question and integrating them without some controls might have led to the breakdown of society.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes, yes. The vanquished were not likely to be cooperative in the most meaningful ways. And so, once vanquished one had to pledge one’s allegiance to the certainty of whomever else, [inaudible] of the vanquishing power, one had to pledge to that. Now, in the politics book one, and I’m not going to go into the reference here, it’s very long, but you can read people viewing can read Michael Sandel’s Aristotle Politics in the Oxford Reader, and you’ll come to the same conclusion. But you’ll find it in book one of the Politics where Aristotle talks about natural slavery. This has been a frustrating thing for both the Aristotle in society and for Aristotle scholars throughout history because they think it’s a blemish on him. Although, he was a menuances to Alexander the Great who did abscond thinking that he would not meet the same fatus Socrates should things go badly. So, one can make an assessment of him that way.

 

But the question is, when Aristotle spoke about natural slavery, so he made two main points, about five points, but two main points, and it’s about five paragraphs where he talks about this. But he’s really trying to set up the state and he’s saying that the household and the individual are to the state as the arms and the legs. These are components. And then he moves on to the individual and he wants to define how the individual acts as the arm or the leg of the state. And he’s worried because he says there’s a certain type of individual who is a natural slave, and this is someone who ought to be, this is a person who’s given up his rational capacity. And so that’s one leg of it. And the other leg is someone who refuses to labor.

 

There’s a third leg where Aristotle talks about akrasia. Akrasia means weakness of the will, and that is when you know to do something right, you tell yourself to do it, and then you don’t do it anyway. So Aristotle said this is the weakness of the will, it’s akrasia, and this is another type of self enslavement. And so this natural enslavement. The problem with this is, it’s kind of an open concept. He is not really thinking of anyone, he doesn’t think about, in fact, he includes the Africans in the Asiatics. So he says the Asiatics are full of intelligence, but no spirit. The Europeans are full of spirit, but less intelligence. And the barbarians have no intelligence or spirit, and so they are natural slaves.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

And so he’s justifying the formation, the building of empire in the Greek setting. So these are the people that he’s referencing as he’s thinking this. And so his notion of natural slavery is that they haven’t really created anything. They are not interested in industrious and productive labor, which is confusing because later on in the politics, he talks about agriculture and productive labor and the necessity of putting slaves to work there. Anyway…

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

If I remember right, he said something that really kind of shows the view of, the domesticated animal has a better spirit-

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

… [inaudible] animal. And that’s in the same way the domesticated beastly person is better off-

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Right, because the domesticated animal is acting within its own nature, whereas the human being is not. And so, the main thing that listeners should take away from this is it leaves an open vessel into which people can put all sorts of interpretations and say, but Aristotle said that. And we’ll see that this has a through line all the way down from slavery to racism.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

And just to give the listeners context of the arc we’re going to follow, we’re starting with Aristotle and we’re going to talk about the American case that doesn’t come for a couple thousand more years. We’re starting with Aristotle because this is significant enough to the Western canon of thought that it became something that got built upon.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Absolutely, absolutely. No question about it.

 

Now, the second thing I should like to say is that slavery was always contested. And so, one of the things we must reject is that slave holders in any period were just people of their times. They were in every civilization where there was slavery. As we said before in prehistoric times, it was a question of do we slaughter people or do we integrate them to society? And if you think about, let’s say in China, there’s a book or a set of narratives called the Magical [inaudible].

 

The Magical [inaudible] is actually a Chinese national cartoon, it’s a series of texts, mythology, and the central character is an African. And this was, I would say around 8620, something like that. That you had these stories in China. So they had a concept, they had slaves in China at the time, but they didn’t necessarily think race and slavery went together. So the hero of their mythological stories was a great tool. And you can read, I think her name is Wolinsky, julie, I think Julie Wolinsky is her name, and she wrote about this extensively.

 

And then if you look at the Indian situation, in the [inaudible] text, the [inaudible] and so on, the slave master could not eat before he fed his slave. There were rules about whether you could rape a slave and so on. All these things were important. And another thing for people to remember is, the reason that you would want rules for slavery is everyone was susceptible of being a slave. So your country could get overrun, you could be vanquished, and you wanted to know at least there was some rules in place to protect you, should you become a slave. And so the rules around slavery were very, very strong. Of course they were violated in many cases and so on, but every major society had them. And so that’s very important. Once-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

I hadn’t thought of it quite this way, what you’re presenting is that the agreement on slaves is a very rawlsian kind of thing, saying, I am making a position where if I end up being on the other side, I’m okay with it because I might be on the other side because the power asymmetry is not so perfect. Whereas in the later case, the power assymetry became so severe that people stopped needing to consider they might be on the other side.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Absolutely. The inherent superiority that according to themselves meant that they didn’t reflect on that at all. And that’s part of what Americans call the pushback that you’re seeing, when they are held to task for some of their behaviors that assumed superiority seems to infiltrate their points of view.

 

So, you have this situation with Aristotle, and so I make the point again that slavery was always contested. So when we come into the period of what is called the Dark Ages, loads of writers, what are called the Pratistic fathers, generally around the Pope and so on, mystics and these sorts of people constantly railed against slavery. And that has been true from that day to this, that there were always constantly people making very, very rich, powerful arguments against slavery. If we move quickly to Saint Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine thought that he agreed with Aristotle, they were natural slaves, but if they had fallen away from God.

 

Saint Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica, he makes this point also agreeing with Aristotle, also agreeing that if they’ve fallen away from God. But then he says in the commentary on politics, later on, he says something like, there are those persons who are naturally masters and those persons who are naturally slave, and they ought to know themselves well enough. So someone who is not a natural master should not in fact present himself as a master over a slave, because he will not have the internal character and proper conduct. And so that also becomes a useful frame for people who want to justify enslavement. So we’ve got these open frames, there’s one more open frame, which is very interesting.

 

Frames. There’s one more open frame, which is very interesting. The Moors dominated Spain for 800 years, were thrown out finally in 1492, same year that Columbus sailed out of Grenada. And you’re not likely, and this is what tells you that race is a new type of thinking, not attached to any profound history, to think yourself superior to some group of people that have run your country for 800 years and given you all of your intellectual development, your writing, your technological prowess, your art, music, all these sorts of things, not likely to think yourself superior to.

 

What happened is in Spain, people retreated to the mountains and built these small societies in the mountains and they astute sunlight and sought to become very pale to distinguish themselves from the Moors and those who were mixed with the Moors. And their veins could be seen through their flesh and their veins were bluey. And this is where the notion of blue blood came from. At the same time, the breeding of horses and so on became very, very significant. And this idea of the prestige of horses based on breeding and the notion of a blue blood somehow got melded together. And this was already beginning to distinguish now race as a separate categorization for human beings. Those are the upper framings that we should work under. And with those things in mind, we can get now to the issue of enslavement.

 

There had been slavery on the continent of Africa, just as there was in Europe, both in the north coast of Barbary Coast as it was later called. That’s Tunisia and Libya and all those places, Morocco and so on. In sub-Saharan Africa there had been slavery. And in this early period, certainly you had significantly large societies. Large societies, up and down what is called the Swahili Coast so that’s the east coast of Africa, just off of Madagascar, all the way up to Egypt, running along the Nile and all the way down to what is now Tanzania and then somewhat inland as well. You had these great civilizations, all of them had slaves for the same reasons. Debt and war. They’re very significant. And if you think about the center of Africa on the North Coast, this is to say Morocco, Mali, these sorts of places, these were where the greater kingdoms were located that the most well known.

 

The Portuguese began their incursion into these areas with the Canary Islands, which are just off the coast, just off the coast there. And spent about 100 years wrestling with the dwellers on the Canary Islands to achieve control. They would lose some wars win some, they would go away for five or 10 years, come back and we’re talking between now the 14th centuries, so the late 13th and throughout the 14th century.

 

They could not seem to get a hold here, but eventually established a foothold in the Canary Islands and then attempted to make incursions into the mainland. At the same time, the Spanish were observing this and observing the opportunities. Columbus was gearing up at the time to head out to what is called the New World, New World for Europeans. And what is very, very significant in this period is that slavery was not the main driver. When the Portuguese and the Spanish first began, they were all trying to traverse the west coast of Africa all the way down to the Cape. And this took about from the first incursion about 100 to 2040 years to get done. But slavery, slaves were not the main focus. Gold was. Gold was the main focus-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Is the main thing that made them start succeeding much better than taking 100 years to get a little bit of foothold mostly gunpowder revolution?

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yeah. What you had in West Africa, you had many small kingdoms. The Arabs were the dominant group up in the upper north of the continent at the time. And trading routes between Morocco, Spain, the rest of the Mediterranean and so on, were already very well established. You had to-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

It’s worth just noting the Arabic influence in Northern Africa was already before what you’re describing as the European influence coming into Africa but it had many similar properties.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Absolutely. What I’m saying is that the Portuguese incursion into the Canary Islands, while that occurred, the relationship. Particularly the Moors, once they left Spain, they entered all along the Barbary Coast but largely into Ethiopia and they began trading into the Mediterranean from those countries. Not only slaves but all sorts of products that were very important to Europeans at the time, very few agricultural products. But gold was one of the main things that everyone was in search of. Part of the reason was a king at the time called Musa Mansa. There’s a wonderful book. I thought I had it somewhere around here by Howard French, which is called Born in Blackness and it’s a wonderful book to read to get a sense of what was going on. What is the real argument being made here and by that book? That history has overshadowed this period and jumped straight to Christopher Columbus and the raiding of the African coast for slaves.

 

But they’ve missed about 200 years of open trade for gold during the 13th and the 14th century. Excuse me. If you look along the coast, there was a place called Elmina, which is in modern day Ghana, which the Portuguese eventually found. And there they were able to correct much of their fiscal problems and most of their economic problems. And they saw an economic expansion and economic boom from dealing gold from Elmina where they built their first port. The Elmina Castle and this completed the search for, when I say complete, I don’t mean that that was the end of it, I mean that finally they found what they were looking for.

 

The association with slavery and enslavement of blacks didn’t come organically out of that situation. Henry The Navigator was the brother I believe, of the King Alfonso of Portugal. And Henry The Navigator hit upon an idea where he thought he needed… He thought that there was an opportunity in trading in African slaves, and slaves from the continent of Africa. It wasn’t called Africa at the time. He was concerned with that because he saw from the Canary Islands that the plantation construct that they had there was insufficiently developed. Then he began to plead with the popes because he recognized that the king of Portugal could not give him dominion over these lands. There could be a declaration, but in order to get a real declaration and prevent other Catholic powers from incurring into these lands and to give himself a monopoly that he needed the Pope’s in premature.

 

He was the first to have gone to Pope Eugene, I think in 1418, and to convince Pope Eugene that Saracens, basically Muslims, were lurking all throughout the west coast of Africa and that he needed to form what was called the Army of Christ to go and proselytize to the Africans and get rid of the Saracens completely untrue. But Eugene issued the bull, I think it’s called Sane Charisimus, S-A-N-E, Charisimus. And that was the first papal bull aimed at identifying Africa not yet for slavery but putting the Portuguese and Henry The Navigator, in particular, on this track for incurring into the continent itself beyond the search for gold. You’re muted.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

And for those who aren’t familiar, papal bull simply means a dictate of the Pope, which is a particularly significant thing during that time. You’re mentioning the content of Africa, and you’re mentioning that it wasn’t called Africa and this very spacious notion of they sold their brothers into slavery, which assumes that this giant continent that China and the US and many other countries would all fit on as just this one thing. Maybe speak to that for a moment because I think that helps to start to frame for people who haven’t thought of it a bit about the history.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes. It’s fascinating some degree. There were a host of small kingdoms along the west coast of Africa at the time, the continent of Africa. And none of those people could see themselves as Africans, so to speak. This Appalachian came much later when Europeans could not be bothered to learn the particulars or specifics of their assemblages and merely referred to everyone by the continental, by this continental catchall. And there is a deep sense in which one can’t possibly… The notion of brotherhood that the idea that there was a brotherhood amongst them, that is an unfortunate notion. I will say that Henry The Navigator, learned the lesson. He actually learned it in his lifetime. I think he died in 1460, but in his lifetime in dealing with the kingdom of Benin. When he went to Benin, he met a magnificent wall city with great metal work and art and a king that it took him almost six months to get an appointment, so to speak, because they did their due diligence.

