Chinks in my patina of white privilege
This time of Juneteenth has caused me to dwell a bit on the issue of American slavery. For most of my life I had a kind of intellectual/academic awareness of and contempt for the idea, but it was mostly that. After all, my American ancestors that I knew of were all from the free states of the northern U.S., and some fought for the North against the South.
A few months back, researching my family tree, I found that one strand had come across the South, through Virginia and Kentucky before going north, and that in the 18th century had even owned some slaves -- "only three or so" -- but it goes without saying that that's three too many, and the fact that those slaves were emancipated on the death of the owners doesn't make up for it in any way, obviously.
Then the other day I read about the body of an apparent slave found in England, from Roman occupation times. In reading up on that, I learned how much of the Roman Empire was based on slavery, and that anyone not deemed a Roman citizen had essentially no rights at all, and that slave owners were not required to provide their slaves with anything other than, and actually less than, the basic necessities of life. Not Roman equaled not quite human.
The reason that struck especially home, I now realize, is that these slaves were not people from an exotic continent far from my bloodline, these were from the peoples of Ancient Britain, my ancestors. It struck home surprisingly hard, this realization of the absolute inhumanity of slavery -- shocking to me that I could have ever treated such a concept so intellectually. I'm embarrassed, frankly.
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