Opinion: Happy April Fool

By Sabamya Jaugu | Sun 1 April 2012

Sabamya Jaugu gives a historical reflection on the relevance of April’s Fool day for Africans in America.

April Fools’ Day is celebrated in different western cultures around the world. Although it’s not a national holiday, it is widely recognized when many people engage in all types of foolishness.

The day is marked by the commission of good-humored hoaxes, and other pranks with various degrees of sophistication on friends, family members, teachers, neighbors, and work associates.

This is only one of many customs and holidays that’s part of western culture and has been adopted by Africans everywhere. After scores of generations, we’ve embraced them as our own. They’re two aspects of a joke, the originator and recipients. When you examine history circumspectly, one has to wonder whether or not we are the butt ends of a variety of jokes disguised in the culture!

To highlight this point, three examples will be presented from an African perspective.

They’re enumerated as follows;

1. Christopher Columbus discovery of America.
2. Abraham Lincoln’s freed the ‘slaves’ and dubbed as the Great Emancipator.
3. World War II theme “the Axis of Evil versus the Allies of Democracy.”

In western culture, children are taught that Christopher Columbus was a great explorer when he discovered America. However, many credible historians have since shared indisputable evidence that others arrived before Columbus. Among them were Eric the Red in 950 AD and China’s expedition who arrived in 1434. Indeed, history detailing contact before Columbus also reveals the presence of Native inhabitants who weren’t given recognition or credibility of existence before his arrival.

What’s more, Columbus organized the annihilation of the Native Americans and forced them into slavery. Today, he would be convicted and found guilty of crimes against humanity with entries from his own diary. Even so, every second Monday in October, there is a Christopher Columbus Day, the ultimate expression of an April Fool’s Joke.

Next, Abraham Lincoln freed enslaved Africans with his Emancipation Proclamation directive. We’ve heard this countless times in the media, speeches and in daily conversations. On September 22, 1862, Lincoln announced he would issue an executive order to free all ‘slaves’ in the Confederacy that didn’t return to the Union before the beginning of the New Year.

He kept his promise because on January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued to proclaim the freedom of enslaved Africans in the Confederacy that held the bulk of the 3.1 million ‘slaves’. Actually, his executive order applied only to the states; he didn’t control. The Confederacy ignored the proclamation, and none of the enslaved were released.

Most notably, the proclamation only applied to Confederate states, which at that time, he didn’t control. Significantly, the executive order didn’t cover the nearly 500,000 enslaved in union states; Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware. More specifically not a single person was freed.
Moreover, he couldn’t free the enslaved, even if he wanted because a constitution amendment was required.

So, discard, that notion Abraham Lincoln freed Africans because officially, slavery ended when the Thirteenth Amendment, took effect on the eighteenth day of December in 1865. In addition during the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Abraham Lincoln stated that his primary goal was to preserve the union. He stated that;

If he freed NONE OF THE SLAVES and could preserve the union, he would do just that.
If he could free SOME OF THE SLAVES and preserve the union, he would do just that.
If he must free ALL THE SLAVES to preserve the union, he would do that.

The claim Abraham Lincoln freed the ‘slaves’ as the great emancipator is akin to an April Fool’s Joke.

Sabamya Jaugu

The facade of Democracy

The last of the trilogy is World War II, the Allies representing democracy versus the Axis of Evil. The Allies were Europe and America, and the stewards of evil were Germany, Italy and Japan. Let’s pause, and define Democracy;

“It’s a form of government in which power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their agents under a free electoral system.”

Obviously, democracy has a dual meaning because it’s not referring to Africans in America, Africa or the Diaspora, both victims of slavery and colonialism.

Whereas, in America, segregation was reinforced with institutionalized injustices, aided by Jim Crow laws, no voting rights and para-military groups such as the KKK and lynching were common. Additionally, Africans were colonized and were victimized in their own countries.

Is this representative of Democracy? The answer is obviously, No!

When the facade of Democracy is removed it’s clear why the Germans wanted control of Europe who held reign on the colonies. The imperialist precedent was set at the Berlin Conference in 1884. However, it was a gentlemen agreement, and no shots were fired.

Conversely, World War II was settled on the battle field because both sides needed raw resources to fuel their industrial complexes. For all intents and purposes, the war was fought over the colonies in Africa and Asia. Notably, this was a war among Europeans, and presumably the winners take all. World War II utilized more military equipment, created more destruction and more lives were lost as a result of the war than any conflict in recorded history. It concluded with the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Japan.

Unable to use the divide and conqueror technique among themselves, the Allies resorted to recruiting African Americans, Africans and Asians to support the war effort for the Allies. In that process, promises were made of equality in United States and independence in Africa and Asia. With these promises, They were successful in their recruitment campaign.

The principal colonizers, England and France sent troops from their respective colonies to participate in all areas of the war.

England having the most to lose, recruited from the Caribbean Islands, Africa and India. France at the time of World War II had many colonies in Africa that was persuaded to participate on their behalf. By the end of the war, one million African Americans volunteered or were drafted to fight for their so-called “Democracy” or a better way of life upon returning.

Even though they were still forced to operate in segregated units and did not fight alongside their white countrymen.

The ‘people of color’ expected prominent change and independence when returning from the battle field. Unfortunately, the promise of social change was silent and independence was ignored. At this time, the Africans and Asians would be considered the butt end of this joke.

Reviewing April, Fool’s Day through these three examples you’ll find Christopher Columbus Discovery of America is the most disturbing, not only did he caused the extinction of native Americans, once their population was depleted enslaved Africans were brought from the Continent.

At the beginning the forced transportation of enslaved Africans was only a trickle, then it mushroomed into a flood that manifested into the Transatlantic slave trade. From an African perspective, Christopher’s Columbus discovery was the most horrific April Fool’s Joke of all times.

Next, Abraham Lincoln freed the ‘slaves’. Whether they were free or not, was never the issue. It was whether or not the new territory when entering statehood be admitted as a ‘slave’ or free state. As a slave state the enslaved population would be factored into the Congressional calculations. On the other hand, a free state would not. Indirectly, the head count of the enslaved was the main issue, not their welfare.

The country arrived at a crossroad after completing their Manifest Destiny dream of extending the country to the Pacific Ocean. The dream became a reality with the Louisiana Purchase from France, and the spoils of war from Mexico. These new territories would eventually become states.

The south depended on slavery for their successes, and the north was prospering from the industrial revolution. Naturally, the south wanted the new states to be slave states, and the north opposed. This was the main issue of the civil war.

True, Abraham Lincoln deserves kudos for maintaining the Union but not for freeing enslaved Africans. In fact his first suggestion was to send them to Liberia. So, the idea that Abraham Lincoln was a great emancipator is not accurate and is analogous to an April fool’s joke.

When World War II was won, ‘people of color’ had great expectations but were greatly disappointed when they realized no change was imminent. It appeared to be another April Fool’s Joke.

However, time has a penchant for changing dynamics. Because, the wars aftermath gave birth to the civil rights movements formulating social changes and Africans gradually fought and won their independence, although, socioeconomic issues have yet to be addressed completely.
Nonetheless, this helped break the chain of colonialism in Africa and Asia.

At the beginning of World War II, the allies had full possession of colonies in both Africa and Asia. At the end, although bloody and costly they’re victorious, but they eventually lost all of their colonies.

The European’s World War II struggle over the colonies is one joke that backfired.

Happy April Fool’s Day

Sabamya Jaugu is a retired data communication technician who has dedicated his life to helping the community in different capacities. His current quest is to gather support to revise Black History Month into an African History Month.

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