On leading tours through a Southern plantation

Oak Alley Plantation cropA 100 years ago, I went to Savannah with a friend. We both had always wanted to go — for me, I’d wanted to see the lush city since reading “Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil” — but what I found at the actual town was a white-washed (literally) view of the Old South, along with an amazing number of shops that inexplicably sold small tea cups…is that a thing? Are there really that many people who collect those cups?

Did focusing on delicate tea cups divert our attention away from a large and ugly portion of Savannah’s history — and our own? It didn’t divert my attention. It mostly just pissed me off.

Savannah was an important port in the slave trade, but about the closest we got to any mention of that on that trip was on a ghost tour where we heard a recording of a woman whom we told was enslaved crying out in pain. Well, yeah.

(And no, I did not tour any plantations in the general area, just as I refuse to go and gape at The Breakers in Rhode Island. Rich people worked the system and built big houses. I know this already. Why pay an entrance fee to marvel at their dinnerware?)

I grew up in the semi-south and though I knew about slavery, my education in no way connected that abysmal institution to the Civil War/War of Northern Aggression. I was in 7th, maybe 8th grade before someone switched the conversation from states’ rights to human rights, and I was in high school when Mr. Green, who was cool because he played in a band on the weekends, finally and forever connected the dots for me.

Shame on me for not connecting them, myself. In Sunday school, I could sing that Jesus loved the little children, all the children of the world — red and yellow, black and white, they were precious in His sight — and still be comfortable using the n-word when I wanted to call my brothers a bad name. How stunned I was to leave Mr. Green’s class, my books clutched to my chest, knowing that there were Things The Grown-ups Weren’t Telling Me.

So read this, “I used to lead tours at a plantation,” at Vox. It’s eye-opening, and you can read it and get pissed off all over again.

Published by datingjesus

Just another one of God's children.

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  1. How does a white American, north or south, reach adulthood without knowing these basic facts? Even Justice Thomas knows that slavery was bad, because mandatory health insurance is so bad that it’s “just like slavery.” I guess it’s all a matter of context. It’s bad when you need a comparison to some socialist program you don’t use, and good when you’re talking about actual real slavery.

    Poor white men who had never owned slaves were led to believe that, poor though they were, they were superior in every way to the free black man, and the equal of the rich white man. The descendants of the poor white men still feel that solidarity with the rich white men — they are still being scammed with this same story even today.

    1. I can tell you that I was raised to believe the Civil War (the War of Northern Aggression) was fought over the issue of states’ rights. I did not question that teaching until I hit junior high. I think if you never read and never circulate and swallow whole the lessons taught you as a child, you can fairly easily make it to adulthood being very stupid.

    2. As far as I know, Justice Thomas has never said anything was “just like slavery.” He mentions slavery in his Obergefell dissent…“Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved.”…but that’s about it.

      Right Wing opposition to ObamaCare® has often employed that term in reference to the Individual Mandate™, but I never heard or read of Thomas himself using it.

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