Letter to the Editor
The purpose of this letter is to enquire whether or not the discussion of race in Holly Springs is a good idea. I’m sure there are many people who firmly believe that it is. If such a discussion is to be had, I should like to point out a few things that ought to be kept in mind if we are to avoid the pitfall of unintended (and unpleasant) consequences. Also, one needs to do a little research before getting involved in such discussions. Most of what one needs to know is online.
Picking at scabs seldom promotes healing. What percentage of the U.S. population thought race relations were good in 2008? What percentage thought they were good in 2016? For the eight years of the Obama administration, race was a constant topic of discussion. Did it improve race relations or worsen them?
In 2008 very few people were claiming the police were racist, and no one was shooting policemen (black and white) because of it. In 2008 no one was rioting over monuments to Confederate soldiers, or suggesting that The Star Spangled Banner should not be sung, or that the Jefferson Memorial should be torn down because Thomas Jefferson owned slaves.
How many people reading this have owned at least one slave? Unless some readers have lived in the Middle East or held an executive position in the sex trade, the answer is surely zero. How many of you have been a slave? Again, unless someone has lived in the Middle East, or been the victim of the organized sex trade, the answer will be zero. Why are we talking about something in which we have not been directly involved?
How many people reading this are descended from a slave? If you are white, and you did not put your hand up, think again; and put it up. From shortly after Adam and Eve got their eviction notice, until the mid-19th century, slavery was the normal condition of the bulk of mankind. Surely, there is no one on this earth who does not have slaves in his family tree, including the crowned heads of Europe. Slavery is considered a racial issue only because its last gasp in the western world involved enslaved Africans.
Slavery found its way to the western hemisphere because agriculture needed labor and the supply was insufficient. Slaves were for sale in West Africa and farmers bought them. Europeans did not enslave Africans. They bought slaves — human beings who had been enslaved by Arabs, and by other Africans.
One of the bad habits of our period is judging people from earlier times by the standards of our own. We find slavery abhorrent; but for most of the history of mankind slavery was considered a normal part of life. That attitude began to change in the late 18th century, and by 1820 Great Britain had outlawed the slave trade and set the Royal Navy to the task of suppressing it. Anti-slavery sentiment in the U.S. was growing in the decades leading up to the Civil War.
People in the South may or may not have approved of slavery, but they knew their economy would be destroyed by its sudden abolition — as it was in 1865.
One last comment on race. There were black slave owners in the South. If a free black had a farm too big to work with his family, he would purchase a slave. There were also a few (not many, but a few) black soldiers who fought for the Confederacy. Slavery was not strictly a black/white matter. The Jim Crow laws were. Those laws were the result of hardening political attitudes during Reconstruction. We don’t need to be doing anything to harden those attitudes again.
And a final political statement. Is it in anyone’s political interest to keep the racial cauldron bubbling? If one seeks political advantage by convincing people that they are victims, would it ever be to that person’s advantage to lift the “victims” out of their victimhood?
Listening to the news one could become alarmed that neo-nazis are about to take over the world. How many skinheads, neo-nazis, and KKK members are there? Look up the number. How much of a threat are they? The fact that they carry Confederate battle flags is no reason to do away with that flag. The KKK uses the cross as a symbol. Should churches be required to remove their crosses? Should the Red Cross be required to change its name and its symbol?
Keep things in perspective.
Holly Springs needs to avoid the racial bickering that is plaguing more and more of the United States.
Very truly yours,