 

You didn’t have the freedom. Two things, you didn’t have the brotherhood and while you had some raiding that went on in the earliest phases, you’re not going to move 12.4 million people by chasing them around the coast of Africa so they went to Benin. Benin drove a very hard bargain. It was a very significant civilization at the time, had its own art, had its own culture, its own music. He wrote about the hospitality of the royal court and that one could not see the king at will and that there was a process involved. Why is this important? Because when we come to the racial argument, the racial argument is that there was nothing there anyway. Why find slavery enslavement so abominable? Here’s a racial argument that categorizes all these people that have been around for all this time and say that they have never amalgamated into anything significant and they have no great accomplishments.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

I just want to add to this, that it is not necessary that someone has advanced metal work in giant walled cities to say that their life is worth something and should not be taken by force ethically. I think the Hobbesian idea that pre advanced civilization, people historically had these short brutish, nasty mean lives in a war of all against all is just absolute apologism for the narrative of progress as defined. If we look at the Kalahari or many of the Bushmen Africa or whatever that didn’t have the great walled cities, some of them had types of art and poetry and wisdom that is mind blowing. And I wouldn’t want to make the argument their lives are worth something because they had advanced technology. It’s worth noting that is a part of the history.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

It’s worth noting in this way as well. That is the European definition of an advanced society. And the point that I’m making is not that I think that that makes them advanced, but the very people who accuse them of not being advanced, categorize them as not being advanced when they encountered them, met them with these implements of civilization that they themselves prioritized and that is very significant. And you’re absolutely right. If you take the Sand People, people refer to them as the Bushmen of the Kalahari. They have no great structures. But if you want a PhD in linguistics today, you’d better be going to them to learn one of their clicking languages or the Maasai who can control 200 head of cattle with their inter-species linguistics and so on. Those are not great buildings, but those are actual processes that now human beings want to use.

 

In fact, it’s people in the machine learning and AI area, so the most advanced western disciplines, who are going into these places now to study the linguistics of these ancient people. You’re absolutely right, and I wouldn’t want to leave that impression. I think it’s a good point to make. In addition to that, I will say this though, that for those who thought that great civilization were important, there’s a dishonesty about this because the framing of people at that time on the African continent was that they were not advanced yet we see, as I say, diplomacy with Benin. And then Benin finally cut off the Portuguese for slaves and cut off their trading with the Portuguese. No argument, just they were self sustained and self-satisfied and did not feel that they gained any advantage by dealing with the Portuguese.


And this is what gave Henry The Navigator the idea that he had to come up with another concept and needed another papal bull. But before we get to that, for those of your listeners who want to review the case, you can look at the pre Egyptian societies in the Sudan as examples of one type of civilization, so to speak. You can look at places like Bulawayo or an area called, you can look it up, Great Zimbabwe in what is now Zimbabwe. All the way down the island, then below the Limpopo River and so on, you can see great civilizations which existed long before the European incursion. Schroeder is another great city, something called the Swahili Construct, which is a series of Swahili speaking countries or small kingdoms along the east coast in what is now Tanzania and that entire area.

 

For those persons who believe, as you pointed out, in a Hobbesianism that these kinds of societies where not only examples of progress and other philosophers Kant, Hume all believed that this was a example. Writing systems, big buildings, art, all these sorts of things. This was proof of civilization. And I’m saying that proof was there. It was ignored. And this is the second grade deception.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

We said the first grade deception is Henry The Navigator attempting in some way to ingratiate himself to the popes. And if you think about this period in European history, he goes to then to Pope Martin, and Henry The Navigator gets another papal bull this time that specifically gives the concession to the Portuguese king as opposed to the Spanish king. And these bulls come all the way down in 1444, there is a what would be called a treaty. And this treaty lays out because of the paper bulls now they’re free to do business. And this treaty lays out all the dominion now of the Portuguese side. And then in, I think it was 1455, that you get the papal bull that changes everything, that literally gives Portugal the right to enslave people from the African continent in perpetuity. And then the final-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

This I think is a critical piece as you had mentioned, that historically many cultures, including European cultures, enslaving other European cultures where there was no difference of race, Greeks enslaving Greeks, that the main reasons for enslavement were either debt, so a peonage enslavement system, some types of crime where that was a punishment to work the crime off and war. But that unlike this later system, there were limits on that slavery. And you were starting to mention some things of limits of rape and like that, but there was also that it was not a forever system.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

That’s right.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

And I want to make sure that you make that clear so that the rights that one kingdom inside of the continent of Africa may have had with a warring tribe that they conquered inside the continent of Africa, who would not have both considered themselves Africans any more than two European groups at war would’ve. Europeans, they would’ve been Vikings or Frenchmen or whatever it was. That they would’ve had binds on what that slavery was that when the slaves sold changed completely. And I think that’s one of the key cases were building.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

You are precisely right about that and the papal bull, which changed everything was called Romanus Pontifex in 1455. And now there are a couple of things to say about that. Number one, it became international law because the Spanish kingdom, sorry, the Portuguese Kingdom lived in a competitive area of the world and it became international law. And as a side note, you can understand Henry VIII when he destabilizes or disestablishes the Catholic Church in the UK. This frees him from the international law imposed on Spain and the other Catholic powers in respect of Portugal. That’s something to bear in mind and that’s important to bear in mind because of the relationship between Elizabeth I and her pirateers who end up fighting Spain on open waters and capturing slaves to bring them to the United States. But before we get there, Romanus Pontifex happens and this produces essentially a free for all.

 

And as you said, I just want to make sure we close that point, and that is do not, if you’re thinking Africans sold their brothers for slavery, if you happen to be black and you think that this is the wrong idea. They didn’t know each other in the way that we talk about if you’re from the Caribbean, if you’re from wherever it is that you’re brothers, or if you have a white friend who’s close to you and you two share, you say, “That’s my brother.” That didn’t exist in that way. They didn’t know each other. They never referred to each other as Africans. You referred to yourself within the context of your particular tribe, the mobility of which unlike the Sand People who had been part of the great migration 1500 years ago from near Mali and Morocco, all the way down to a corner of Africa.

 

Most of the tribes were not peripatetic. You had the Benin’s and the Boers and so on up in the north. But for the most part in the sub-Sahara, they were not peripatetic. They were gathered around watering holes largely or the ocean. And that’s where people lived and so on. And Africa’s vast so they lived hundreds of miles from one another. And if you look at the footprint of where slavery, where the slaves came from, you are looking at places that are now between Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, that area, all the way down to Angola. This is a very small foot-printed area. And the Arab trade enslaved was many times larger, many, many times larger. The difference here was you were being enslaved outside of a historical context with a new set of people under a chattel framework that didn’t allow, strange as it may sound, people who were enslaved in that Arab logistical corridor in West Africa was sometimes sold to other Africans in the north, but still in Africa. Egypt, Tunisia, these sorts of places, Morocco and so on. There was a chance that they could return to their home. You could trek where you were going to, as people would’ve seen from the Amistad, is a wonderful scene in the film where when the enslaved ask, “Where are you from?” And the gentleman steps back a little bit, he steps back all the way into the shadows until he disappears and he says, “This is where I’m from.”

 

And I thought that was an interesting way to depict the psychological impact of someone now inferring the newness of the place that they have now encountered by force. That’s an important thing to note. The other thing to note is that once Romanus Pontifex has taking place, what we usually call the slave trade, we have to change, really change our reference point to that. This was a guns for slaves for commodities trade. You bring the guns, small tribal kingdoms, you meet the first tribal kingdom. Of course, I’m just giving a scenario here, that tribal leader says, “No, I don’t want your weapons, I don’t want to kill people. I don’t really want to do that. You go to the next one.” You say, “Listen, he bought a lot of guns from me, so he’s going to attack you. You’d better buy guns from me to protect yourself.” First it becomes a protection thing. You have this multipolar trap that you find yourself caught in which you, Daniel… Yes. Go on.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

This is important to just underscore. As we’re going, as the gunpowder revolution is advancing and it’s advancing disproportionately more in Europe than it is in Africa.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Absolutely.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

From this 1300 to 1600 time period, the asymmetry in weaponry is becoming much more significant. Where the Spaniards or the Portuguese might have taken a long time to make a certain degree of progress, once the British really got involved coming in and they were coming with lots of effective ballistics.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

That’s right.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Changed everything completely.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

And then it’s really a racket that they’re doing because they’re like, “We sell guns to one side of a rival tribe, and then go to the other one…”

 

We sell guns to one side of a rival tribe and then go to the other ones and say, “You have to have them to protect yourselves.”

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Right.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

But it’s basically a protection racket that we drove by introducing asymmetric weapons, and so they have to [inaudible] weapons, and then they trade us these slaves for the weapons. Obviously [inaudible] what the rest of it is, but that’s another thing where it’s like they didn’t really have a choice, because at the moment that we introduced that degree of asymmetric weaponry between tribes that might war with each other but have a certain binding on the ethics of their war with each other based on long historical context, we break their whole historical context and force them into our terms.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

That’s right, and so now, they can’t survive without these weapons, so it moves from a protection thing to an ambition, to a status-making proposition. So it’s no longer about protection. Now, rival tribes want the guns, because they want to be larger. So they don’t want it for protection anymore. It’s now part of an ambition. [inaudible]

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

It would seem like there is this throughline from protection and necessity into ambition, because the ambition is to get ahead of the race, the arms race, but if you weren’t trying to get ahead of it, you could forecast you would definitely lose at it, because the other guy’s trying to get ahead.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes, absolutely. No, the multiple [inaudible] trap remains as an animating force in all the relationships at that point. And so this begins the other thing that the viewers might wish to think about, and you mentioned Betty Wood, who wrote a wonderful book which neither of us can remember the name of, but we love it so much, a very small book, maybe 120 pages on slavery and colonial America. It’s a beautiful book, and this is one of the things she points out. She’s a careful enough scholar to think about the change to the anthropology, sociology, and psychology of the people from the African continent when they are put into this mix. So-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

The Origins of American Slavery.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes, absolutely. So if we’re speaking at the moment about people on the continent, and we’re accusing them… And some countries, Angola has apologized to… In 2016. Africa has five regions, north, south, east, west, central, and 54 countries. Well, by resolution, the African Union, in 2016, created a sixth region and a 55th country, called the country of the diaspora. Now, there’s an argument there that every human being is a member of this diaspora, right? Because you can’t… And this is some of the conflict we have when people make these arguments. On the one hand, you say everyone is from Africa, but when we say the diaspora, we’re speaking in national terms, which were invented by the colonialists, right? Denying Mother Africa, so to speak, her full panoply of humanity, which should be assigned to her.

 

So in anyway, that was done, and the idea there… During that period, Angola and about four other countries apologized to the diaspora for selling them… But they used the language of brotherhood, and they didn’t seem to recognize or didn’t seem to argue… And this gets… The reason, now some people will say, “Well, I think that’s nice,” or, “I think that’s gracious,” or whatever have you. Yes, but we should always try to get history in its proper context, because the narrative that we use at that end is going to bleed through when it’s come time for the solutions, and then we’ll have a very difficult time sort of crafting the solutions if we’re depending on a narrative which while it feels good, is actually inaccurate, you know? So this is profoundly important.

 

So you have that situation. Now you have the rival risk situations of kingdom against kingdom and so on, and you now have the slave trade. Everybody knows about the slave trade, but now we know about the guns for commodities, for slaves as commodities and so on, in a triangle that moved people, 12-and-a-half million people to what was then America. But it moved close to four or five times that to places like Brazil. The starting point was actually… One of the main starting points was Nevis, where Alexander Hamilton was born, and then Barbados, which was a very significant plantation. And then Jamaica. And these were largely…

 

So, human beings arrived in these places as cargo. Sugar was the main thing that left, right? Sugar was the main thing, and the United States was cotton and then tobacco, right? So these were the commodities that were the most important. So it then cycled to Jamaica, and then of course, Nassau was impossible to either maintain slavery, or maintain plantations, or maintain anything, since it’s mostly limestone and very shallow, the because it’s very shallow and very low to the sea level, you don’t have very good soil for any kind of growing. So it became a pastoral colony, and as people have seen, I’ll reference the film again just in case people haven’t read the books, but Pirates of the Caribbean, you see that the fight for Nassau is mostly piracy, because of the archipelago that those islands are.

 

And then Haiti, Saint-Domingue, was the big… had 36,000 plantations, Haiti did, and this was run by the French. And so you see, The Caribbean was split into these various areas as well, and all the European powers had their little dominions. Constant fights between the French and the Spanish, even though in the 1490s, a treaty was made called the Pope’s Line, Pope’s Line. In the Pope’s Line, because the Spanish had said to the pope, “We are members of the church as well. How can you give all this dominion to Portugal and leave us out of the equation?” They then divided up things between themselves, and what is now North America was Spanish at first, North America, and then South America was Portuguese, at least Brazil was. And then smatterings, the British were sort of picking off small places around The Caribbean, and this is how the structure was developed.

