Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My Family Had Slaves

As politically incorrect in today’s acceptable society, it is part of my ancestry. Does that make me a racist? A bigot? Or is it part of history?
It is recorded that some of my ancestries had in their inventory ‘people’. Labeled like livestock or cattle there were listings of the number of slaves.
These listings of records were made in marriages or estates for tax purposes. It was also a sign of wealth.
That said, it means a former family member or an assigned taskmaster was present at a slave auction to bid on a ‘person’ just like a cow or a horse or a wagon. As appalling as that sounds today, one must remember the time and the place.
Slaves were necessary to agricultural families because they could not produce enough children fast enough to harvest crops and neighbors had the same problem. Families could not maintain their spreads of land presented to them in the new world.
Forgivable? Absolutely not, but unfortunately the act of enslaving other people has gone on since the beginning of time. Buying a ‘person’ was status quo like buying a refrigerator today.
And many, many cultures and countries were involved in the procuring, distribution and retail of ‘people’. The owner of another person had to provide food and shelter and clothing for their ‘slaves’ but little else. A slave was on his or her own to become educated or entertained or endures basic survival after being purchased.
I have no record of who these people were or their names or their duties in the households or if they were cared for or abused or their families or their kin today. I do not have a record of the race of the slaves. I only have a record of age being over or under 16. I have a brief line in history that one human being with my last name could purchase another human being for whatever purpose.
In a class society, there will always be a superior and unfortunate subordinate culture. Race, religion, height, title, family heritage not withstanding, our society adapts and changes. We cannot change history but only reflect how we have progressed.
Does that my family owned other people make me a racist? Does that I realized at an early age that people of color reacted differently to people that looked like me make be a racist? Does it matter I realized what was socially accepted was not what was preached? Does it matter I stood on the sidelines during the conflict of segregation vs. integration make me a racist?
The discussion of the act of enslaving another for whatever purpose cannot be understood or comprehended in our modern society. I know because I watched the changes from Jim Crow to desegregation in the capitol of the Confederacy with huge monuments to generals who lost the cause for state’s rights. We now pledge allegiance to the stars and strips and sing the national anthem and we are a United States, but history does not go away.
One hundred and fifty years ago the commonwealth I was born and grew up in said this:
“AN ORDINANCE to repeal the ratification of the Constitution of the United State of America by the State of Virginia, and to resume all the rights and powers granted under said Constitution.

The people of Virginia in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, having declared that the powers granted under said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal Government having perverted said powers not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slave-holding States:

Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain, That the ordinance adopted by the people of this State in convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and all acts of the General Assembly of this State ratifying and adopting amendments to said Constitution, are hereby repealed and abrogated; that the union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State.

And they do further declare, That said Constitution of the United States of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this State.

This ordinance shall take effect and be an act of this day, when ratified by a majority of the voter of the people of this State cast at a poll to be taken thereon on the fourth Thursday in May next, in pursuance of a schedule hereafter to be enacted.
Adopted by the convention of Virginia April 17,1861 ratified by a vote of 132,201 to 37,451 on 23 May 1861.”
With all the talk about heritage and symbols, there are some basic facts. People used to be marketed. Today they still are.
Today people are moved from place to place to cultivate our crops and provided us with the inexpensive and plentiful food we indulge in. They live in squallier and though not called ‘slaves’, are used for toiling jobs with little pay. 
Is it freedom or is it 21st century slavery?
You decide.

No comments: