Sour Grapes Post Election 2012

Monday, July 18, 2011

Gone With the Wind nostalgia

 -- the idea that slaves lived worry-free and were benighted, childlike people who needed looking after -- may be fading. But the resilience of the whitewash is evident in costumed celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and its Lost Cause. When I embarked on a journey of Confederate-heritage groups a few years ago, the descendants of slave owners all insisted, of course, that "their" ancestors treated slave property like "members of the family." wasn't outrage I felt but profound sadness as I realized that the history of this house, constructed in 1817, mirrors America's own -- with its lovingly preserved mansion alongside a crumbling slave house. It's a history of privilege and neglect.
The inhabitants of one building lived free lives in Lincoln County, N.C., in a home "known far and wide for its hospitality," the essay says. "A golden stream of prosperity flowed into the coffers of the fortunate owners of all this." They passed their good fortune down, something that was not possible for those who worked there, not for pay but for survival.
I am glad that the real estate ad mentions them, if only as a footnote. (To see the words "slave quarters" is jarring, but you can't exactly describe it as a guesthouse for the guests who couldn't leave.)

"This historic treasure, built in 1817, is a phenomenal estate that has very rich history. The historic mansion was designed by Henry Latrobe, designer of the U.S. Capitol building and the finest antebellum architecture. This historical landmark, on 70 acres, is complete with four bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths, a pool, cabana, tennis courts, chicken barns, two ponds, old smokehouse, slave quarters, two barns, potting shed and additional caretaker's home."
And it's located just "25 minutes north of uptown," the ad continues. That's uptown Charlotte, N.C., where, in little more than a year, Democratic Party delegates will nominate Barack Obama for a second term as president.
The real estate company didn't really need to repeat some version of the word "historic" three times when describing Ingleside, the home first occupied by Daniel Forney, a major in the War of 1812 and a member of Congress, as was his father. The majestic mansion, built from bricks made by -- as the essay in the agency's packet calls them -- his "toiling slaves," is as much a part of the history of the United States as its first black president. What a coincidence that the large drawing room mimics the East Room of the White House.
As I walked through a fraction of those 70 acres, the weight of that history -- as well as the July North Carolina heat, humidity and insects -- made me take refuge in the cool basement kitchen. I wish those who continue to misuse some romanticized version of slavery to gain modern-day political gain would take in the view from "the big house," as the real estate agent called it, past the dog pen to the wooden slave quarters, now abandoned to red wasps, archaeologists and historians.
Would that somehow prevent some from disgracing the memories of the men, women and children who lived and died in the "peculiar institution" whose legacy our country still struggles to own up to?
"After careful deliberation and wise insight and input from valued colleagues we deeply respect," reads one of those nonapology apologies from the Family Leader, the socially conservative group headed by Bob Vander Plaats, "we agree that the statement referencing children born into slavery can be misconstrued."
The "statement" that caused such a ruckus is in the preamble to a "marriage vow" signed by GOP presidential hopefuls Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum; it condemns pornography and same-sex marriage but finds a silver lining in slavery. That odious institution may have "had a disastrous impact on African-American families," it reads, "yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President."
As many of those who have reacted in horror to the statement have said, America did not recognize the marriages of slaves, who were considered property. When, in defiance of that ban, men and women in the most brutal circumstances came together in love and started a family, it could be and was ripped apart on the auction block at their owners' whim and will.
This is what happened to my Great grandmother - Lucinda..... the very reason I can't trace my roots....

The notion that it was that very violation of every law of human decency that weakened African-American families was not acknowledged by the Family Leader. I will, however, give the group credit (the bad kind) for pointing out, to anyone who had not noticed, that President Barack Obama is African American as it floated the argument that -- in comparison -- he somehow makes slavery look good.

Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte, N.C.-based journalist, is a contributor to The Root, Fox News Charlotte, NPR, Creative Loafing and the Nieman Watchdog blog. She was national correspondent for Politics Daily.

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