Polemic : The shameless arrogance of an amateur identity historian

The shameless arrogance of an amateur identity historian.

Identity history : The act of interpreting parts of history in order to project onto yourself the roll of hero of victim or project onto others the roll of the villain.

Most historians shun this amateurish approach to historical narratives due to obvious reasons. Most examples of Identity history seem harmless enough, genealogy for instance often focusses on ancestors that were somehow notable, mostly ignoring the lesser known forebears. The famous ancestor then somehow reflects its attributes on the contemporary individual, although odds are that (s)he is just as unremarkable as most of the genealogy that was ignored. The BBC show, “who do you think you are?” is a good example of seemingly innocent identity history. Famous people track down their ancestral roots until they find some remarkable story about the success or grievances of somebody down their family tree.

This all seems benign enough, but there are a few exceptions. When historical facts are distorted, ignored or aggressively downplayed to fit a personally accepted narrative, when history is denied to others because it does not fit a personally accepted narrative, when rights and privileges are claim from these personally accepted narratives and when the rights of others are denied because of this personally accepted narrative. Often you’d see perpetrators of these historical fallacies use several of these intellectually dishonest amateurish attempts at creating a faux historical contexts. But until recently I had never come across an example that, alongside several other argumentative fallacies, employed them all.

At first I was planning on simply, point by point showing where he had facts wrong, mixed up, where he was lying through his teeth or just where he was a loud mouth bully without much of value to say. I’d leave him anonymous in the article because such refutations surely are meant for a larger audience who might share similar egocentric and erroneous views on history. But then, running through the arguments again, I realized that there is no reasoning with such dogmatic self-indulgent convictions. This person and other like him are not interested in a common shared history, they are only interested in what supports their ridiculous claims regarding their personal victimhood, heroics and of course the they who are perceived as the villains.

So naming and shaming it is! The unpleasant character in this ugly little episode is a chap who goes by the name of Dj Sabroso. A fierce anti-black-pete social-media-warrior and quite full of himself. We’ll ignore the usual repertoire of straw-man arguments, ad hominems and other off-topic trollish behavior and focus purely on why this persons views on history are deplorable and contemptible. Because 140 characters isn’t a very suitable format to reply to the torrent of utter tripe this persons managed to spew forth I decided to do a quick blogpost. This also helps in reducing the amount of completely disjointed off-topic non-sense he posts in order to derail any form of logical argumentation.

Dj Sabroso claims that he is quite knowledgable on history regarding slave trade and slavery in general. It soon showed that his knowledge on the subject was just about on par with his competence level regarding logical reasoning. As a true identity historian, his interest in these histories were bound mostly to his direct ancestry, ignoring the rest, seemingly under the conviction that his limited grasp of the era could be projected anywhere. It seemed that most of what he thinks to be general history was selectively mined from the histories of Suriname and parts of the Dutch involvement in this particular colony. Selectively cherry-picking a small part of a much larger context hardly counts as knowledgeable, but rather more as biased and willful ignorance.

This amateurish historical reasoning was also present in what he thought to be proper history regarding Europe in this Era. Shamelessly mixing up English and Dutch history where it suited his premise and mixing up several event, blatantly lying about them. This of course whilst making arguments from authority, insisting that it was not he with the wikipedia level understanding of the subject matter. In a nutshell, simply ignoring and distorting history for his own heritage and identity mythos.

On white abolitionists : They were just some talkative guys who had no influence at all
On white abolitionists : They were just some talkative guys who had no influence at all

In detail, what was claimed. The first and perhaps most arrogant dishonest claim was the downplay of the Abolitionism movement. It wasn’t even downplaying but the complete denial of their historical roll. The actions and impact of these movements are well documented, and refusing to acknowledge this simply because he doesn’t want to believe that there were people with humanitarian motivations that could not have made an impact on emancipation because they were, mostly, white simply is bottom-line racist. Yes, racist! If equality is true, then denying even the possibility that people can’t be in favor of emancipation due to the color of their skin is pure and unadulterated racism.

I don't believe in this white generosity
I don’t believe in this white generosity

Dj Sabroso, you are a bigot and a racist with a very loud mouth and nothing more to show for it. This sheer arrogance to simply brush off perfectly well documented and shared history because it does not comply with your childish black-and-white fantasy notion of history is mind-bogglingly malevolent and dishonest.

Another gem of dishonesty shows that his particular brand of identity history focusses primarily on Suriname because he frequently cited the fact that up-to 10 years after the abolition of slavery in the colonies, slaves still had to work in the plantations. In a bid for complete irrationality Sabroso thinks it apt to blame the Abolitionist movement for this although he does keep insisting that this movement had no influence what so ever. That is having your cake and eating it too. This little brain-fart of Sabroso shows that he really only cares about a very selective and narrow context that lies in the fact that the 10-year agreement was unique to suriname. Other colonies had other arrangements. Simply assuming that this agreement was universal shows ones ignorance and bias. He also ignores the fact that conditions did change dramatically as part of the agreement. To blame a non-negotiating party whom you deny having influence is earth-shatteringly idiotic and nonsensical.

