I have said before that multiculturalism is nothing but apartheid in a posh frock. I have also decried that Neanderthal stupidity and nastiness that seeks to discriminate against people because of the colour of their skin. Britishness, I have said, should be based on shared values and cultural congruence, nothing else; part of our schools' covert curriculum should impart and reinforce values of fairness, tolerance, balance and 'doing the right thing'. There is no danger of dreary monoculturalism in Britain. We are natural non-conformists and individualists, each of us marching to a different drum, and rather than the simplistic apartheid of racial groupings that is multiculturalism we should be encouraging a rich diversity of individuals of every hue and creed all conscious of their own moral responsibilities in maintaining our collective freedoms.
News that slavery is to be taught as part of the national curriculum should not be a reason for depression, yet I view it with foreboding. I just know it fall into that academically mendacious rut that portrays Europeans as monsters and Africans as innocent victims. This is false. It's a lie.
Africa has a cultural history of slavery that pre-dates by millennia the arrival of the first European explorer on its shores; possession of slaves, cattle and wives have formed the basis of personal wealth in many parts of Africa since before the first Roman soldier set foot on Britain's shore.
Despite the weasel and mendacious words of Nu Labour's 'official' history of slavery to mark the 200th anniversary of abolition last year, the bare truth is that Europeans hardly enslaved any Africans at all. The Portuguese mounted a few military expeditions in Angola, and there were a few opportunistic coastal raids (which were much discouraged as antagonising the slavers' African partners in trade), but the results of these were statistically insignificant. Nearly all of the 11m - 12m slaves bought and transported by Europeans had been enslaved and sold by fellow black Africans.
Simply, Europeans and Africans were equally responsible for that vile 400-year trade. Without the active and willing participation of Africans, we would not have had a slave trade; as the Portuguese found, Europeans trying to capture Africans to enslave them was wasteful of money and lives, not worth the effort, and yielded meagre and scanty rewards.
When, as the result of the Enlightenment and especially of the Second Enlightenment, Europe saw the moral fault in slavery, it was abolished by virtually all of Europe between the end of the eighteenth and the middle of the nineteenth centuries. Africa has never undergone an endogenous enlightenment. Adopted European moral systems and beliefs overlie traditional African cultural norms awkwardly and lightly.
Now, I expect by this point there will some of you who are doubting the veracity of the case I am making. I assure you I am relying on the most impeccable academic sources for that which I write. For British readers I'd recommend Hugh Thomas' seminal 'The Slave Trade - The history of the Transtlantic slave trade 1440 - 1870'. For online readers, Bartleby's World History presents much of the same evidence.
After the abolition of the export trade by the mid-nineteenth century, Africa reverted to internal slave trading of the kind that had subsisted since long before they met the first European buyers. Paradoxically, when Europe returned to Africa with Quinine prophylaxis, breech-loading rifles and the steam gunboat towards the end of the nineteenth century to colonise that continent (and without those three technological developments it had not been previously possible to do so), it was European rule and law that curbed Africa's traditional slave economy.
I say curbed, not ended. For everywhere in Africa where Europe has withdrawn in decolonising that continent, slavery has returned in one form or another. We're mostly ignorant of it - a Western liberal news agenda normally fights shy of stories about Africans and slavery. It's really only now in Britain, awash with nearly a million African immigrants (an additional 20,000 in the past ten years alone in the London borough in which I live) that the media can no longer ignore the reality. Hence stories such as this in the Telegraph - African children sold in the UK for as little as £1,000 each.
By all means let's teach the evil of slavery; let's arouse a great moral repugnance against it, and let's take measures anew to abolish it amongst those peoples in whom it's so firmly entrenched. That also means an end to the apartheid of multiculturalism, under which it's OK to buy and sell your fellow man, mutilate female genitals, force your children into arranged marriages, inbreed genetic cripples and morons and maintain the mores of a third-world village in the world's most civilised capital city.