TBC Book Club: September
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead was the book of discussion on 9th of September. I didn’t know the topic was so sensitive till we met that day. From time to time, while I was reading the book I could get mad and sad not knowing that other members of the book club were feeling the same and others opposite.
The book is about slavery, Colson was asked: “why another slavery book?” And honestly, if you read the book you will get to know the difference with other slavery books. Allan Aringo, the moderator came in a few minutes after ten I guess he needed to get all the energy with him. Oh boy! It was so energetic. He made everyone stand, I mean everyone! A little icebreaker and everybody was laughing and enjoying the moment. A few minutes later we all sat down and got to business. The topic was wide and like I said earlier, sensitive. The main themes discussed were, Religion, Medical ethics, Brutality, Education and Civilization.
Someone suggested that slavery somehow helped the slaves to get to heaven; the moderator in reference to another book said that if the slaves didn’t make it to America they would probably all go to hell because they wouldn’t have been exposed to the Gospel. Most found it as ‘Justification’ to cleanse their conscience. Whites used the religion to justify their actions to black people. Some members argued that Africans were okay with worshipping ancestral gods. But how would life be like if we were still worshipping the ancestral gods? Maybe you could answer that if you attended the book club (add sarcasm). Not just religion, whites back then used many things to justify their actions to make it look like slavery was okay, which obviously it wasn’t. Was it to help them sleep at night maybe?
Apparently, whites were more afraid of “a Negro with a book than a Negro with a gun”. They knew for sure if the slaves were educated they would outsmart them and become rebellious. Probably, they would learn to read maps and plan their escape.
The whites took care of the slaves and made sure they were healthy but they could never give them an education. Some members thought it was the White’s responsibility to educate the blacks of the White’s culture since now they had abandoned their own cultures and traditions back in Africa. The only thing they could do right was at least giving them the education. Some members felt like the slaves didn’t need the white people’s education because after all, they would start acting like them, so what was the point?
Towards the end, we related the book to life today and we asked ourselves hard questions. “Do you think Kenyans are hypocritical?” “Are they quick to judge the Africa-American people of what they allowed to be done to them while most don’t even know half of their cultures and traditions?” Those were among questions that took a long time to answer. I’m not even sure they were answered satisfactorily. Whatever the slaves went through, some members felt like they didn’t have the option of resisting. How could they fight a white man with a gun? The slaves at that time didn’t have any good weapons to fight. After being captured they had to use a common language to communicate, English, which other members thought they had an option of not using that language.
How important is the civilization to Africans? One of the ‘justifications’ is that whites brought about civilization so they can get away with slavery and brutality. When people say ‘what they did was not right, but at least they brought civilization’ all I hear is that it was okay to do what they did. Allan, the day’s moderator, passed a very good point and I quote “do you have to compare yourself to someone else to feel like you need to do better?” Africans didn’t need the whites and neither their education or clothes because they were fine without them. At the same time, they made life so much easier! I must admit that I like the clothes and the internet 🙂
Everyone had their opinion and we could have gone the whole day discussing the book but time was not on our side. Not forgetting the ‘I didn’t read the book but…’ people, they too had some opinions (pun intended).
All in all, it was a good discussion. One last quote that left me thinking that I’d like you to think about is “8-5 is the most decent type of slavery”. Do you agree? See you in the next book club!