Matt Haughey wrote a Twitter thread today referencing his experience back in 2018 of visiting the Whitney Museum in New Orleans:
I’d read Just Mercy, I’ve read the People’s History of the United States, I’ve read a bunch of Ta-Nehisi Coates, so I naively thought I had some idea of how bad slavery was. After visiting and hearing the stories from my guide and seeing the displays, I really had no clue. Think of the worst thing you can possibly imagine that one human being might do to another and know that what really took place was a hundred times worse."
I don’t know if or when I’ll ever be in New Orleans, but I hope I can someday take my family to visit this museum. Much like visiting the museums and memorials to the holocaust in Germany, which I was lucky enough to do with my family back in 2000, it’s important to know where and what we’ve come from - and in North America, the generational destruction that is slavery is a huge part of the foundation of what we’re all standing on today.
The darkness and brutality of slavery was evident from start to finish on the tour. In the “Gold Coast” around New Orleans, slaves lived for only 7-10 years after arriving on plantations in the region, no matter what their starting ages were. Slave owners insured their property (including their slaves) and would get up to 75% of their investment back when slaves died, so plantation owners had every incentive to work everyone to death, making many times over what they paid thanks to their free labor and when their slaves did die, owners were rewarded by recouping most of their original investment. The entire economic system was designed to support it.
I know here in Canada we have our own reckoning with the past that we continue to make a mess of even today, in light of all that we know.
I don’t have the answers for how to heal from the past atrocities. But I do know that actively working to deny they happened is among the worst ways to process and help healing:
I feel like the rise in conspiracy theories is due to so much more concrete information and data out there and people saying they can’t possibly believe what they see with their own eyes, instead it just HAS to be something else that doesn’t undermine their own beliefs.