By Solange De Santis
Articles in this issue concern memorials to the lynchings of African Americans, the murder rate among African Americans in New Orleans, the history of Negro spirituals and a film about Harriet Tubman, who led enslaved people to freedom.
To a white person, it might seem that all of a sudden the distasteful subjects of slavery and lynchings are everywhere. These were terrible things that happened in the past and are rather depressing to think about, one might say.
A few white visitors, in online reviews, have pushed back at the idea that a tour of a Southern plantation should tell the stories of those who were forced to work there as well as the tales of those who enjoyed the fruits of that labor.
They must have missed the prominent description of the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana as a museum that focuses on the lives of the people enslaved there. It must be said that these sour voices are a tiny minority, with many visitors describing the experience as “informative,” “moving,” “important,” “powerful” and “educational.”
What the whiners may not realize is that if the stories were told, in depth and detail, of the physical and mental torture visited upon America’s enslaved population, they probably couldn’t stand it.
Episcopal dioceses and individual churches — and the church as a whole — have been researching the ways in which they benefited from slavery, more intensely since a 2008 apology.
“Through it all, people of privilege looked the other way, and too few found the courage to question inhuman ideas, words, practices or laws,” said then-Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.
Clearly, many white people today would still rather look the other way. One of the online reviewers stated that her family and her husband’s had emigrated to the United States well after the Civil War and therefore had nothing to do with slavery.
The problem with that view is that white people standing on American soil today reap the invisible rewards of a vicious system. It’s about time to tell the whole story of the American experience. The least white people could do is listen.