This morning, a gentlemen I do not know – but who follows me on Google + and who, out of courtesy, I followed back – posted this public comment on the wall for my Google + hangout tonight.
“Stop sending me this crap. We never owned slaves. We are Czech immigrants. Get over it already.”
Once I took a few minutes to calm down and promptly blocked this gentleman, I started to think about why his comment bothered me so much (aside from the fact that he had, indeed, connected to me and that his comment is just rude). Here’s what bothers me.
1. Slavery is relevant to all of us living in the United States. It’s part of our history as a nation, and it’s the direct, ancestral history of more than 13% of the people who live in this country. We have a connection to the institution of slavery in very real ways, and we are loath to pretend that we don’t, no matter our own ancestry and no matter our personal family’s connection to the institution. Slavery is part of America . . . we need to deal with that fact.
2. We have a legacy. In addition to the fact that slavery is a very real – and fairly recent – part of American history, slavery has left a very real and present mark on our country. As just one example, African Americans in the United States earn just $.66 for every dollar that European Americans earn. Our nation still needs to do a LOT of work to change our systemic problems – and our personal ones – that perpetuate the legacy of slavery here.
3. I’m probably not the one who needs to “get over it.” I hear this kind of comment often – that somehow I should “get past this” and “move on.” These statements irk me to no end because at best they devalue something I care greatly about and at worst they signal a racism that says that the history of an entire group of people is something we should just forget. I have never heard someone with an interest in the Founding Fathers or Civil War reenactments told they should “get over it,” and if someone has an investment in understanding the Holocaust, no one tells them to “let it go.” Nope, these statements are almost always connected with questions of race and race-related history. Plus, if these statements bother me as a white woman, I cannot imagine what they must mean for my friends of African American descent.
So when people make comments like this man did, I get livid. I don’t respond though – I’ve learned. I just delete, keep him away from me and the people I love and respect, and take the only action I have readily available – a few words in a blog post.
But if I did respond, I’d probably say, “Sir, perhaps the one who has something to get over is you.”
What do you do when people make statements of this nature?
Tonight at 9pm EST, I’m hosting a Google + chat to discuss The Slaves Have Names, genealogy, and the experience of writing this book. I’d love for you to join us. Just RSVP at this link. Or if you can’t make it, feel free to post a question and then catch the video on my YouTube channel at another time. Thanks, and hope to see you there tonight.