Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Other "Trail of Tears"

Talk about the things they didn't teach you in school.  I went through the California public school system back in the day when it actually taught you (well, me, anyway) to read and think about things.  And I don't recall ever hearing one single mention of this.  But let's start with a question it probably never occurred to you to ask.  Say you are a slaveholder in the pre-civil war South, and you have more slaves than you want.  How do you sell them?

In this article, in the October 2015 Smithsonian Magazine, I found the appalling answer.

Retracing Slavery's Trail of Tears

It's longer than the usual Smithsonian article, but I read all of it. It was horrifying but extremely educational. I recommend we all read it, and remember, so we can not do that ever again.

As I regularly post, if we as a people don't understand who we were, and what we did, how can we possibly avoid doing it again?


  1. I've wondered about this too.

    We lived in a very conservative town, one in which there were no black people (remember?). Yes, we had a good education, but like journalism, there is no such thing as complete disinterestedness in learning.

    We grew up in a place where the truth needed to be sweetened up a bit. You didn't talk about racism, because it was "not nice." This was collateral to the habit of not talking about "unpleasant things" in public. I remember asking the parent of a good friend how much he had spent on grandma's funeral (when the subject was in the news following Mitford's The American Way of Death), and was put down sharply for prying into private affairs, as all as wanting to discuss something like funeral expenses in public. This was very typical in that world, at that time.

  2. You are so right. Given that I don't recall much that happened before we moved to Napa (I was 4), I think I can say that the first time in my life when I met and interacted with people of color was when I joined the Vallejo Junior Symphony - I think I was around 10.

    I think the refusal to discuss "unpleasant things" was not just Napa. Looking back, I believe that was the '50s generally, all over the country. Remember the TV shows from then? The jokes that got told? All very pure. That was why people like Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl (did you see the article about him in the Chron the other day?) were so shocking when they began to stand up and call it like they saw it.

    Yes, you didn't ask people about money then, that was private, along with whether someone beat his wife (I had a cousin-by-marriage who did). This attitude may have been less prevalent in big cities, but we didn't live in a big city. The current income inequality has made people more willing to discuss money than they used to be.

    On the whole, I've grown to be in favor of looking at reality. It's just easier to deal with than remembering all the taboos. I still startle people sometimes who prefer the taboos.