Things that I “hate” about my job
Daring title you say? Would I really post what I hate about my job? Provide dissatisfaction? Trust me, it’s not what you think. I love my job and what I do. But there are things that I hate about it as well. Curious to find out? Read on!
That there are few African Americans doing it
While this lack of available “slave labor” makes the individuals who do it a hot commodity, let’s face it, it gets lonely being the “only”. You want co-workers who can relate on the skin deep level. It’s always great for me when I have someone who is African American volunteer with me because we can talk about why we think slavery should be interpreted, and hey, it’s always fun to have a partner hang out with me in the slave cabin.
People have a tendency to feel sorry for you
I understand when visitors empathize with the plights of slaves, but I choose to look at them as survivors. Certainly without the determination of my ancestors, I wouldn’t be here. I am constantly amazed at what slaves were made to endure as I interpret and it makes me appreciate their lives even more. It sometimes pains me when people feel bad that I interpret slave life. I choose to do this and I am empowered to tell the stories of these human beings who had thoughts, feelings and families.
Saying “I don’t know/We don’t have information on that”
Not all sites that interpret slavery have a comprehensive history of their slaves. It’s a fact of life and just a part of the package. Often, slave holding records are held by family members, held in state archives in bits and pieces or destroyed. For those rare places that do have more than a list of names, reading about the activities of the slaves can be fascinating. It’s always amazing to read store ledgers and see slaves buying ribbon or clothing because they saved money from whatever good they were able to sell. To read runaway ads of slaves from your particular site is a curious thing as well. Especially when you don’t know how slaves were treated. Was it family? The longing to be free? Was it brutality? What factors led the slaves to run away? Were they recovered? What happened next? These are things that clue us into the lives of the slaves. We depend on the records of the slave owners because it was illegal for slaves to write or read, so save for those published narratives, we don’t get the “everyday life” aspect we would like to have. So it’s frustrating to tell people, “we don’t know”, because you would like to know and you would like to share that information.
The often unspoken rule that if you’re not African American, you can’t interpret slave life
Some of the most notable historians of slavery have been white. I therefore refuse to believe that you can’t interpret slavery because you’re the wrong (I use that loosely) shade. Now, if you’re doing first person, then no, of course not. But if you’re doing third person interpretation–why not? Ans who says it can’t be done? Worried people will get mad or you’ll offend someone? Unless you’re in black face or giving out completely inaccurate information (see: all slaves were happy being slaves), if you know your stuff and can present it to the public that makes them walking away thinking more about your topic, and they aren’t cussing you out, then YES! you can interpret slave life. Granted, people tend to accept slave interpretation better when it comes from African Americans, but there are some African Americans who will lead you to believe that all whites owned slaves and beat their slaves within an inch of their lives, every.single.day. Doesn’t matter what color you are when you present information that shows you know your stuff and you are confident in your presentation
That there are some African Americans who see it as a bad thing that I interpret slavery
To that I say, if not me, who? If not now, when? There should be no shame in knowing the history of your country, let alone your ancestors. Is it pretty? No. People being treated like property and listed alongside cattle is not pretty. It however is reality. Rose colored lenses will only get you so far, and will lead you down the road of ignorance. When it comes to slave life, let me tell you, ignorance is not bliss. It’s an eye opening thing, this study of slave life. It’s a lesson in being thankful that it no longer exists and its better to research and find out for yourself than to believe everything someone tells you. Bone up on some research, visit some sites. Like I said, it may not be pretty, but it’s worth it. And stop scowling at me because I do it!
I would find it very hard to work in a place like that. Interpreting a black slave (if I was black) would not be a problem, but interpreting a white man in the same area but not a slave, very difficult. I don't feel good about it now sitting here, so I know I would not like doing it there.
Your candor is refreshing and, importantly, provides valuable insight into a very difficult challenge. We appreciate your contributions to “deeper understanding.”