Thursday, July 9, 2015

Plantation Politics: How Some in the Old South Continue to Deny the Evils of Slavery

by Nomad

Can racism ever be extinguished in the USA when there are still some people who wish to ignore the inhumanity of slavery and to absolve the slave-owners of all responsibility?

Recently, I saw this article the other day and thought it was worth sharing.
Margaret Biser, a tour operator for a Southern plantation,  reveals that so many of her visitors seemed determined to ignore (or at least, minimize) the human costs of slavery. 

Admittedly some of this is based on a profound but genuine ignorance about history. Blame our education system or home schooling?
However, in other cases, the problem went much deeper.
In a word, denial of the history of an enslaved race's degradation and misery.

What can one make of people who want to tour a historical plantation but who refuse to acknowledge that all the wealth and grandeur on display was based on the sweat and toil of an army of bought and sold slaves? 

As the writer notes:
You can prove slavery was bad six ways from Sunday, but people can still choose to believe otherwise if they want.
Here's a link.

I used to lead tours at a plantation. You won't believe the questions I got about slavery.
Back before the Civil War, one abolitionist wrote:
Slavery constitutes a leading element of our social condition, and a prominent element of our national character. It is now so conspicuous, that no person on the globe, who knows anything about our country, can think of us, without having slavery as a part of the image, before his mind. We cannot keep it out of our own thoughts—it will agitate us, if we do not agitate it. Slavery controls our social life almost as absolutely as it controls our government...

Truly, we ought not to avoid the subject. It is unworthy of Americans to shrink from inquiry as to our condition, our prospects, and our duty. Let us meet the subject like men. Truth will not harm us—certainly not if we obey it. 
Back then, Americans- especially in the lands of formerly-grand plantations- steadfastly refused to accept the truth that slavery was a crime against all freedom-loving people. Their prejudices - supported by their religious leaders- and commercial profits, it seems, outweighed the dictates of their individual consciences.
That was, we tell ourselves, another age and we can dismiss that dangerous nonsense by claiming that we are more enlightened now.

Yet, somehow, as this tour guide tells us, there remains even today a small percentage who cannot accept responsibility for the past. They think history is just one person's opinion. There are people around today who think slaves should have been more grateful to their owners. There are people alive today that sincerely think that the conditions that slaves endured were "not as bad as all that." 

If slavery- the most outward demonstration of the inhumane idea that some races are superior to others- cannot be universally condemned in this day and age, then how can we even begin to tackle the more subtle problem of racism and discrimination?