 

The salient period, or the salient moment, was the arrival of some people in 1619, into the American setting. Now, there have been lots of discussions about that, about whether or not this was the first landing of slaves. This is actually quite a complex situation, and I mentioned all the stuff about the Europeans, and what’s going on in Kitts and Nevis, what’s going on in Barbados, Jamaica, right? The United States, or America at the time. Because, there’s a unique legal situation going on.

 

I wrote an essay about the reception of English common law into the 13 colonies, and it was one of the most complex jurisprudential documents to put together, because for instance, while it was a British… America was British, the difficulty was that British law was made and basically imposed in the colonies by the lord proprietors who were given grants by the king. So, America was not seen as part of the jurisprudence of Britain, going up to their Privy Council, which is part of the House of Lords, and so going up to their high courts and so on. This is very, very important.

 

So in 1619, you have a ship… Sorry, you have at the time, a governor called Governor… I think it’s Argall, who was the governor of Jamestown. But there are two fiends. One is a cousin to the palace. His name is Hawkins, and the other one is Warwick. They are pirateers who conspire, and they say, “Wait, the situation is anomalous.” So there’s a war going on. You’ve got the Spanish using Dutch ships, but the British are at war against Spain, largely because Spain’s dominion given to them by the pope does not apply to Britain. And then we are British North America, so what we can do is we can raid Spanish ships and appear to be fighting Spain, which means that our British king will not find us offensive. And then, whatever happens with the cargo, we get paid, because nobody’s going to argue if we bring cargo of value into this new American setting.

 

So this is how these 20+-odd, as it was described in a letter, persons arrived, black persons from the continent of Africa, arrived. Now, here’s the thing. They were not slaves in the legal sense. They couldn’t be, because they were baptized, and under English law, no Christian could be enslaved. You had a similar thing in France with the Code Noir, which created all the problems in Haiti, because it wasn’t Christian, though. The French were a little bit more personal about it. If you were French, you could not be enslaved. So each country, as I say, had these little niches of legal and jurisprudential limitations that could be exploited. And so, these people were landed. They were indentured servants, but for all intents and purposes, they were enslaved, because they couldn’t go anywhere. They couldn’t buy their passages away. They couldn’t escape. They couldn’t none of that.

 

And so there they were on this landscape now, in this new setting, and many of them negotiated indentured contracts and things of that sort. And they were accommodated, because nobody intended at the time that they should be slaves in perpetuity. There were already growing free blacks in America at the time, and one free black became very, very important to this story.

 

Now, as I said, for those of the listeners who are thinking to themselves, “But surely, they felt they must have…” Those 20+-odd blacks must have felt like slaves, right? Wherever they came from, they were either sold as slaves or stolen, right? Kidnapped. So that’s one. They didn’t look on Hawkins or Warwick and say to themselves, “Oh my god, rescue,” when they were taken to America. But they would have found that it was kind of benign non-agency that they experienced there. But they could negotiate terms of their labor. They had times to work and all that kind of thing on the regular indentured contract.

 

Now, there are some things to note. The indentured service program had occurred about 16 to 18 years before. In England, in 1601, they had passed what are called the Poor Laws. The Poor Laws were kind of an apprenticeship law, and this shows you how the anomalous nature of the application of law at the time, to get people off the streets and get them into productive labor. The routine was that someone could… They had to volunteer to become an apprentice. If they didn’t volunteer, if you were a prisoner, you were just made an apprentice to make yourself productive in society, right? If they didn’t send you to Australia first, right?

 

And what eventually happened was people were just being kidnapped off the street and made… And then we’re talking about Europeans, you know? Were kidnapped off the street and put in… Because the profiteers and privateers, they could argue that they were following the poor laws. So the indentured program was itself, if you like, problematic from the very beginning. So it was not a safe position to be in, and therefore changes to that position were not difficult to contemplate.

 

And in the 17th century in the United States, from about 1639 to 1690, the life of blacks in America changed completely, absolutely and completely. And this began… There were little skirmishes here and there, but the real situation was Anthony Johnson, a… Well, you had John Punch, and John Punch was an indentured servant, and he ran away, along with two Europeans, and when they were caught, the Europeans were punished by having their indenture extended, and he was made to serve indefinitely. That’s the key thing, indefinitely. In 1655, a black man named Anthony Johnson had a white and a black indenture, and they left to begin another service, and Johnson was saying, “No, I have the right to their service.” And the courts ruled that in the case of the one John Casor, C-A-S-O-R, that Anthony Johnson had the right to his service for life.

 

Between that period and 1690, you had a transition. Rights of blacks, or privileges if you want to call them that, were being taken away. They couldn’t own property, so that changed. The status of the mother became the status of the child, and that locked in lifetime servitude for children. And the reason for that was because… I actually refer to it as the free rape strategy, because if you raped a woman before, then the children were yours as per the French situation, but this was the opposite of the Code Noir, because it said that the status of the child passed through the mother. This meant that if the mother was enslaved, that the child was enslaved, but then if the mother was a white indentured, then the child was indentured as well. So there was no escape, and so the shackles, the anti-freedom, the loss of liberty was growing by a progression, what financial people call stacking. There was a stacking going on.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

So, just to recap a couple things, with regard to this question of multiracial kids, if a white man and a black woman had a baby, versus if a black man and a white woman had a baby, how do you deal with it. When that law got formalized that it’s the status of the mother, there was now a situation where if there was a black female slave, all of her children, including by rape, including by whether from black men or white men, would all be owned by whoever owned her.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Absolutely.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Now incentivizing the maximum amount of rape was highly profitable, because you could either use those slaves or sell them.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Absolutely.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

And to just get a sense of how mind-blowingly gruesome that is, and then to go back and say you’re making a case that exactly the opposite of the Hobbesian case, and exactly the opposite of the kind of Pinker way of thinking about things, which is that history got progressively better, that it’s always been nasty, and yes, there were nasty things in the past, but like, I think a lot of people who don’t have a deep study of history, who grew up in the United States, think before the Emancipation Proclamation just seems like ancient history, like some… Before 1776, why would anyone even go back that far, and that there was probably worse slavery. They jump straight to Genghis Khan type examples, and assume that it was bad, but it’s been getting progressively better.

 

And you’re actually painting an opposite story, in which case the slavery was way less bad and got progressively worse, and there was a process of codifying slavery in America, and then in the Americas, The Caribbean and the Americas, and then specifically, slavery in the United States, and then specifically black slavery, as opposed to other forms of nonracial slavery in the United States, that became discontinuous with the way that most slavery practices historically had been.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Right.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

And much worse, where it did reify, because it needed some continuity, it reified a version of Aristotle and a version of [inaudible] but like the worst ones with the worst motivated reasoning, that now had nothing to do with the captures of war, and had nothing to do with the debt, and had everything to do with a permanent breeding labor class for economic competition.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Right.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

And that’s the point that I think is really critical that you’re constructing, and if anyone is just getting lost in the fact that it’s a lot of details, and obviously for every detail that Gilbert is sharing, there’s 1,000 relevant ones that he’s trying to avoid, that are important, is that the American slavery case, and the US slavery case, and the racialization of the slavery, is actually unique, and particularly problematic. So I want… We’re going to continue on that arc. I’m just wanting to kind of brush stroke where we’re going.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Absolutely. I think that’s a fantastic way of seeing it. And the reason is because… Here are some head-swinging propositions, to make the case about how slavery, the American version [inaudible] Because now, race has become central to the question. We’re now defining a specific set of people as nonhuman. Now, where does that come from? Lower than human. What does that come from?

 

In 1570, Abraham Ortelius creates a map. Cartography was growing because the… And here’s the thing. People talk about the value, whether slavery and slavering produced value. You wouldn’t have had global shipping were it not for enslavement. So cartography grew in many respects… I’m not going to say it’s absolute, but there’s a wonderful book by a fellow. I think his name is David Immerwahr or something. Anyway, he wrote a book called How to Hide an Empire. I can’t remember his name. A beautiful book, amazing book, and he demonstrates that the cartography of the United States is almost completely motivated by race, almost completely. The reason that they don’t take all of Mexico is because they were like, “There’s too many brown people there. Let’s take this portion, and that’s enough,” right? The reason that Puerto Rico has one status and Hawaii has another is because there were more Caucasians in Hawaii at the time, compared to Puerto Rico, where you had this massive group of brown people whose behavior were inscrutable. So, you have these issues.

 

Now Abraham Ortelius, when he makes this map, he has artwork. You know, people will know, if you live in the UK, if you go to university in the UK, the books, the great texts, even Darwin’s Origin of Species, they have something in it called a frontispiece, which is like a beautiful decorated page with a dedication to the king or something like that, with ornate artwork all around it. So here, this map did not take the entire page, just two circles, and then, excuse me, on the top of the map, there’s Europa and the Bull, right? The Bull of Europa and a lady, a beautiful, elegant lady, looks like Botticelli’s Venus or something like that. And then, over on the other side is the Asiatic, and they have someone representing… All women. It’s a woman representing her, and she is in beautiful colors, like wearing a traditional dress and so on. And then they have the India, and then they have Africa at the bottom.

 

What’s significant is Africa is at the bottom. So already, this map is beginning to say… It’s filling in the Aristotelian, the Aquinas, this open category that they’ve left based on civilizational advancement and all these sorts of things. Plus, there’s the dominance that’s going on in West Africa at the moment, and nobody is saying, “Hey, it’s a guns for the enslaved, for commodities trade, and there’s a rival risk proposition that’s being exacerbated on the continent, so they’re not actually losing, or they’re not actually just a bunch of disagreeable people who can’t behave. Something is happening to them.” No one says that. They just said, “Those people are always warring and so on, killing each other, but here we are, living in a great civilization, so we have advanced more than they have, because again, here we are.”

 

Then how does this get reified? What happens here? Well, it turns out that David Hume, part of the scholarship enlightenment, right? Great philosopher. David Hume tells a story that a man is said to be very intelligent, but the fact that he is black is a clear proof that he is merely parroting what he’s heard before. Now, this is coming from not some vicar in Bermondsey, you know? In Britain. This is David Hume, friend of Adam Smith, friend of Thomas Reed, who I think Jefferson read more than he read Hume actually, or Locke, friend of Dr. Johnson. And understand this. Dr. Johnson had a ward, a young man, who when he died, Dr. Johnson left all of his books and all of his money to this young black man.

 

So it’s not like Hume was estranged from the experience. In fact, when Hume died, he was an atheist, and Dr. Johnson, who was a terrible wit, went to see him to ask him whether or not he believed in God now he was going to hell. And Hume, gracious even unto death, aristocratic even unto death… So they knew each other that way, and Johnson did not treat this young man like a slave. He was as well dressed as Johnson. He educated him, all these sorts of things. So is it that that Hume looked at and said, “Well, he’s just parroting Johnson,” or is it that he just believed that in a general sense? But either way, he wrote it. Now-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

I don’t understand… And I’m not sure if you can help me with this. I don’t understand how after they knew of the pyramids in Egypt, and they knew of the… whatever they knew of the Great Nile traditions, how they could say something like that. Because they were, in some ways… I mean, obviously there was some gruesome motivated reasoning, but they were also trying to be men of natural philosophy and science, and the architecture that is involved in those buildings obviously did not come from parroting white people, and it involves very, very complex science. How did they think that?

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Well, this is… What’s really interesting is that the enlightened voices at the time would say things like, “It’s not a question of whether we built better buildings than they did. They built buildings that were suitable to their environment, and we built the ones suitable to our environment.”

 

Their environment, and we build the ones that are suitable to our environment. But they got things from us and we got things from them. Down in the Great Zimbabwe, they were influenced by Egyptian architecture, but Egyptians were influenced by Sudanese and all of them were counter influenced in later years by Europeans and that kind of thing. So human history really is a knitting together a confluence of influences rather than any self generated influence, such as we like to think of the lonely artists who just comes up with genius on his own. You can just look at the work of Picasso and know that that’s not true.

 

So Hume, I don’t want to paint a bad picture of him. I want people to just know what he said and understand it. Now, when I was teaching in the African American Studies department in George Mason, I didn’t teach anything, particularly African American, so to speak, because it was my view that all of human history belong to all human beings. So if I teach Hume, a student then says to me, “How can you teach that racist dead white male?” My point is, “Well, is that an argument against him?” You can say he was naughty or terrible or whatever have you, that’s not an argument.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

The real argument against him is in Hume’s philosophy, which is an anti epistemological philosophy, meaning Hume didn’t think, it’s much more complex than I’m going to say, but Hume didn’t think we could justify our knowledge. He was a skeptic. So that means Hume believed that you could not by induction, meaning looking at something, know anything. Bertrand Russell, who is very funny, and in his great big book, which you know when I was, boy, I read that book maybe 10 or 11 times, the History of Western Philosophy, because it was so funny. He has so many funny moments in there. And he says, “What Hume is basically saying is that if you eat an apple every day and it tastes like an apple, that’s no guarantee that tomorrow when you bite the apple, it won’t taste like meat.”

