Thursday, June 25, 2015

My Southern Ancestors Owned Slaves

I have been wanting to write this post for quite some time and after a discussion today I figured now would be an appropriate moment so to do.  My father, Joseph, grew up in the tiny South Carolinian town of Camden and remembers quite vividly all the trials and learning experiences that accompanied desegregation.  He was raised in part by a former slave who he regarded and loved.  He absorbed from the cradle many of the opinions, ideas, and manners attendant on a white boy in the South.  And yes, he grew up on family land that had once proven a plantation filled to the brim with black slaves. 

I am grateful to have lived in Arizona my entire life that I might be able to look with a more objective view now regarding the trouble brewing in my father's home state.  I understand both sides of the coin in the debate raging about the Confederate flag, and find myself brokenhearted about the violence that has transpired recently.  Hatred never brings joy.  I have perused the old pictures of my Southern ancestors, some of whom fought and bleed under the Confederate flag for a cause that to a great extent makes me wish they had not.  I understand the war was about states' rights as much as anything else, and anyone who has read Uncle Tom's Cabin understands that those slave owners of the day often believed due to preachers at the pulpit that they were fulfilling God's will in attempting to own human souls.  It is folly to blame people for things they did not understand and it serves no intelligent purpose to remain angry and filled with hatred for those people who to some extent were victims of their society and upbringing.  My heart bleeds for those slaves they owned, both at the site of my father's upbringing and the other family plantation which still stands and bears the title Tanglewood Plantations and I plead with heaven for the souls of my ancestors who, I hope, were at least humane in treatment of their slaves.  I know that at least one of my ancestors was a member of the KKK and it grieves and shames me to my knees.  I pray for his soul in the hope that he acted in what he honestly believed to be the right course of action, though even in this it renders me little comfort.

Our world's history proves rife with conflict, lack of perspective, meanness, littleness, and injustice.  I am sorry for it.  But I feel it does no good to take those past aggressions and dredge them up again today.  I understand that tensions prove high and that this moment is a difficult one for many people.  I urge all of us, however, to strive to be peacemakers in whatever manner we can within our own sphere.  We have seen blood spilled across the pages of American history, in the plantations, in the actions of the KKK, in the assassination of President Lincoln and most lavishly splashed with generosity across the grievous soil of Gettysburg.  We have seen enough blood.  We have seen enough hatred.  Let now become our moment to heal.

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