White America still pretending slavery didn’t happen


To be forgiven, one must first repent.

Plantations are talking more about slavery — and grappling with visitors who talk back

CHARLOTTESVILLE — A Monticello tour guide was explaining how enslaved people built, planted and tended a terrace of vegetables at Thomas Jefferson’s estate earlier this summer when a woman interrupted to share her annoyance.

“Why are you talking about that?” she demanded, according to Gary Sandling, vice president of Monticello’s visitor programs and services. “You should be talking about the plants.”

The takeaway is that white visitors don’t want their founding father myths intruded on by the reality of those men’s character and action. Like the men themselves, who prided themselves on how advanced they were compared to everyone else, white America still wants to pretend that slavery didn’t happen.

Our original sin (not the only one, mind you) is still with us because we haven’t confessed to it. Anyone with a basic Sunday school religious education will tell you that you have to ask for forgiveness to receive it. 400 years on and we refuse to ask for forgiveness. And that is the fundamental problem of race in America. None of the technical aspects of systemic racism can be reasonably addressed without it. We remains stuck in the same cognitive dissonance that our “great” founding fathers erected for themselves.

5 replies »

  1. Sad. I hope tour guides continue to tell the true story despite how it might offend some people. I’d like to think our history books reflect the same truth, but I have my doubts.

  2. You are dealing with a particular set of people who have no power to save and no hearts to sympathize I said if people don’t care one way or the other because their lives are wonderful that has been enriched blood sweat and tears African descendants

  3. It’s very racist to expect white European Americans, some of whose ancestors didn’t even arrive here til after Emancipation, or whose ancestors did not even own slaves, or whose ancestors may have been abolitionists from the beginning, to apologize for something they did not do, and who are rightfully irritated at having slavery thrown in their faces at every turn. We are also tired of having the Founding Fathers trashed because they weren’t flawless, and got caught up in the whole thing, which was as old as the hills.

    • Thanks for stopping by – we don’t get many Trumpers here.

      No, you didn’t do anything personally, but you haven’t figured out the important thing: racism isn’t a personal issue, it’s a collective, institutional one. When you buy into being American, you assume a piece of the institutional identity and responsibility. To claim the glory you have to acknowledge the failures.

      The descendants of slaves are, however, suffering mightily STILL from the legacy. If you really believed in “American” values like fairness and justice, you’d spend less time whining about “having racism thrown in your face” and more time thinking about how we can make this a place that’s fair to everyone, regardless of race. Because that way we could, you know, make America great again.