 

And then he wrote another book, The ABCs of Relativity, where he’s talking about the subatomic world and how the table appears smooth, but really the table has mountains and crevices at the subatomic level and it’s splitting apart and rotting and all these kinds of things, which you cannot see or experience. So basically what he’s saying about Hume is the core of Hume’s philosophy is that you cannot secure your knowledge by saying that you experienced it, you experienced X.

 

But here is Hume listening to someone speaking and deciding absolutely that person’s capacity and his complete humanity, not just him, but the entire race to which he belongs. That’s the argument against Hume, that he offended his own philosophical treaties. And that’s how we have to argue. You don’t have to say he’s a terrible man, he’s a dead white male and so on. What we have to do is to be able to look at his core arguments and say his arguments may be valid on the philosophical side, but in fact he offended them and therefore he must be put to the question, Hume scholars must be put to the question, why don’t they write about that as a significant breach of his own [inaudible]?

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

So there’s a performative contradiction, which he’s an extreme epistemic skeptic and most contexts. So any place where he makes a definitive statement would seem to go against a general grain of his epistemic skepticism.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Absolutely, yes.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

And he makes a very definitive statement about the cognitive capabilities and dispositions of people with black skin or African descent or however he described it. And so you can’t know about apples, but you can know about black people. Probably had much more experience with apples then… And so then one has to say, if he is rationally thinking about the limits of epistemology and comes up with his general view, why then does he violate it with his performative contradiction in this area? Is there some deep motivated reasoning or some identity complex or something that has him be against himself in this way?

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Right. No, it is. It raises quite deep and profound questions. The same thing unfortunately applies to Kant who many people will argue that Aristotle and Kant, the two greatest Western philosophers that ever there were and Kant says “There is a man who is black from head to toe, and this alone is a clear proof that he is stupid.” So I mean, it’s a stunning, there’s no escape. You don’t have any room to convince this person of another thing. Why is this important? Kant actually teaches, he’s a philosopher, but in those days, geography had the role of sociology and some elements of history, and he taught geography for his entire career. So Kant would’ve seen the Ortelius map and all the other cartography, which followed Ortelius, Abraham Ortelius after 1570.

 

And Kant makes the statement similar to Hume’s, that merely knowing that this man is black, you can already conclude. So basically this is a priori knowledge, which according to his philosophy, is impossible to know from mere induction, from mere observation. Now, what’s really significant there is this, Kant not only offends his epistemological thesis, he also offends, he and John Locke, have come to the same conclusion that the subjugation of the Negro is appropriate because he has come, essentially come from a culture and Kant writes this in his essay, The Sublime and the Beautiful. Everybody, every philosopher wrote essays like that, Sublime and the Beautiful. It’s part of a critique of judgment. So judgment is the estimation of things and so on.

 

But Kant has something called the categorical imperative, and it has two planks. One plank is treat others in such a manner that if you universalize that treatment, the world would be a better place. So behave towards others in such a way that if everybody behaved that way, the world would be a better place. Clearly, this statement doesn’t fit that. Number two, he says human beings should be ends in themselves rather than means to ends. Well, you’re setting up this situation where-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Blacks can’t be humans.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes, absolutely. So it’s a serious, serious problem where we find this problem resonating in the Americans. And so now we are fully in the American setting is with Thomas Jefferson. And Thomas Jefferson is the most frustrating human being to read because Thomas Jefferson says the absolute right thing on opposite sides of the same argument constantly. So if you want to read a justification for slavery, you read Thomas Jefferson. If you want to read a denunciation of Slavery, you read Thomas Jefferson. Go on.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Before we get into Jefferson and the founding Fathers and the Declaration, I want to close up something on the philosophical antecedents that they’re going to draw upon.

 

So we are an hour and 40 minutes or something like that into this conversation and have not actually gotten into the United States of America even existing yet, let alone post slavery and how systemic injustice is still happening. But you’re setting up something really important, which is if we don’t agree on the history and don’t understand the history, well, it’s very hard to agree on our current state assessment, in which case it’s very hard to move forward. And I know that from Aristotle to the Popes to Hume and Kant, these were all structures that ended up being utilized for what’s going to get set up, which is a form of slavery in which the human rights are stripped from people associated with race in a way that previous slavery didn’t have, and which makes the case so pernicious, which also ends up making how it is continued here.

 

So pernicious, I’m just thinking as you’re like, it’s almost like if someone was not thinking critically, you could see some grand multi millennial white conspiracy from Aristotle, it was obviously not Christian, to Popes to again, like Hume is an atheist to Aquinas across from Spaniards to Portuguese to British to colonialists where the Americans could fight a war against the British, but agree with them on supremacy of race. It almost seems like that, but when we go back and look at it, when Aristotle was talking about natural slaves, he was mostly not talking about a racial consideration. It was some Greeks were natural slaves to other Greeks. It’s just that concept got drawn on. And when the [inaudible] was made for the Portuguese Navigator, it was really a Catholic versus Muslim fight as to how it was framed. And so it’s not that as conspiracies often are, it’s not that there was actually this kind of great coordination, it’s that all of the useful things got to be sewn together by the later economic motivated reasoning. And that’s kind of the case that you’re building the building blocks for, is that correct?

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes, absolutely. At the London School of Economics, when you study politics, they warn you all the time that what seems like extraneous political considerations can set up and metastasize later into real central problems. So if you take, I mean we’re off a little bit, but if you take things like global mandates from organizations like the G20 or the complete shutdown of the world, you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist. If you study politics, political science, at London School of Economics, they warn you that when governments find that they can do something, then they find a way to do it because that’s just another area of power. And people have, and Gibbon says this in book volume four with the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, that once a power has been experienced, it will be experienced again that nobody’s going to walk away from that and say, “I didn’t like how that felt.”

 

Unless you’re the most sort of extreme Democrat or a libertarian who has read Frederick Hayek, I suppose. So you’re absolutely right, and let us just remember this complex between the Plenitudo Potestatis of the Pope, which is the Pope’s global power and the distinction between the British and the Spanish and the Portuguese. But when we come to Hume, Kant, Jefferson, obviously Hegel argues as well, Voltaire as well, all these sorts of people believed in the, did they create a great civilization? Do they have a [inaudible] right? Do they write books like Candid?

 

What country actually is the instantiate of the fulfillment of all these things that the Europeans believe are [inaudible] of civilization? It’s Russia, from Peter the Great to the present, it’s Russia. And even though Leo Tolstoy had a great influence on many, so Tolstoy influenced Gandhi, Tolstoy influence, Schopenhauer, the mystical elements of Schopenhauer work are all influenced by Tolstoy. The first 40 pages of War and Peace were written in French because Tolstoy thought that was more aristocratic. Peter the Great also tried to mimic the cities that he saw in Europe. So this idea of great cities and great writing and so on are the proper parties, cotillions, these sorts of things are emblems of civilization. That is a very provocative and profoundly infectious way of thinking.

 

And Jefferson had that in spades himself. So if you think about Monticello with this constant refurbishing, Jefferson was always broke, always. I told you before we came on, he has something in common with the rapper who gets the first album and then goes out, buys a BMW or the basketball player who gets the first contract and goes out and buys a super expensive car. In Jefferson’s case, of course, it was books and things like that, huge trunks of books. And Ben Franklin, who was a more prudent fellow, would constantly joke with Jefferson about his spending habits, well beyond his needs. But every time Jefferson traveled, he wanted to give the image of being a country squire. And one example, Jefferson writes that the black is inferior, right? Let’s remember Hume’s relationship with [inaudible], the young black man. But when a French orchestra came to play at Jefferson’s home, he bade them to remain for several months so they could teach members of his slave holding crew to learn to play so that when he puts on his dinner parties, he could say, “I have my own private orchestra.”

 

You’re using the very brains of the people you say have no brains to promote yourself as being a squire. And so one understands a pernicious argument where a fellow says, “Blacks are inferior. I need to say that because I don’t want to give them any hope because I don’t want them to run away. I need to keep them.” That’s one type of thing. But is that what he’s doing? We don’t know. It would take a massive psychological study. So Jefferson has read Locke, I’m afraid everyone who knows me knows I’m not a fan of Locke at all, right? But he read Thomas Reed, who I thought was the greatest of the Scottish Enlightenment philosophers. And Thomas Reed’s philosophy is a common sense philosophy, which most embodies Jefferson’s positive thinking. And because of Jefferson’s penning of the Declaration of Independence and the excursions to the West, which he authorized and oversaw at the building of Monticello, the other writings, the farming manual with in his notes on Virginia and President, there’s no doubting that Jefferson is part of the, he’s not just a founding father, he is sort of in that top four of what is held to be the founding fathers. And students struggle with this when they find out Jefferson had a relationship with Sally Hemings, when she was 14, beginning when she was 14. So he’s writing at the same time that she-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Many people might not know who Sally Hemings was.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Oh, sorry, Sally Hemings is a young slave girl who belongs to Jefferson, and then he basically beds her and she becomes his companion. Now, there are historians like Joseph Ellis and a couple of others who rejected this idea saying that Jefferson would never have done that. And he, there’s one point at which I think it’s Joseph Ellis who said Jefferson was just too moral for that. And then the evidence came out that he did in fact have a long standing relationship and children with this young girl. And we have said, “How do you talk about this? How do you talk about Winston Churchill?” Who oversaw slaughter in, I think it’s Gallipoli, and then a famine, which he caused in the Indian subcontinent and said, many, many, I mean absolutely brutally racist things, did not want to let colonies go, call Mahatma Gandhi a [inaudible] and all these kind of things.

 

And you’re sitting there as a young, whether you’re black or white, but obviously if you’re black, it’s you’re telling me to treat, you’re lecturing about this man as if he’s a hero. And at the same time, he’s saying these things, which diminish me, and you and I, Daniel had spoken about this, about the difference between the good man and the great man. And Jefferson was a great man. You cannot take that away from him. His intellectual abilities, his curiosity, the range of his interests and so on. He’s a great man. Winston Churchill, during the second, first of all, had the courage to see Adolf Hitler coming when nobody else did. That’s one.

 

Number two, he convinced his country that they could win, and he convinced America to enter the war on the British side. Two big, one political, one diplomatic, two big feats. If you had any doubts about that, in the middle of a war, he writes a history of the English speaking people and wins a Nobel Prize for literature, right? He wins a Nobel Prize for peace. But oh, by the way, if you had any doubts about that, he enters the Paris Grand Prix for watercolors under a pseudonym and wins for his watercolors, right? He was constantly broke, so he had to write articles all the time. Boris Johnson attempted to pattern himself after Churchill in this way.

 

Christopher Hitchens probably had the better of the two experiences, writing articles at the last minute, which turned out to be masterpieces. And so Churchill did that. So Churchill is a great man who may not have been a good man. Jimmy Carter is a good man who as president never became a great man, but his goodness was so good that it made him great, such as you see him doing all this work for the poor now. I think if we use that instead of dead white males, we could extract from the person real value while recognizing their failures. Because we’re not saying these are folies, like all human beings are imperfect. I’ve heard people say that too, as a defense. These are not imperfections. These are venalities, right? These are outside the pale. These are venalities and moreover they are contradictory. And if we want to be able to embrace someone like Jefferson, even a, I found this problematic with George Washington because he’s presented as the purer version of American humanity compared to Thomas Jefferson.

 

But Washington does something that I find almost unforgivable. When Colin Kaepernick was doing the kneeling, a friend of mine who was in the US military, he says to me, “But Gilbert, my colleagues and I, we bled for that flag. So that flag really is us.” And I said, “No, it’s not. No, no, no, no. You’ve got that. There are people who identify with that flag much more than you. They are way more patriotic than you. And not because you don’t want to be. You just are not in the circumstance where you could exercise that level of patriotism.” And so of course, he said to me, “Well, who could that be?” And I said to him, “The slaves who fought for George Washington against the British, who would’ve freed them for someone who had enslaved them and then re enslaved them after the Revolutionary War.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

This is, before we go back to Jefferson and great man, not good man. And the ability to hold the complexities so that we don’t reduce history into one or the other of the two reductionist narratives. And before we go into why the Declaration of Independence is so complicated for anybody of African American descent, right? This thing about the American Revolutionary War and the slaves fighting and then moving on into the Civil War and all the way into World War I, this was something I hadn’t known when I started to look into it, and it’s such a fucking huge part of understanding it. Can you just elaborate a little bit?

