In a discussion with a cyber friend off-blog today, I shared some of my thoughts about the idea of “Coming to the Table.”
As I believe I have stated in another post here, sometime ago, I have no descended-through-the-generations stories of slaveholding relating to my family, but I have thoughts as a genealogist who has found slaveholders in my lineal family tree and, more importantly, thoughts as an historian. I think the historian part of me keeps me grounded, and that’s a good thing. I think it helps me detach myself from my contemporary mindset, if that makes sense. It’s not a complete detachment, but it’s an “intent to be objective”. It might sound cold and emotionless, but that’s not the case.
I’ve had the opportunity (and great pleasure) to have conversations with a number of folks who are descended from enslaved peoples, from a direct descendant of Bethany Veney to a descendant of a soldier of the USCT. I sincerely cherish these discussions. Though they are not descended from people who my ancestors held in slavery, I do feel as if our discussions (often off-blog and sometimes not even related to blogging) serve as an instrument of healing, actually taking steps to “come to the table”. I’m not one who thinks I should apologize on behalf of ancestors. I think there is something wrong with that (just as much as there is something wrong with donning the “causes” of our ancestors’ in years past). When it comes to apologies, actually, who are we to judge our ancestors in this way and who are we to speak of our ancestors in this way? We serve ourselves and them better by making an effort to understand them and their time better, even though we will still fall short of complete understanding. Nonetheless, how can we apologize for our slaveholding ancestors if we did not have the advantage of knowing them and life as they knew it at the time in which they knew it? When it comes to “slave times”, there are many more layers of history since that time that taint and/or blur that vision of the past, as it existed in the past. To me, a more sincere effort at healing is a coming together in an understanding of what slavery was, how it led to other problems within our country, and how the memory of all of that continues to impact us today. We need to come together and find how we can move beyond it all, while at the same time acknowledging the past… not distorting it for some contemporary agendas that distract us from what “Coming to the Table” is all about.