The historical cock-ups by Sabroso are not logical in any way, be it inductive, chronological or even reasonable. The part where his self-indulging ignorance is most apparent revolves around his arguments regarding the abolishment of slavery/slave trade and the Dutch and English situation. Seemingly these different events and contexts are almost fluid in nature, making them interchangeable when the personal narrative calls for it. In one foul swoop mixing up the British Empires abolition of slave trade with the motivations of the Empires to abolish slavery proper and the dutch motivation for both and it’s respective motivations. All are, naturally, non-overlapping magisteria as these events are all temporally, geographically and socially very very dissimilar.

It really begs the question if you deserve any retort at all when you are so utterly selective and uncritical in compiling such a fraudulent historical context. Claiming that ALL emancipatory laws were motivated just by economical reasons, while it is massively evident that this is simply untrue for the abolition of slave trade by England and the abolition of slavery by the Netherlands. The argument gets even more ridiculous and schizophrenic when Sabroso simultaneously keeps demanding that after the abolition of slave trade, illicit trade was still rampant and after the abolition of slavery it continued for a decade (on suriname) although, seemingly, both were economically unviable! Utter illogical tripe.

Please, get such simple facts straight before you think it prudent to direct me to my vast personal library.

The abolishment of slave trade by England in 1807 had just as much economical motivation as you have ethics regarding history. The English abolition movement was, very much so responsible for a large part for it and it’s motivations were as at least as much idealistic as they were practical. The abolition of slavery in the empire in 1833 was more economically driven. I expect that this is the source Sabroso manhandled for his own personal agenda. The industrial revolution in the British Empire did make a lot of slave labour obsolete, rendering this obstacle for abolition of slavery less valid.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, under pressure of the ban on slave trade, it also abolished slave trade by law in 1814. Perhaps not the most nobel of motivations, but to claim that this move was purely pragmatically or economical driven is perhaps a bit far fetched. During the 19th century the Netherlands and its colonies and the British empire could not have been two more distinct entities. The dutch economy relied less and less on it’s colonies which started to gain more social and ecumenical independence throughout this century. In the meanwhile, the industrial revolution in the Britisch empire wasn’t really catching on in the Netherlands or it’s colonies. This meant that the colonies had no financial motivation to abolish slavery and in the Netherlands it wasn’t much of an issue apart from a pro-slavery political lobby group, opportunist liberal politicians and a small abolitionist movement of which you can’t honestly claim it’s motivations were purely economic or that it’s influence was non-existent.

It would seem quite featherbrained to anybody who understood anything about historical context, nuance and reason to equate any of these separate historical context in such a manner more over it would shock them that subsequently in a tour de force of unbridled historical fantasy Dj Sabroso thought the following to be a rational argument : Why were the Dutch so late in abolishing slavery then? As if this futile finger-pointing has any merit today.

Well, My dear Sabroso, it’s quite obvious when your faculties include proper historical reasoning and the facts you need to do so. As there was no social nor economical force acting between the mainland and the colonies in the Netherlands, the political drive for abolishment was also lacking. The reason for the 30 year gap between England, who’s motivations was for some part economically based, did not exist as such in the Netherlands. The reasons for abolitions were thus much more ideologically driven. Now it does sound very desperate and pathetic to me that you feel the need to slam the Dutch abolition of slavery for being later, although being much more humanitarian in nature than the British abolition which had a economical component to it’s motivation which you erroneously projected on the Dutch context.

It is quite clear to me that Sabroso has no interest in proper historical narratives and a shared history, for this does not maximize his personal right for grievances and the villainisation that he needs to project on both historical and contemporary individuals, arguably because of their skin-tone. I’m sure that his ancestry is mainly comprised of Marroons and that never did one of his forebears return to slavery or defend willingly against Marroon attacks. This would not fit his heroic victim narrative and it would nuance who’d be lumped in with all those white folks.

Identity history always is a bit iffy, even if you get the facts straight, but the blatant distortion of history to create a fictional identify mythos containing those ugly us-and-them paradigms simply must be ousted and shamed, exposing them as fraudulent and bigoted nonsense by first-rate racists and dogmatists with no further agenda than to claim benefit from fabricated histories. We have had our share of identity mythos in the past and none of them ever brought anything of moral substance. Identifying ourselves with the Bataven was blatant jingoism and baseless as was the mythos of arian supremacy. I see no differences in these attempts at history abuse and falsification and that of Mister Sabroso.


For a detailed historical context on the origins of Zwarte Piet, Click here :



5 thoughts on “Polemic : The shameless arrogance of an amateur identity historian

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s