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes, absolutely. I mean, if you think about, it’s a really key point, but it runs through runs. If you read people like Philip Curtin on the plantation system, or Eugene [inaudible], or you read W.E.B. Du Bois on black reconstruction, you begin to see some of the psychological fallout of attempting to make this commitment. In the cognitive neuroscience of it, we human beings are constantly attempting to find more than a marginal likelihood of a particular outcome. Okay, That sounds complicated, what do I mean? If you live in a society that’s organized according to laws rather than kings or men, it should be relatively predictable, right? Within a certain band should be relatively predictable. This, if you go into your house, there are things in your moving around your house, it’s generally predictable. You actually don’t have to have a high cognitive exercise yourself at a high cognitive level in order to move around your house because you are familiar with it. You know what to expect.

 

The experience from 1619, I would say to the present is that blacks could never situate themselves, it seems properly in the society and gain more than a marginal likelihood of what will happen to them in any particular situation, and there are people who’ve written about this. Ellis Coast wrote a book called The Rage of the Privilege Class. So these are people who, I call them [inaudible]. So they’re, they speak well, they dress well. They’re sophisticated, they’re knowledgeable. They went to the best schools. They have some of the best jobs. They’re black, and they’re writing about the constant shock. One of the other things about cognitive neuropsychology is that the brain is always seeking what is called a proportionality constant with the world. So you’re not expecting surprises. You drive a certain way, according to the rules. People aren’t supposed to run the red light. That’s a surprise. You service your car, you don’t expect the tires to blow up. That’s a surprise.

 

So there are all these things that people may call it taking it for granted. That’s a little bit too general. We organize ourselves to limit surprise. We’re constantly trying to limit surprise. And the neuroscientist, Karl Friston speaks about this very often. But if you live in a society and society of laws, and you can never seem to get by the entropy of surprise because the normal things in which where you place yourself, you don’t… So I’ll give you another example.

 

I didn’t finish that statement, but I was surprised when I came to America as teaching at George Mason and President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama was issuing medals to soldiers, black and Hispanic soldiers who served in Vietnam, in some cases in the Second World War, who did not receive the benefits that was assumed… You can’t make excuses for that. That’s a sort of margin beyond a margin of likelihood. That is just, you can’t metabolize that and feel that you’re part of the society. Right? I met John McCain once and I asked him, I said, “Well, how do you feel having your medals when in military terms it’s a brotherhood of blood, patriotism, and iron? And if we’re going to believe…”

 

And if we’re going to believe in that, I couldn’t take my medal if I know you deserved one and you weren’t given one. Because if you are going to have a covenant, and this is where we’re going to end up. If you have a national covenant and that covenant is that those who sacrifice for the national wellbeing, those who risk their lives, well what if the people who are risking their lives are actually slave, that the society enslaved? That was the question that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. Desmond Tutu asked the question, well, we are all supposed to obey the laws of the state, but what if the state is the terrorist? You can’t say that. The citizen must find a way. And this is I think what you were referring to at the beginning where some of these narratives are just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and the little engine that could and suck it up and deal with life as it is.

 

Yes, you have to do that because in law there’s something called mitigation. And if you see your house burning and you didn’t burn it, you have an obligation to attempt to put fire out. That’s your job. So mitigation is the highest point of personal responsibility because it’s actually taking responsibility for something for which you are not responsible. So every citizen has to do that as their duty, but that doesn’t eliminate the responsibility of the state where the state has denied that citizen a benefit to which that citizen is entitled. If I pay taxes in the United States, I expect the police officer or the person in the post office or any of these places to treat me just as they would treat anyone. The issue isn’t that I want special treatment, the issue is I’m a taxpayer and the covenant that we’ve made is that I pay my taxes as a contribution to the state itself. So here you have Washington at Valley Forge, the soldiers-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Before we go back to Jefferson and Washington, because they know we’re going back there. You said quite a lot of things at reference conversations that we’ve had where since I don’t know as much of the history as you do, I might have an easier time gruesomely truncating critical parts to be able to just make sure a couple pearls are hit. I want to go ahead and just do that on a few things if you don’t mind, and then we’ll go from that.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Okay.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

So to just make sure these parts go in there, I had not known that during the Civil War that there were slaves who volunteered to fight on… I mean, not during the Civil War, during the American Revolutionary War, slaves fought on both sides. Some ended up going and fighting with the British, but some fought on the American side against the British, even though the British were already getting rid of slavery before the US were.

 

And even though when the US in setting up the Declaration of Independence, all men are created equal in a constitution and could have easily said slavery was a British thing, we’re done with it, now as we’re done with Britain, they didn’t. They doubled down on it and you’ll find it in their constitution, imagine being a slave who had been treated so gruesomely already known as generationally, who says, “You know what? As an act of good faith, I’m going to fight side by side with these people, risk dying with them because afterwards they’ll return the favor and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to free you and let’s do this thing together.’ And then they just enslave you afterwards.” And then to have that happen again in the Civil War and to have it happen again in the World War I and where there is no act of good faith that is ever paid back well across the whole population, it’s almost every act of good faith on behalf of the Black population is violated.

 

And then after the Emancipation Proclamation finally happens, it doesn’t really end slavery, it just moves the system to this weird kind of peonage system where now being black just becomes illegal since the 13th and 14th Amendment give the possibility [inaudible]. Save them for that?

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

And the part that you told me, and again, I hadn’t known of how intense the reconstruction effort was after emancipation, that whether we’re talking about Black Wall Street or what happened in 50 different cities, that the most intensive effort for a people to educate themselves, police themselves, pull themselves up by their bootstraps, generate economic welfare in somebody else’s culture, that they did that and then were externally bombed by larger military forces. The people who are Black who got into positions of mayor or senator were assassinated. There does come a point where you’re like, fuck, how long do you keep telling the pull yourself up by your bootstrap story when that’s happened so much and it never doesn’t get betrayed? And this is where when we get to the current pissed off woke perspective, if someone doesn’t know that history, they’re just like, “Dude, why are you so upset?”

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes. And the problem there… I’ll give you… This sets it out in bold relief. So I’ll cover all the points that you’ve made. Jefferson has Sally Hemmings and this is, as I said, a young girl and it’s… Lord Mansfield in 1772 has Elizabeth Bell, right. She’s called Deda. She’s a Black woman, young woman. Lord Mansfield is a judge of the British High Court. So fully two years, three years before the Declaration of Independence, if you want to show the contrast, Jefferson says, “I want Sally Hemmings, I have her as my woman from the time she’s a child. I’m writing a Declaration of Independence. Is there no love in my heart that I can make this explicit that I know better than most Americans, the humanity of these Blacks?” Now he does write that I fear that God is just, when I think of what we’ve done to our… Well, what’s the point of writing that when your actions, your behavior… He’s still a very harsh slave master who chases after slaves if they try to escape and punishes them rather than saying, “I know the withholds of your desire for freedom.”

 

Lord Mansfield has award, a young woman, she stays with him at his estate, he adopts her. Jefferson says, “We can’t let the slaves go because it’ll cause such economic turmoil. It’ll be very, very difficult to assimilate them in society and so on.” I told you the story of Jefferson’s of Sally Hemmings brother who was a chef, was Jefferson’s chef goes to Paris, he’s being invited all over the place. He sets Paris ablaze with his cooking, his style, his humanity, and so on. Jefferson sees all of this and he comes back and he says to Jefferson, when he gets into the White House, “I would like to be the official chef at the White House.” And Jefferson doesn’t answer him. He drinks himself to death in some gutter somewhere. He can’t believe it. And as you said, Jefferson could have just paid his passage back to France where he could have a good life, fully assured that his sister was okay, doesn’t happen. Lord Mansfield, a case is brought to him called the Somerset case.

 

In this case, the British slavers and the British had a surreptitious way of being involved, so the Barclays, the Lloyds, the entire board of the Bank of England, almost every Lord in Bristol, Liverpool and London, were all engaged in the slave trade. They secretly owned ships and things of that sort, provided insurance, provided loans even though it was illegal in Britain. But when this case came before Mansfield, the defendant said, “If you rule against us, many of us will come to economic ruin.” Mansfield judgment was let justice be done, though the heavens may fall. Now, so on the economic side, he’s different… The men of the same era, men of the same intellect, distinction, prestige, Mansfield was a much wealthier man. I mean, he was what Jefferson wanted to be. So if that’s your ambition, this is the man you want to be like. He rules by conscience and says, “Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.” And then he does something, he makes Elizabeth Bell, the first heiress of the western world, Black heiress, by leaving her a share of his estate. So every action he took towards her confirmed and embellished her humanity. Every action that Jefferson took towards Sally Hemming merely used her as a means to an end, although in the end she negotiated with him a settlement for her and her children. So-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

The point you are making here is when there’s so much debate around monuments made to people who were great men but not good men currently. And we think about early history, one of the arguments is they were a man of their time. And you’re basically saying no, the best arguments against slavery happened in ancient India and happened in ancient Athens. And that there have been very good arguments against slavery by moral people for thousands of years. And at the time of American slavery, there were other aristocrats and positions of high responsibility arguing against it. So it really wasn’t man of the time, it was a particular kind of motivated reasoning and that it is important to hold that clearly.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes. And you got to be able to hold that without throwing our hands up and saying I want nothing to do with Jefferson. You can’t avoid Jefferson. That’s not the… The real lesson in life, whether it’s in your personal life or in political life, is that you have to hold things together in yourself that are anathema to your values and so on and be able to maneuver them in the right way and figure out what the lesson is in that thing. So Washington is at Valley Forge. Soldiers are suffering from smallpox. There’s a young man who’s brought by an American aristocrat, says this young man has a solution for smallpox. This young man shows them how to create a medical solution for smallpox and they inoculate members of the army.

 

At the same time, there’s a Prussian officer who whips the army into shape, who turns out, we learn later to be a gay fellow. So you have a Black and a gay saving Washington’s army at Valley Forge. It’s hard to process, to metabolize, where the sympathy is in Washington, given that he had the capacity much greater than Lord Mansfield to put matters right in America. If you are going to say that he had the kind of influence and he was the kind of example, and people honored him in the way that they did, respected him in the way that they did, you can’t use that as a trophy. You have to ask where has he used that as a tool?

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

The Fugitive Slavery Act, didn’t Washington enact that?

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Say again.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

I said, I think Washington enacted the Fugitive Slavery Act, didn’t he? That happened to be one of the particularly gruesome ones.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes, absolutely. And so my point is, at every turn, again, when you expect the more than the marginal likelihood of an appropriate behavior, you get less than the marginal likelihood and appropriate behavior and you get a surprise. But when you are living according to principles, in general, there should be fewer surprises. There should be fewer surprises-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

So now obviously more people studying US history, whether from a blue state or a red state, have come to know about who George Washington and who Jefferson are than Lord Mansfield. And so there comes to be a question where it seems like those who are good at the game of power and good at rationalizing abuses of power that are advantageous to them while still being able to appear moral and maybe even be moral in other contexts that are not too costly for them end up winning. And so this seems to be kind of the beginning of where critical theory starts to say we have to reevaluate in light of the game of power being central. But that ends up coming to where we are that is so challenging in culture at the moment. So I think there might be a few more steps that you want to set up. I’m just kind of making a [inaudible].

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes no, for sure. Ralph Ellison writes a book, a great novelist, writes a book called Invisible Man. And he’s basically saying it is a Black man, I’m invisible. The book has a scene called a Golden Day. Golden Day. There’s a Black college in the town, and the head of the college is Dr. Bledsoe and Mr. Norton is the wealthy Northerner, who sponsors the college. And Dr. Bledsoe tells one of the students, “Okay, you drive him around, but you take him to the pretty part of town, do not take him to where those true Negroes are because I don’t want to get in trouble basically.”

 

So Mr. Norton sees he’s driving around with the young man, they take him to the pretty part of town, but then he sees someone in the field, and this is an old timer, you call them, a Black old timer. And he’s in the field and Mr. Norton says, “Take me to him.” And the young man knows immediately, this is against the instructions that I was given. You’re not supposed to go on the other side of town. They go on the other side of town. The old timer’s name is Trueblood. And that just tells you right away… That sounds like a guy from Louisiana standing in the marshes, who has wisdoms year ahead, you can’t really hold it in your head. And Mr. Norton becomes aroused, so to speak. I mean, in every aspect of his being he cannot handle what is being shared with him, he thinks. And the young man is just terrified now because “I’m in the south at this school with a white man in my car who’s out. This is not good.” So he drives and there’s a bar called the Golden Day, that’s why it’s called the Golden Day scene. The Golden Day, but on top of the bar, because Blacks have nowhere to go is the insane asylum.

