Each of us has two parents. Each of them has two. So we have four grandparents, eight great grandparents, sixteen great great grandparents, and so on. So we’d only have to go back ten generations to meet our thousand ancestors who walked the Earth at the same time Napoleon did, or our million ancestors who shared the planet with Shakespeare. Okay, not quite, since at this rate we’d have more ancestors at the time of Henry II than there were people at the time of Henry II. So obviously some of our ancestors had ancestors in common.
Still, let’s confine ourselves to the twenty generations since the time of Shakespeare, and ask ourselves the following question. Of those million people, what are the chances that not one of them was conceived through rape? Or more upsetting yet, through incest?
All right, so we’re all the products of rape. What follows from this? Well, for one thing, much as we disapprove of any rape giving rise to the next generation, it’s hard not to be thankful for the rapes that gave rise to us.
Hard yes but not impossible, you say, because you’d much rather have been the product of a consensual union, right? No you wouldn’t, because the product of that consensual union wouldn’t have been you. You’re the product of that conception, and that conception was the product of rape. Live with it! Or, to be more hip, own it!
But surely this is just a conceptual trick. The quality of life of most African Americans is orders-of-magnitude better than that of the descendants of those who were left where they were in Africa. So African Americans should be grateful to the slavers who brought their ancestors to the Americas. Surely there’s something wrong with this reasoning. But what?