Linked below is an editorial in response to the couple who toured a plantation and complained that the tour talked too much about slavery. I wasn’t there so I’m not sure what “too much” really constitutes. I can see both sides of this. The one side is that when you tour a plantation house you really should be prepared to know that there were slaves there once and if you are getting a history lesson you will by default hear about how horrifying that was. Perhaps they should couch that in a warning that hearing about such things is upsetting – it should be upsetting.
The other hand of this is that no one alive today had anything to do with slavery in the US and depending on how the information is presented it’s sometimes done in a way that makes the living feel like they are expected to feel guilt about the past. The people in the story wanted to see the house, know about the rooms, the family that lived there, and the like. They wanted only part of the story of the plantation. Or at least they wanted the rotten parts to be glossed over. They say they felt they were being “lectured to” and “bashed” for slavery and since they had nothing to do with it (them nor their ancestors) they thought that was unfair.
Slavery is a double edged sword for some.
They use it to say they were oppressed, to get angry, to say that their current situation wouldn’t be so grim if not for the history of slavery in America. Maybe. Maybe they are much better off than the Africans who remained in Africa. It’s not such a great place today. I say “maybe” because all of it is just guess work. It is belief and not fact. While we can say it’s a fact that there was slavery, we cannot with certainty point to that past as the causal factor in today’s problems. Maybe the history of slavery is a crutch or perhaps, ironically, a fetter. Something that people are tied to and bound by today that happened, not to them, but to their ancestors.
Some who have come to the realization that no one alive had anything to do with slavery think of it only as a foot note in history and not some event for which they should have an emotional attachment. I think it’s okay to feel bad about slavery in the sense that you feel that it was terrible and that it is wrong. But to have such an emotional attachment to it that you feel oppressed by it, or feel responsible for it, is not healthy nor is it reasonable.
There is nothing we can do about the past. No apology, not reparations, will change what happened, nor would either really change anything in the real world.
As with all history I think it’s value is in the wisdom it imparts on the learner. We don’t have to make the mistake of slavery because someone else did and if we learn about it we aren’t, as the saying goes, doomed to repeat it. But some doom themselves when they latch onto the idea of themselves as victims of crimes they didn’t experience and by experiences they never went through. It doesn’t seem reasonable to me to burden your own self needlessly.
Dear Disgruntled White Plantation Visitors, Hi! My name is Michael W. Twitty and I’m one of those interpreters who has watched you squirm or run away. I’m not a reenactor, because G-d f…