 

So they take him to this bar and my grandfather and his friends used to pour everything that was one inch high in the bar into one glass. And they used to call that swill. So they give him something, it’s the equivalent of swill. And he turns red and he’s just… I mean, it’s probably equivalent to gasoline at that point. They take him upstairs to the insane asylum because there is a physician up there, brain surgeon, but he’s completely off his rocker. He’s insane. But they figure “That’s the closest thing we have to a doctor. This is a wealthy man who sponsors a college in this town. We need to make sure that he gets some medical attention. After all, that’s who we have to go to.”

 

And the scene there is one of the most powerful, in my view, in the history of American literature because the brain surgeon says, “Why are you sponsoring this boy’s education?” And Mr. Norton gives the usual spiel, “Because I wanted to do well.” And so the brain surgeon basically asked, “Well, can he replace you?” And this is the ultimate question you, you’re doing all of this, but can he actually replace you. If you believe in this covenant, what are the limitations to this covenant? And the brain surgeon basically tells Mr. Norton, “I am a brain surgeon. I am at the apex of what Americans regard as brilliant, a scientist, a physician and not only that, I served in the war and that when I came home someone was dying. I get off the ship, someone’s dying. I take my little bag and I operate on him. And the white people there beat me to convince me that just because I have this talent doesn’t mean I’m equal to them.”

 

I mean, it’s a dramatization of precisely everything that we’re saying. That when he came off that boat, having volunteered for a country that enslaved him, and he’s also a neurosurgeon, which means he’s achieved the highest level of scientific training in the medical profession [inaudible], nobody walks around calling a neurosurgeon dumb. I mean it just doesn’t happen. And so he’s at the apex of what should be respectability and yet he finds himself chased away because there is a notion that we can’t let you believe that even though you put in the work and you made the sacrifice that you’ve earned anything.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

So we have to come back because this is obviously a case where at this point the racism is so gruesome, but that was not the case when we started with Aristotle where it was a different thing. And so I want to come back to, you’ve mentioned that the Declaration of Independence is fraught because it was written by someone who raped his underage slave and didn’t give her or any of the other slaves the opportunities that he easily could have. So in one way, you just want to throw the whole thing out. And on the other hand, the people who are seeking a world that has the most kind of just social policy use the Declaration of Independence as one of the best legal documents that they have. It just hasn’t been fulfilled.

 

As Martin Luther King said, “Were just asking you to fulfill the promise.” But I think the key thing is the idea that we became so economically wed to the slavery system and built a system that was so dependent upon it until really the industrial revolution started and capitalism more widely started to make it to where we were less dependent on it, which is an argument as to what actually ended slavery and created a capitalist indentured servitude system. But in order to do this weird mental gymnastics that all men are created equal and that we’re moral, we had to make Black people not men. And that was like, that’s the heart of the racial thing here that was so key. Can you go into that a little? Because it’s fundamental.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes. Daniel, you are correct. The Declaration of Independence, to me, is like [inaudible] or Dante’s Divine Comedies or Beethoven’s [inaudible] or Coltrane’s song, Kind of blue. I mean-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

I would always cry every time I read it because it was so fucking beautiful.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Sorry, not Coltrane, Miles Davis. And here’s why: if you are a legal scholar and if you are a linguist and you are a logician, you’ll read this document and understand. So when Jefferson… I refer to it as the rational saying of the sacred, that’s how I teach it, the rational saying of the sacred. So we hold these truths to be self- evident already there. They are not self-evident, but the way we are going to metabolize them is as if they are self-evident. This is a duty we take upon ourselves to believe in narrative and moral perfection. We hold these true… So that allows the people who are non-Christian, they can’t get away from the absolute statement that Jefferson… He didn’t say it is self-evident. That would’ve been a mistake.

 

But he says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” Now when you say created equal, you’ve moved it from the realm of logic and language and you’ve added the divine. And endowed by their creator with rights inalienable. Why inalienable? Many of my students were confused. My American students were confused in jurisprudence, they think inalienable means that your rights can’t be taken away. And I would always teach this with Ben Franklin’s statement that he who would limit his liberty for safety or freedom will have neither or something like that. Well, that statement is kind of redundant because you can’t live under the American proposition. You can’t limit your freedom. Inalienable means you can’t alienate. Not it can’t be taken away from you. You can’t give your rights away. That’s the one power over themselves that Americans do not have the power to end their rights. I mean, just think-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

This was a particularly big deal given that the previous primary way people found themselves in slavery was through debt. So-

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Absolutely.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

They could give away their rights by irresponsible spending habits-

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Absolutely. You read all of Charles Dickens and so on, debtors prisons all over London and that sort of thing. So this is a profound statement that does an amazing logical trick and then subsumes it with divinity and then formulates, out of this, a covenant that is impregnable. It’s impregnable as stated. And there can be no doubt of Jefferson’s genius. It reads beautifully, It’s logical, it has brevity in the sense that the main statement says everything that needs to be said. All right.. And I’ve always found it tremendous, but you have to ask yourself what… And I gave some lectures with Professor Jeffrey Stewart and Adrian Davis and Nel Painter and a group of others at the Princeton Mid-Atlantic Scholars Association between ’97 and ’99. And I referred to this as a moral schizophrenia. That the statement is so profound that it seems to me had to have been created by two separate minds.

 

One mind creating that statement, another mind enslaving human beings. And near the bottom the Jefferson actually blames King George saying that it was he who put us in this nasty business of the slave trade. And you read it and you’re asking your… Human beings in relationships, psychologists always taught you, be careful of what you say. There’s some things that you say that eliminates the possibility of anything rational following that. So if someone is going to make a statement like this and has slaves, it eliminates the possibility of anything rational which can be said after that. And so this is why the failure of the Founding Fathers and many, many Americans at the front end of this period is not just a slight flaw, it’s not just a tick, it’s an egregious breach, which by now the nation should have addressed in the most formal and formidable ways. Now, you gave me a litany of things. So you come to 1863-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Just to be clear, the nation could have said, “We don’t have an economically viable way to end slavery instantly, where the economic disadvantage to us won’t equal Britain coming back and kicking our ass or someone else who… And thus we have to start to phase it out but we’re going to have a-

PART 5 OF 7 ENDS [02:35:04]

 

… And thus we have to start to phase it out. But we’re going to have a process of phasing it out over a generation, increasing the human rights.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Right. Right.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

[inaudible]. So it’s also not just a theory of trade offs, right?

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Right.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

You could say we are in a hard position and we’re still going to identify the moral vector.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Right. So you didn’t have to go with Lord Mansfield’s point, let justice be done, though the heavens fall. You had all the power-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

To do something.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

… You could have done something. Yes. So now, there’s always a discussion about Lincoln. It seems to me, in my view, Lincoln was both a good and a great man. Right? And people talk about the letters that they found where he was trying to set up another slave colony like Liberia and all these sorts of things. Lincoln would’ve had the same problem of trying to figure out where to put these people, the ancient problem. If we don’t believe in slaughtering people and getting rid of them, there’s a society running, how do you ingrain them? And I read Thomas Sowell on Slavery and you mentioned Glenn Loury, and he has a colleague, Professor John McWhorter and both great professors and so on. And I’ve watched the exchanges on these issues.

 

And as I said to you, it feels to me like in America everybody has fallen into a ditch and they’re arguing about who misdecorated the ditch rather than how to get out of it. And this is where the argument on race and slavery has fallen because there’s never any real progress, narrative progress, conceptual progress when you live in a country that has a governing mantra that asks its citizens to contemplate an evermore perfect union. So this should be the American prayer before any public discussion, before any disagreement, it should be that the end of any debate that we have should be setting us on the train to a more perfect union. That really… You have that there, doesn’t matter that it was written by people who didn’t follow it, because it’s like the NBA or football, people say, Well, we didn’t create this league, and this league is for all the owners, and so on. Yeah, but if you don’t show up to work and you do whatever you want, you’re not going to have a league.

 

You’re not the one negotiating television contracts. You’re not the one putting up the money for it, you’re not doing any of that. There’s an entire industry behind that. And if that industry can manage to pay you, the total amount of players, 35% of the total revenue generated, even if you say you deserve more than that, the fact is they generated that much. I mean, you have to see that. So the United States of America exists. It exists, right? The question is whether or not even those who feel themselves rightly victims of what has transpired over its history, whether they have what it takes to pursue a more perfect union. And here’s the point, that’s not a criticism because we have discussed this already, that after the Emancipation Proclamation, you would think people who’ve been enslaved in one way or the other for more than half a century or almost half a century, sorry, they’ve had their families broken apart, their wives, daughters, and mothers raped, right? They’ve seen a spawn of children. Their families are not actually in many cases unified.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

50% of all of the slave sales broke up nuclear families, removed the [inaudible] parents.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Absolutely, so the pain is devastating. Excuse me. And when I read Thomas Sowell, and I love Thomas Sowell, he’s taught me things that I’m going to mention, brilliant insights, but I thought his discussion of slavery was historical malpractice. And I would say I would give him a chance to explain himself, but I think Glenn Loury has kind of put himself, Professor Glenn Loury, has put himself in a similar situation just arguing about woke-ness without the preliminary argument for how we got there. Let’s go through the logistics of that. If you say Lincoln says, America is that place where I work for another today, so I can work for myself tomorrow, excuse me, so that I may hire another to work for me the following day.

 

Now, if that is the process, I showed diligence and initiative, work for someone else, I show creativity, work for myself, I expand and I have another work for me. And then he can repeat, or she, that same process. That’s America, all right. When the slaves are free, those enslaved are free, they don’t ask for anything. They don’t complain. They don’t demand anything. What they do is they build 52 enclaves all over the United States. They negotiate for schools. More than 150 that I know of become public officials, or congressmen, or these sorts of things. You get all of these medical schools like Meharry, Xavier, they produce morticians, dentists, physicians, all these people, because whites don’t want to do these things for them. They create a vibrant society. Most people know about Tulsa, or Rosewood, or Grosse Pointe in Detroit and a couple of others.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

I have actually found that most people don’t. I have found that maybe now education has changed where most millennials do, but it’s amazing how many people that are Gen X or older never-

Professor Gilbert Morris:

They have no idea.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

… [inaudible] Black Wall Street, never heard of the bombings, never of anything like that.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

It’s stunning. And the way I teach it is not just Blacks have their own things. It’s hey, they had the right to complain, to demand, but they went out and built these things themselves. So in terms of the American ethic, these are the greatest Americans that ever lived. In terms of the American ethic, these are the greatest Americans that have ever lived because they pull themselves up by the bootstraps. They didn’t-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Pulling yourselves up from having been a slave from multiple generations is different than pulling yourself up from being poor. It just is.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

… It’s just totally different.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

It’s a way higher degree of trauma and lack of agency.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

And you’re doing it not just from slavery, but in an atmosphere of racism. Right? And let’s try to understand what racism is. Everybody has prejudices. Racism is not a feeling. Racism is a construct, is an infrastructure of power. And that means that… That’s why when people say, well, Blacks are racist, actually no, they’re prejudiced. They have prejudices just like you. Everyone has prejudices. But if I can apportion benefits based on race, if I can impose on you based on race, if I can eliminate your ability to complain and find a solution based on race, that is racism, that is more than prejudice because I still have the prejudice in me, but I’m able to do something externally that limits your chances because of my prejudice.

 

And so they operate in this circumstance. And it would be interesting to me… I mean, there are books about it. There’s one called The Burning, which is a good book, but I haven’t seen the kind of studies, or museum exhibitions, or conferences that doesn’t just merely show that they built these communities, but to understand within the terms of the American ethic what it would take for a people to come, as you have said, out of slavery, and have your own insurance companies, your own realty, one or two people have their own planes, banks, all these sorts of things with a community laid out and designed as any gated community you can find in today’s world. And to do that in a wide variety of places, it seems to me every American Black or white should hold that up as a model of what it means to be American.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

And this brings up why you said that in your idea of what the American ethic is, Frederick Douglass was maybe the greatest American who ever lived.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

But again, for those who don’t know the history, and it obviously is beyond the scope of what we can do as we’ve got to wrap in this bit of time, all of those great reconstruction efforts where people took themselves out of slavery, still in the presence of ubiquitous racism, figured out how to educate themselves to then be able to build whole cities, and infrastructure, and wealth. Why we don’t still see those is because they were all attacked by asymmetrically larger forces from the outside and destroyed in a way that had no grounding in law.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

With government complicity. And so you had that, now think about this. You come out of slavery, you have this pact where the Union Army is in all throughout the south. States have their chances to, and you can read about this in Black Reconstruction for those who want to read it by W. E. B. Du Bois, and there’s also a great series of studies by a young professor, Ellora Derenoncourt, you should read her as well on migrations to the North and why. And people just gave up people, but why wouldn’t they? You’ve been enslaved all this time, you come out, you show the greatest exhibition of the American ethic ever on American soil. In 1877, there’s a presidential election and a compromise is made and Grant sullies his reputation by making this compromise with Hayes.

