curses of our fathers

Every time a murder happens which is touted as racially motivated, many of us re-enter the conversation about racial relations in America. Maybe it’s a conversation we should have more often – hopefully it doesn’t take killings to get us to the table.


History.com says slaves were brought from Africa to America for use around 1619. And then the enslavement, buying, and selling of black people was abolished by a law set forth around 1865. White people stole Africans from their homeland and bought and sold them as property back in America. Effectively, they took a people with dignity and brought them into a new society where they were made non-human. White America removed the humanness from African people openly for about 200 years.

It’s been about another 200 years since black people have been reclassified as people, not property. Abstractly, you might say we’ve now spent more time classifying African-Americans as people than we have as property used to make money. White Americans have played God – taken life and tried to give it back, stripped dignity and tried to restore it, trampled a people and tried to raise them up. But dignity is not mankind’s to give and take away. And if you spend 5 minutes insulting someone, removing their dignity, turning them into an object to be used for your gain, it’s going to take more than 5 minutes to make peace with what you did go, to make the consequences go away. For 200 years whites classified blacks as inhuman property. And then another 200 years having decided they’re actually human after all.

The reconciliation, rebuilding, the restoring of personhood does not happen fast. And probably it’s not white people’s to give back anyway. But how long will it take?No one knows. But we must acknowledge these kinds of things are not flipped on and off like light switches, or by strokes of pens on bills of Congress. And pleas to get over it or stop pretending like racism still exists after all this time are not a good way forward. What is a good way forward? Perhaps not assuming our opinions are obvious conclusions – stopping to listen, to read other perspectives, and to look at our own actions. How have I acted a reconciler? What am I doing to reverse the curses of my fathers?

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