“Ignorance, my brethren, is a mist, low down into the very dark and impenetrable abyss in which, our fathers for many centuries have been plunged. The Christians, and enlightened of Europe, and some of Asia, seeing the ignorance and consequent degredation of our fathers, instead of trying to enlighten them, by teaching them that religion and light with which God has blessed them, they have plunged them into wretchedness ten thousand times more intolerable, . . . Ignorance, as it now exits among us, produces a state of things, Oh my Lord! too horrible to present to the world.”from: Article 2 of Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World;David Walker (1796-1830)
From a man who witnessed slavery first hand, the worst harm was not the whip or forced labor. The brutal exploitation was the product of a people made vulnerable by a deep state of ignorance. Is the lack of knowledge dealing with technology/science? History/heritage? Business/wealth? Formal/vocational education? No, the root of ignorance, which precedes all that has been listed, is not knowing the will of God and our identity in Him. Thus, as Walker states, the African people were already in ignorance, though now it had been worsened by people who knew the truth but decided not to live in submission to Him.
What peoples of the world would discover, absent chains and beatings, bondage could still be inflicted by others, no less the self, so long as the people existed in ignorance. In the lack of knowledge of God’s sovereignty, we are prone to also dominate one another. After all, African, European, Asian, and Native American partook in chattel (think cattle) slavery for centuries. It is easy to treat beings as objects when you refuse to acknowledge anything resembling the dignity of being created in the image of God. Indeed, a person has to live in if not deceitfully feign ignorance of this truth, that they may raise up the things previously mentioned in their image.
A state of social status is not the primary issue for an individual’s life. Ignorance of the truths pertaining to God’s will is the underlying evil for society/culture in the long-run. Walker and other black souls were born into or achieved freedman status due to the controversial argument in law that they were creations of the Creator. Generations later, succeeding the era after the national abolition of slavery, whites and blacks were almost equally targeted for cheap labor, both as free citizens. It was common for slaves not to be permitted to learn to read, even the Bible. Why? If the enslaved masses knew what Scripture said, they would make poor cattle. The same could be said for whites who recognized that this unholy institution was a blight on everything they held dear.
Those who were more mindful of the things of Christ treated their property more as human than beasts of burden. Because of this defiance of custom, which declared in some form slaves must be kept in spiritual ignorance, state governments, eventually national (Union & Confederacy), increased their stranglehold on these people. Most so Southerners, people intimately acquinted with the God given humanity of blacks, were systematically forced by law to be more ignorant or at least pretend when it came to the truth. Politics and economics were prioritized above His divine rule of law.
Walker was not shy of chastizing American government for its folly handling the image of God in public policy. Far as he was concerned, only sincerely devout Christ followers witheld the wrath that would befall the nation, the Lord letting the mountainous weight of ingorance crush Northern and Southern ideals.
“Now the avaricious Americans, think that the Lord Jesus Christ will let them off, because his words are no more than the words of a man! In fact, many of them are so avaricious and ignorant, that they do not believe in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Tyrants may think they are so skilled in State affairs is the reason that the government is preserved. But I tell you, that this country would have been given up long ago, was it not for the lovers of the Lord. They are indeed, the salt of the earth. Remove the people of God among the whites, from this land of blood, and it will stand until they cleverly get out of the way.”from: Article 4 of Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World
Whether technically slave or free, ignorance can bind the soul making one into a simultaneous brute and tyrant. Regardless of status, to be lead by vice is to not be at liberty. How many people with much are envious? Wrathful? In despair? Possess a spirit of defeat? Imagine, the consequences of a generation ignorant perhaps even scorning the things of God. To care not for what they ought to do for their fellow man in obedience to Christ. To view others and also themselves as animals, each with their own authority of right. Will giving them knowledge of economy, technology, politics, and/or fine art cure us of this natural state of lashing out in pride and cruelty? Less we think too highly of ourselves, believing to be more moral and enlightened than our ancestors, such knowledge will only be tools for self-destruction in the long-term.
“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of your mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleaness with greed.
But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”Ephesians 4:17-24