 

And the compromise is that the army will be pulled out of the south. And as soon as that’s done, slaughter takes place beginning in New Orleans of state senators and people like that, councilmen and all those sorts of things. And this continues, in Rosewood, they burn it to the ground. Wilmington, Delaware, sorry, Wilmington, North Carolina, where people don’t know that there was one of these major, major residential and commercial areas there built up by Blacks, again, and the hurt feelings are still there. It seems like they can’t, the state or the people there don’t know how to be Christians because Christianity provides the process of repentance.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

There was some very weird, I don’t know the mental gymnastics involved, some very weird Christian considerations about darkness.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Darkness and blackness was that which was against the light and evil and associated with skin color so that Christians could justify the most un-Christianly behavior, even where Christians could earlier, pre-emancipation, enslave Blacks rightly while being Christian because it was the only way that the Black could actually ascend to God. [inaudible] mental gymnastics.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

I had a student when I came to America, I mean, I taught in Britain, and I’m from The Bahamas. But I came to America, there was a student in the back of my class there at George Mason, and he said to me, “Well, what about the book of Philemon in the Bible where it doesn’t say to emancipate slaves, it says to treat your slaves well,” and the class was in an uproar. And my point to them was, no, no, no, no uproars necessary. We’re talking. So I had him explain himself and I said, “Okay, so your view is that slaves should obey their masters. Here’s the problem. If I agree with you, it means you shouldn’t be in this classroom. You should be back as a futile serf somewhere in Europe, obeying the book of Philemon.”

Professor Gilbert Morris:

And it’s just one of the things we have to understand. I mean, you know this from game theory, me from logic, I’m a logician methodologist, that bad arguments can never sustain themselves. They just can’t. Right? You can use power to enforce them and yes, a lot of damage will be done, but even that in the philosophical literature, certainly for myself, if you read people like a Anaximander and others, or if you read Dr. King, crushed to earth shall rise again, and he was speaking of a divine power of this. Anaximander was speaking of karmic power of truth, not necessarily a divine power of truth. But it’s just unsustainable. It’s just unsustainable. And so when people say things like that, we’ve got to engage them and rather than be outraged, demonstrate why the argument is not good.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Now, I wanted to offer something else. First, I just want to acknowledge we’re at three hours and the thing that happened last time you and I had a conversation we had to scrap it because it was five hours and we didn’t believe anyone would watch it and one of our main goals was to do this quicker. And obviously, we’ve jumped around a bit, but we have not got through the founding of the country through the Civil War, or post-Civil War, or the debt to slavery, or the 13th Amendment system, or Jim Crow. So I’m going to just acknowledge, I believe both of us are willing to come do a second round of this-

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes, we are.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

… to address questions and do the rest of the narrative if people in The Stoa are interested. But I want to just think of how we move towards some closing thoughts so far, realizing we’re going to have to make some leaps. And one that I want to offer is when you’re saying, let’s not get outraged, let’s be able to have good, honest, rational conversations because we want to be connected to the truth karmically, logically, divinely in all ways, that’s a good thing. I agree and obviously that’s what we’re trying to do is be able to have a consilience perspective. But this also ends up getting to be one of the reasons that people become anti-woke is they say, look at these people who are so outraged and I’m going to throw their argument out just because they’re outraged. And so I want to just kind of steelman again where it’s like, what the fuck is left?

 

If during the great rebuild effort that you’re talking about, they’re like, okay, we won’t educate ourself in the traditions that we had come from in Mali or wherever we were from in Africa, we’ll educate yourself in your traditions and wear these clothes and educate ourselves more than you to be able to prove the things that we need to and like that, and we’ll do good faith contracts. We’ll create economics the way you talk about. But then even if we get democratically elected, we get assassinated. And even if we build the property, it all gets burned down. And then even if all this work happens for a Civil War to say we’re not slaves anymore, a loophole in the 13th Amendment says all we have to do is be arrested for an indefinite period of time and now we can be slaves again in a bunch of bullshit laws like vagrancy and loitering get made for Black people [inaudible] indefinitely.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Right.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

I would be fucking pissed and I would think that if I continued to engage in good faith with a system that had more power, that used that good faith to then fuck me over every time, that I was a sucker.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

And this is where you start to see the hip hop community adopting the 48 laws of power as a Bible and being like, come on, if you don’t know who the sucker in the room is, it’s you. And so one of the things we’ve talked about is you have kind of naive good faith, in which case if you have less power and you engage in good faith, you get fucked. Then you’re cynical and you’re at the 48 laws level. But in here, there is no good answer for the world.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

No. No.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

It’s game theoretic in a way that with more tech does end in a war of all against all.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Right.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

And then you have to become post cynical. So there’s a kind of post cynical good faith where you can tell if someone is really good faith or not, but you’re oriented towards how do we create it.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Right.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

It seems that the thing we have to do is be able to walk through those steps into a kind of post cynical good faith that can look at all of the really bad faith and the fact that it’s not just historical, the stuff we’re talking about, that whether we’re talking about redlining, or the remnants of the war on drugs, or whatever, that these are still current things, that systemic injustices associated with race is still happening today.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Right. Right.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

And so I think I want people who will get in the uproar about it to do a better job of trying to engage in good faith conversations where the other side really is coming from good faith.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

The question-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

But I also want more willingness to participate with the upset-

Professor Gilbert Morris:

… Right.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

… when it arises, because it has reason behind it. And that’s kind of what I wanted to construct is a sense of-

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes. There’s a gentleman who is a mentor to me since I was 11 and I speak throughout the Caribbean, Africa, and so on in my role, in varieties of roles, and he said to me one day, “Gilbert, we spent a lot of time criticizing the old, now it’s time to inspire the young because we can’t promise them a world filled with a bunch of old liars and crooks.” We can’t promise them that world. That’s not a world to live in. And this was one of the criticisms of Ta-Nehisi Coates in his book where he writes a letter to his son, and the idea is you promise your son a world in which you are only at the cynical level, as you say. How do we get to the post cynical level? And I see that Professor Loury and Professor McWhorter have mocked him for that, but they haven’t acknowledged the rightful righteous rage, which has come on.

 

Now what they do is they say yeah, but you’re killing people in Chicago and you’re killing people in all these places. And I didn’t believe in the 1980s when they said the FBI or the CIA is spreading drugs in the Black community. I didn’t believe it, but it turns out to be true. And then-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

… Empirically.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

.. Empirically true. Yeah, and I didn’t believe-

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

The war on drugs thing has become quite clear.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

… It’s become quite clear. And I didn’t believe when they were talking about targeting and so on, and now police officers are… I’ve been collecting them over the last 10 years, white police officers who say, in retirement, we planted things on Blacks. We did a lot of that. And so if you live in that, it doesn’t matter. So the Loury… I’m getting at your point about how you get to this post cynical stage. Power is diffuse in America, which is a good thing in one sense. But power is diffuse in America and it means that any attempt you make to organize yourself, especially in a digitally integrated world, means that you are vulnerable to attack. Not just attack, but having your reputation destroyed, all these kinds of things, so that’s one.

 

There’s a line that Black Americans and any American who wants to pursue a more perfect union will have to accept. It’s from Metternich, he was Prime Minister of Austria from 1848, sorry, from 1808 to 1848, and kept the peace in Europe for almost 100 years and ran a small country that controlled a bunch of large countries. So he’s unique in that perspective. And Metternich said, “Large countries are always right. Small countries can only keep from being wrong.” But he said another thing, “Small countries should never pursue their ends. They should pursue the ends of the larger country with their ends embedded.”

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Now I want to say something because what you’re saying, there are certain people who feel that they are part of the metaphorical small country right now.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

That’s right.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Who would feel just fucking enraged at what you’re saying because it sounds totally unethical and you’re actually not making an ethical argument. You’re making a pragmatic argument.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

That’s right.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

You’re saying, I’m not saying that this is what would be good if you just got to have divine rule, but you don’t have divine rule. I’m saying this is the best way to advance the interests of your people. And if you do the other thing, you’ll actually fuck your own people and you’ll be the only one who thinks you’re right.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Right.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

So you’re making a very pragmatic argument here about how [inaudible].

Professor Gilbert Morris:

[inaudible] … to advise the principles of my country, not what they would like to hear, but how you get from A to B. And if those options are all equally bad options, my job is to explain which of the worst and which of the bad options is the best one to pursue, because tomorrow is going to come. And if the powerful nation has done what they’ve done to you, no one will care how you feel about it, right? Black America is a Canada. If it were a country, it would be the eighth wealthiest country in the world. The problem is, does it have a unifying thesis in which Blacks can work together? Now the truth is, I’ve seen some of that.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

There’s a documentary on YouTube, I don’t remember who did it, but there’s a lady there who is leading this buy Black campaign. When one of the young entrepreneurs was told, “Well, some of your stuff is white.” “No, buy Black is not an absolute, it’s not an absolute thing.” White people make beautiful things, we’re going to need them as well. It’s just that if we can make laundry soap, and we can buy from food stores, and we can… There are black designers and people like that, as long as a significant proportion of the money circles in our community, we have an opportunity to do something, so that’s one thing that can be done.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

You’re offering a-

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Go on.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

… Sorry. You’re offering a synthesis of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X right now.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes. So that’s what Malcolm X said, and Martin Luther King said the same thing in Where Do We Go From Here. In fact, he was a proponent of universal basic income on this same basis. There’s sufficient wealth in America to solve every problem that Black Americans have economically. There’s sufficient wealth in America to create a nation within a nation. Now people say, is that a good thing? Should we segregate ourselves? But you’re not segregating yourself. When you live in a neighborhood, you live in your house, you pay for your groceries, right? And in trade terms, in the economics of trade, there’s something called liberalization and there’s something called harmonization. What you’ve been sold traditionally is a harmonization proposition where you open yourself up 100% to people who are not open to you at all. But there’s another way of trading, which is called liberalization, and that means you pick the areas that you are going to liberalize and you say, this is sufficient for us to have an exchange with ourselves. That’s what Benin did with Henry the Navigator.

 

So just to emphasize it, if you have harmonization, that means you and I live next door. You can come in my house, eat food, lay down, sleep, you can do everything, use my lawn mower, whatever have you. If we’re liberalized, you have limits. You can’t come into my house. You can use my garden tools, you can sit under my tree, and so on. We can rake up each other’s leaves and so on. So we bring a mutual benefit to each other so we’re enabling, but we’re not unified so that I’m always the one taking the risk, that you are going to give as much as I have given. And while this is diplomatic in trade policy, if a people wants to regard themselves as a people, this is the strategy that you have to have, Metternich strategy, that’s the strategy you have to have. But at the same time, you have to say that prayer at the beginning of it that we are seeking a more perfect union and at the bottom of that E Pluribus Unum, out of many, one, what is the one? The one is the things that we….

 

Out of many, one. What is the one? The one is the things that we agree to liberalize between ourselves that are the unifying factors that brings the country together. And if you don’t do that, everybody is going to lose. Blacks and whites.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

So this is interesting, I think I’m not actually going to try to touch this here because the proposition of the way forward has so much in it. You’re presenting something like soft Black nationalism with a progressive bent. Kind of a Malcolm X Black nationalism, but soft. It’ll do trade, but it’ll do trade that is real politic informed and make sure that the balance sheet balances out. And it is real politic enough to know who it balances with and who doesn’t while being progressive enough to try to do better.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

That’s right.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

And that sounds roughly like it’s at the synthesis of a bunch of things, but there’s a million devil in the details that I would love to actually have this conversation and hear more of your thoughts.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Well, you and I have spoken about this, about HBCUs and how HBCUs actually are the linchpin. Human beings can only create institutions. That’s it. That’s the only things we can create out of thin air. Institutions. Institutions turn out to be at every stage in human civilization when something has gained scale, a concept has gained scale, a strategy has gained scale, it has been through some sort of institutional framework.

 

Even if you have a flash situation where people do a thing, you don’t have the coordinates to continue that thing and to build on it in any way. You can’t triangulate it to make it strong and give it a future because you don’t have proper coordination at the root level. So HBCUs are institutions that exist already.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

This is for those of you who don’t know, Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Historically Black Colleges and Universities. But the question is whether or not Blacks themselves have rechartered them so they’re actually on the balance sheet of the Black community. That’s one of the big questions. And there’s sufficient wealth in America to do that. And there’s also, I’m speaking now as a finance guy who advises governments on development and there’s also sufficient wealth to develop those of the HBCUs. I mean, when I first arrived in Washington DC, Howard University was in what was called the ghetto. You could buy a brownstone in the Howard neighborhood, everybody would warn you, but you could buy a brownstone in the Howard neighborhood, probably between $80 to $150,000. Now you’d have to pay 3 million. But did Howard University own those brownstones around itself?

