Thoughts on slavery

So a few years ago, I had a conversation with my best friend about slave life and interpretation as I was writing my thesis. He shared the following thoughts with me:

On growing up in Mississippi and Georgia, I asked “What was his attitude towards the institution of slavery at childhood, and then again at 25?”

His response? When I was younger I had the natural view coming from a black person in the south. It was all the “white people’s” fault and it angered me. Seeing my grandparents struggle and my parents and how they viewed slavery, discrimination and “white people” I would have expected the same outcome for myself. Yet I realized I can’t hate or be mad at something I know nothing about. After studying on my own (key words “on my own”) what slavery was and how it started I have come to terms with it. There is nothing to hate now about it. In those days everyone had a right to be mad. Now, we experience nothing in comparison. These people were beat with bull whips and we get bent out of shape when someone says “nappy headed hoes”. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned with comments like that but angry? no. Slavery is a part of history.

On talking about slavery, I asked “did you feel like it (slavery) was something that should not be discussed, or did you just see it as something that happened to African Americans and could not be changed?”

His response? I believe it should be discussed but I don’t believe the world is ready to be objective when discussing it. Everyone should be able to get an unbiased account of slavery. I believe once more people open their minds to it objectively everyone will be able to come to terms with it being tragic a historical event. The thing is America is ashamed. We freely talk about the Holocaust and Hitler and if you have a strong feeling one way or another you’re bad. Yet we cant dig into our own past objectively and come to terms with it and it happened further back in history.

I asked what he thought about slave life interpretation.

His response? Who else is gonna play the black people. It would be the worst lawsuit in the history of reparations if a white person or any other race played the slaves. People would get offended and call the place racist. The problem is people are afraid to face it. On top of that we have instilled in our minds as black people for some reason that the white man still owes us. That’s why people can’t come to terms with it. People still feel connected to the event and contrary to popular belief white people can’t let it go until we stop feeling like they owe us something for it.

I asked a few other questions but I’m thinking that I will do a follow up to this since these questions were asked a few years ago. Now that we have a “post-racial” society, I want to know if the answers regarding how people view slave interpretation have changed or if they are the same.

I believe that your perception of slavery in the United States can vary based on where you’re from. He was from the Deep South and has grown up with the racial tensions that persist in that area, where that is not my experience. One of the goals of this site is to engage readers in discussing slavery, SO….tell me, how would you answer some of these questions?

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1 Response

  1. J-M says:

    HI Nicole, I am thinking about slavery A LOT these days. Let me start by saying that I am half Jamaican. My father was naturalized the day after I was born. My mom’s family were Georgia po’ white trash.” My father was never a rasta type, but a highly educated person. He made good here in America, just like my family in Jamaica. The motto of Jamaica is “One Nation, One People” and that’s how I grew up. That is NOT how I feel in today’s America! E Pluribus Unem doesn’t apply here in the states either.

    Until now I have never felt shame for my black half! I have never felt resentment that my great grandmother was a Carib slave. I felt bad for her occasionally, but she and her white lover may have really loved each other. I just don’t know. She herself may have been part American Indian. How many people know that the Spaniards sent a lot of American Indians to Jamaica as slaves? Does anybody care that America also utilized “indentured servitude” or white slavery as well? The IRISH (the other side of my family) are fully aware of the slavery of white people here. In fact, the white “indentured servants” were treated far WORSE than the valuable black slaves. It’s just a fact.

    When I hear a young boy say “We been slaves, whites OWE us” in March of 2011 it makes me sick. Who is teaching this crap to our children? This is racism and hate mongering. Personally I don’t know one single person who was a slave. Not one person who owned a slave and dare I say it, my white family NEVER, EVER owned a slave. That was 140+ years ago. Lincoln, a REPUBLICAN president freed them.

    Some of the whites had already freed their people. Some slaves STAYED with their “horrible massas” because there was love and affection and respect for one another. Who talks about that part? One successful black jockey, back in the late 1800s said that anything he earned belonged to his former white master if he wanted it! He was overjoyed to discover that his former master had survived, albeit with nothing and felt enough true affection for him to make this offer! There is no record that his former master accepted this offer!

    These decendants of slaves and all the rest who CLAIM to be decendants of slaves without proof, should be thanking God that they were born here. The “white” people have bent over backwards for those with a darker complexion. America is the best place in the whole world for people of color. Where else is there a well developed social welfare plan? Housing? Food stamps? Free medical care? How about all the prefered hiring/college admission practices where people of color get jobs and higher education chances that are denied whites? This should make blacks happy. I admit that *I* personally would be humiliated to think that the ONLY reason I was given an opportunity was because of the melanin in my epidermis, but that’s just me. I like to think I am the BEST person for the job. I do not use my tan skin as a sword against my employers… This is what America is about! Opportunity. We all have it, and the darker your skin the more options. What is so damn bad about that?

    In closing I want to say that all these (mostly) young black men, egged on by hysterical race baiting people, are RUINING things for all of us with their lawless and disrespecfull behavior. They should be ashamed of themselves. However “shame” has never been taught to them. It’s their OWN BEHAVIOR that is creating racism, even in this half black person. I hate that my own people are acting like this. Then to pull the racism card, when they alone are responsible for racism. They are racist themselves and they invite racism by their actions. It’s terrible. Their slave ancesters (if any!) would be so upset to see how their decendants are treating freedom!

    PS WOMEN got the vote something like 50 YEARS after black men got the vote. What does that say? (again it was a Republican who signed that into law.)

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