Code Noir was a decree originally passed by France‘s King Louis XIV in 1685 and carried in part over to early slave treatment in America. It outlined conditions of slavery in the French colonial empire – for example in Haiti. It restricted any religious practice other than Roman Catholicism, and ordered all Jews out of France’s colonies. Although whites at the time believed that blacks were sub human, by instructing and baptizing in the Catholic faith they acknowledged that they had a soul.
The code has been described by some to be: “one of the most extensive official documents on race, slavery, and freedom ever drawn up in Europe”.
It is easy to read this 300 years later and see the absurdity in it. A detailed law in slavery? Teaching religion to a sub-human race that had no rights as “true” humans? Instructions on treating other humans similar to how we would now treat animals?
But it was the law of the land. It was accepted. How could anyone revolt against behavior that was a part of culture, necessary for the economy, and sanctioned by law by the King?
How will our behaviors be judged in 300 years? What “laws” outlining our behaviors will be judged as outrageous because the underlying behavior is so outrageous? A mother is prosecuted for murder for not caring for a newborn child while weeks earlier she could legally abort and donate the body parts. What religious practices will be scorned? What spiritual beliefs will be embarrassing? Will we finally have racially mixed church services or will we still be segregated on Sundays? Will we have grown smarter and more civil or more evil?
Remember that when we say “in the good old days” we are not looking at all people but only the ones who had the power to write the laws. The TV show “Happy Days” was only happy for the white people – not for blacks who had no rights.
1 John 3:4-5 (NIV)
4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.