 

So that’s wealth that had been gentrified that you’ve missed. And the reason you missed it is because one of the things that people who don’t live in a development zones and trading zones, one of the things they don’t understand is that essentially cities and countries don’t die. They don’t really die, certainly not in a place like the United States in the manner that we’re talking about. Certainly not in Washington DC. If there’s any place on earth where there’ll be humans running around for quite some time, it’ll be Washington DC. And you have to have a strategy of the future. You have to have a vision of America. This is one of the criticisms of Barack Obama by diplomatic scholars. He didn’t wake up every morning with the idea, “I want Britain to do this. I want Germany to do that. I want China to do this. And it doesn’t matter whether they do it or not, I have a picture of the world that I want to enforce and I’m prepared to get as much of that as I can.”

 

What is the Black person, if there’s such a thing, what is their vision for America? One of the problems is that the Black vision for America is being defined by whites who oppose them and saying that their vision for America is the behavior of some hip hop artists or some entertainers or some drug dealers or some guys in Chicago. That’s what America … Bill O’Reilly basically said that. That’s what America would be. But one in 50 Black Americans is a millionaire. One in 50. And the question Dr. King asked is, “Are you merely along for the ride?” This is what you said at the beginning. If you really adopt the virtues of the dominant culture, then you are exporting harm based on the same philosophy that once enslaved you. So it can’t just be that you want to be part of the Harvard Club, that you want to get a job at Goldman Sachs. You want to get your BMW with your summer house in Miami, because those things export a type of harm and they generate from a perspective on life that was actually the underlying perspective in slavery. You must assert a new set of values that could become the future values of a country. And that’s what people who are maligned, subjugated and marginalized. I wrote a book about this called The Epistemologies of Displacement. They are in a place, they are displaced away from the dominant culture, but they are actually the source of renewal. And they can only be that source of renewal if they believe in the foundational principles and come to embody those principles with a vision of the future that the entire country can benefit from.

 

And if you think of people who, of Oklahoma, of Rosewood, of all these places, of Wilmington and so on, if you could teach that ethic, that ethic, because the people who didn’t experience, that can’t teach that ethic, that applies to Blacks and whites, many of them. But if you could teach that ethic, that would be something renewing. And it just seems to me, as you said from the beginning and I think you are right, people are talking at each other, people are repeating narratives. The so-called Black conservatives are largely Black Republicans. And they haven’t said to themselves, “I have to increase the marginal likelihood of the outcomes of the values of America.” That’s what we have to do.

 

What is the model evidence that if you are good and if you follow the rules, that your outcomes will be predictable. Not exact, but within a margin. Predictable. If that doesn’t happen, no investor, you can’t convince any DC to give up their money if you can’t make some sort of statement of a marginal likelihood of the outcomes that you propose.

 

And so to me, that would be the synthesis. And obviously what needs to happen is even though we have this discussion, and I know you are committed to that, we have to get a lot of people around the table and tear this synthesis apart and figure out what can happen to it. And we also have to understand that the world is continuing to move. You still have the social media construct that our mutual friend, Tristan Harris has done this film about the social dilemma, which is corrupting our children, corrupting minds, making democracy and a proper shared narrative almost impossible. So we have all that to militate against.

 

But I do believe that when you look at civilizations that have thrived, even when they face this kind of calamity, people have come together and generated a new vision and then fought for that vision.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

I’m going to try to ensure this is the last round of things I say. I hear you saying that we have to have a vision, kind of Voltaire without vision man parishes that we can orient towards. I also hear you saying that a minor nation can’t have a vision that is outside of the interest of the major nations. And so it has to have a vision for the major nations that it is embedded within. And so I hear you saying that right now a lot of Black America is still having its vision defined by white America, if you want to call it that’s interests, as opposed to defining its own interests.

 

But some groups seek to define their own interests, define it in a way that is unintegratable with what you could say from a power point of view, as a dominant interest set. And so there has to be some way of being able to have unification of visions across power systems well beyond the scope of what we can discuss right now.

 

I want to acknowledge quite a few things that I think are worth us discussing that maybe if we do a follow up we can do is, you’ve mentioned in a conversation before that in the way that Du Bois said the color line was defining of the 20th century, that it might be in the 21st century, and that it seems like the woke/anti woke of which race is probably the deepest center, is the biggest dividing line in the US. And that when you have a polarized democracy, which then polarizes the representative class, which then creates gridlock in the presence of increasingly effective autocracy, I.E., the Chinese model here, then you’re in the process of that democracy obsoleting itself. So the racial issues seem like they might be central to the viability of democracy, writ large, period. So the domestic issues and the geopolitical issues.

 

Then we look at China and its treatment of the Uyghur and we say, “Is that a better racial model or not?” And if not, then is there actually a requirement for domestic solidarity while understanding how hard the domestic solidarity argument is, because when Du Bois said that and said, “Go ahead and fight World War I,” they just got fucked again afterwards. So what kind of insurance would need to be in place?

 

There’s a lot. You’ve brought up approaches to reparations that you think would be helpful versus terrible. There’s obviously going quite a lot deeper into the Historically Black Colleges and Universities as almost like economic development zones that could be methods of post cynical, upward mobility that are useful. We also have to face all of this in light of the fact that where the previous answers had always been more GDP, so more pie for everybody, but now we’re hitting planetary boundaries where we’re not going to be able to keep doing that for environmental reasons. The whole thing’s about to get really clusterfucked and with a lot of new constraints. And as you mentioned, the polarizing nature of social media.

 

So all I’m acknowledging is we have not even scratched the issues here yet. I am hoping that we have built a couple useful parts so that those who just weren’t familiar can see when people are talking about systemic injustice and systemic racism and people representing perspectives at BLM or whatever, that if you were unfamiliar, you might have a little bit more empathy.

 

And I just want to say two things more that are just random points simply because they’re ones that were very motivating to me and they weren’t mentioned. One is, I just want to highlight for everyone how statistical warfare works in information war where you’re trying to control populations by controlling what they think. It’s easy to cherry pick statistics. So I might have a Gaussian distribution of true things, and I just picked the ones on this side and I can claim true facts. And consilience papers, we wrote a paper called How to Mislead with Facts. So when you see people quoting facts regarding systemic injustice, look for statistical warfare because what somebody can say, their police are not more fatal to Black people than they are to white people when you factor these things and the relevant violence in their area, which can actually be a true stat, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not true that the police do stop and frisk Black people a lot more and they do get harsher sentencing for the same crimes across the Gaussian distribution.

 

And so it’s like you can have a lot of competing things that are true and you can cherry pick almost every argument from it. That’s one thing that I’ll say. And to just watch that almost every speaker slam dunks with a cherry picked argument. And then I find that I’m almost incapable of actually empathizing with slavery. I really try to feel it, but I’ve just never experienced anything close to that. And when you read the depictions of what it was like on those slave boats where everyone is in each other’s excrement and whatever, it’s like, I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been there can get a real sense. So I try, but I find that the more recent cases that seem less egregious but are still so egregious, actually boil my blood more because I can imagine them more fully. Honestly, my empathy’s slightly more capable of it. And you were mentioning this case of just coming up to the civil rights time where a man in a suit would be walking to church with his wife being good Christians who were in every way respectable and upwardly mobile and the police would come by and fondle his wife in front of him and he could do nothing about it because any kind of aggression towards the police would be one of those things that the 13th amendment was a hole for. And the radical emasculinization of that, where then you go a little ways forward and you hear shit about, “Ohs well the Black community has no fathers. See, the fault is really the Black fathers.” And you’re like, “Fuck. Yes, Black fathers, that’s a really important thing. We have to figure out what to do with that.” But when you’ve had systemic emasculation, how do you overcome that?

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Yes.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

And so there’s just the empathy of like, the reason history is important is to be able to put yourselves in the shoes of lives that one hasn’t lived and to try to get a sense of, “Is the advice I’m offering them advice I could even do in that situation?”

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Right. Jefferson. Your points are very profound, Daniel, as always. Jefferson said, “I’m worried about yes. I’m worried that the white population of America is used to a yes, which is unnatural in a normal society. In a slave society, they’re used to hearing yes from all quarters for everything that they want. What happens when a normal society is set up and they can’t hear that yes? This is a big problem.”

 

And I think you see examples of that in some of the people who are used to things going their way. In fact, Jean-Paul Sartre writes about this in the Anti-Semite and Jew, and he talks about the anti-Semite in his claims, cherry picking facts as well, and is able to make … I mean, I think the lead up to the second World War is a good example of how Adolph Hitler’s speeches are filled with these kinds of Gaussian distributed facts where he just picks things, but he never says what Germany did to put itself in this situation in the first place.

 

I’ll end with this. There’s a wonderful scholar at Duke University whose name just jumped out of my head, but I’ll remember it, who was written about reparations extensively. Everybody, it seems to me that I’ve read, seems to me. I’m speaking now just for me as a legal scholar, as a methodologist, as a logician get reparations wrong. Mostly what they’re talking about is compensation for Roman law restitution. And so in this conclusion that we’re making where we are thinking through options, I just want to end with this because I want people to understand the options that they’re vying for. Reparations cannot be demanded. Compensation can be demanded because there’s a contract and the contract was not fulfilled. Restitution can be demanded because something was taken and needs to be restored.

 

We get that in the institutes of [inaudible] restitution is a Roman law concept, been with us for a very long time. Reparations has no accounting. Reparations is atonement. The person who committed the wrong is the only person who can execute, introduce, or execute reparations. When we look at what happened with Germany and the Jews, that was restitution and compensation. That means you have to have an accounting. That means you need a system. You need a balance sheet, you need a set of wrongs, you need to connect in common law those wrongs to the reduction of that balance sheet in some way. Or you need to show injury to a specific group of people. Or you need to show loss where a gain was expected, rightly within the law.

 

The University of Glasgow discovered that they benefited from slavery in Scotland. They decided without telling anybody that they were going to set up a $20 million program for students in the Caribbean because their slaves came from the Caribbean. Georgetown University found out that it had about 200 slaves or so. They shut down everything, held a great conference, invited a speaker who’s an expert on these things, and they’re trying to figure out what is the best route. And then they want all three. Compensation, restitution and reparations, because a great institution cannot stand idle when this kind of fact comes to the fore. Otherwise, it undermines its entire purpose for existing. And I have to give them credit that they’ve done that.

 

So in the solutions, I see a lot of people arguing. The scholar’s name is Daugherty. Professor Daugherty at Duke University. And he’s a brilliant guy. He and his brilliant fellow, he and his wife, and brilliant arguments all around. But reparations is a moral act. No court can impose it, no one can demand it.

 

So the real issue for us is in whatever we do, we mitigate, which means do what you can do for yourself now. We have a trade policy and a vision. Trade with everybody because that’s how friendships were made throughout human history with people trading with each other. Because trading sets up terms where one party isn’t giving everything and the other party is simply receiving and giving nothing. And then if we can work with the difference between the various compensatory strategies where if there’s compensation, so for instance, people who should have gotten the GI Bill and are still alive or their children are still alive, that’s compensation. People who gave labor or gave value and got nothing; restitution.

 

But where Aetna and Princeton University and some of the big institutions in the country recognize that they themselves have benefited from slave labor or racism, or racism that allowed them to pay people inappropriately or not pay them at all and that kind of thing, it is there. You can’t protest for reparations. You can’t demand reparations. You have to just continue to mitigate. And this is Dr. King’s principle. And hope that the conscience of that person, that the loss of reputation, that you create an Overton window, that the loss of reputation impels them to do the right thing. And that’s what democracy is about. Convincing people that there is a unified vision and a covenant that we will all adhere to. That happened in Norway in 1934 in a war called the Red and the Black. So it can happen. And so I thank you, Daniel. I think we cut an hour.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Thank you for taking the time and having this conversation with me. And really, thank you for all the conversations that we’ve had up to this point that I acknowledge on this topic have been radically asymmetrically beneficial to me. And so for everyone in the Stoa who is watching, the Stoa post their YouTube videos without comments, but if you can message Peter, I think there’s a Discord, if there are questions. If there’s an interest for a discussion on this, I look forward to see what that is. And obviously I have mostly just my own interest to contribute to this space, but Professor Morris has a lot more expertise and also depending upon how this unfolds, other colleagues that could be engaged in the conversation. And we will, in the show notes though, link a few resources that are good and a few documentaries and papers and things like that.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Okay. Listen, it’s good to see you, my friend.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Likewise.

Professor Gilbert Morris:

Cheerio.

Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Be well.