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We Wonder Today

17 September 2019

How, we wonder today, could such otherwise enlightened and exemplary men as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson have owned slaves, a practice so contradictory to all they stood for?

There is no easy answer to such questions. But surely a part of the answer is that each of us is born into a world that we did not make, and it is only with the greatest effort, and often at very great cost, that we are ever able to change that world for the better. Moral sensibilities are not static; they develop and deepen over time, and general moral progress is very slow. Part of the study of history involves a training of the imagination, learning to see historical actors as speaking and acting in their own times rather than ours; and learning to see even our heroes as an all-too-human mixture of admirable and unadmirable qualities, people like us who may, like us, be constrained by circumstances beyond their control. . . .

The ambivalences regarding slavery built into the structure of the Constitution were almost certainly unavoidable in the short term, in order to achieve an effective political union of the nation. What we need to understand is how the original compromise no longer became acceptable to increasing numbers of Americans, especially in one part of the Union, and why slavery, a ubiquitous institution in human history, came to be seen not merely as an unfortunate evil but as a sinful impediment to human progress, a stain upon a whole nation. We live today on the other side of a great transformation in moral sensibility, a transformation that was taking place but was not yet completed in the very years the United States was being formed.

~  Wilfred M. McKay

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3 Comments to “We Wonder Today”

  1. I have been harvesting stuff about Slavery for quite a some time now. I have Story folders full of stuff. I noticed something odd. Each book, article, documentary comes out, causes a few ripples, then is apparently forgotten. Each time that happened I would say, Wait a minute what about this, what about that, and was deeply puzzled by the reaction. People were unaware of what I’d found, yet it was sitting in plain sight at the time.

    – Then I remembered Stephen King’s novel, IT.

    – Think of King’s Derry as America.

    In the book, the adults did not see the blood drenched walls. Those that did were targeted by Pennywise. When Pennywise was killed large parts of Derry collapsed, because Pennywise was the foundation of Derry. Derry was built on Pennywise and his power to feed on and control the people of Derry.

    – When you work through the articles, videos, books, and you start wondering how this happened, how is it not taught in school, why don’t people know this stuff, think of King’s Derry.

    BTW, don’t go to Bucharest, there is another Old One controlling it as well, but that is another story for another day. I digress.

    This is a list of articles, documentaries, books that will get you started. These are just a drop in the bucket.(Get it. The One-drop Rule. Look it up. HA!)

    Read The 1619 Project that the NYTimes Magazine just put out. It explains that slavery was the basis for building the country.

    – That without slavery, there would be no America.

    When people try to look back and wonder how people like Washington could own slaves, that’s like asking how a city could exist without looking at the infrastructure that is the city.

    Everything that is wrong about society today, is because we are still using the techniques and methods developed by Plantation owners to control workers. The phrase “Wage Slave” is not a metaphor.

    Every decision about things like Single Payer insurance, Public Schools, Public Assistance, prison reform, etc… goes back to the Plantation mentality that still controls every aspect of our society.

    The 1619 Project
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/18/reader-center/1619-project-slavery-jamestown.html

    There are about twelve articles in the series, and it just touches the issue.

    The Atlantic just put out a great article as well, it does not mention Jaspin’s book about Racial Cleansing that came out in 2007.

    The Great Land Robbery
    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/09/this-land-was-our-land/594742/

    The PBS Newshour did an episode on the article.

    How southern black farmers were forced from their land, and their heritage
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_cWnov_6_E

    The Atlantic in 2014 did the Ta-Nehisi Coates essay about Reparations. He links to a series by the LATimes from 2001 that no one else talks about.

    The Case for Reparations
    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/

    ‘When They Steal Your Land, They Steal Your Futureʼ
    https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2001-dec-02-mn-10514-story.html

    Prosperity Made Blacks a Target for Land Grabs
    https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2001-dec-09-mn-13043-story.html

    Divide-and-Conquer Land Laws Hurt Blacks
    https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2001-dec-16-mn-15476-story.html

    This is a book that does mention Jaspin’s 2007 book. That is very rare.

    Blood at the Root by Patrick Phillips

    The PBS Newshour did an episode on the book.

    How a Georgia county’s campaign of terror drove away its black community
    January 16, 2017
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iLWJhfWoPQ

    This is the book about Racial Cleansing that came out in 2007. What’s interesting, is that he does not mention, or seem to be aware of the LATimes articles from 2001. This concept was all news to him.

    Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America
    by Elliot Jaspin

    This is the NPR interview.

    Book Examines Towns that Forced Out Blacks
    https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=8893124

    This is a documentary based on the book. I remember when it was shown on Independent Lens on PBS.

    Banished: How Whites Drove Blacks Out Of Towns In America
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XttocmdJvnE

    I could keep adding to the list. Go back, decade by decade, and you will find stuff that appeared, and was forgotten. Sundown Towns, The Great Migration, etc…

    We are living in King’s Derry, and the walls are covered with blood that most people cannot see.

  2. The notion that slavery was “the basis for building America” is bunkum.

    As to the notion that we are like Derry, we are no more so, and in fact less, than other countries. No one likes to remember the bad things their countrymen did, and we do a better job of it than most places do.

  3. It’s an interesting exercise to consider the dilemma faced by the Founders who opposed slavery. (Not the ones who favored it.) Exactly what should they have done? Two countries? War? Full representation for slaves? It’s not easy. Nobody liked the compromise solution, not the North, and not the South.

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