Why a National Slavery Museum is a Bad Idea
Promoters of a national slavery museum claim it would heal the wounds of the past. In fact, it would cause wounds in the present because continuing emphasis on slavery more than 135 years after emancipation has two purposes: to offer Blacks a ready excuse for failure and to make Whites feel guilty.
Constant reminders of slavery suggest to Blacks that if they are more likely than Whites to be poor, in jail, on welfare, on drugs, have illegitimate children, or to drop out of school, it is not really their fault. It is, instead, the legacy of slavery and of the continuing racism that slavery is said to have burned into the minds of Whites.
The message for Whites is even more blunt: Whites are guilty of terrible crimes, from which all Blacks suffer to this day. The implication is that Whites should therefore agree to the demands of Blacks, whether for racial preferences, reparations for slavery, or calls for “sensitivity.”
All this is extremely damaging. It helps no Black person to tell him that White wickedness, past and present — and not his own abilities — determines whether he will succeed. Likewise, Whites are increasingly annoyed at being blamed for things they did not do.
At the same time, because one of the purposes of a slavery museum is to make Whites feel guilty, it would be likely to ignore or downplay certain facts: Slavery has been widespread in virtually every period of history, and was hardly unique to America. Slavery was widely practiced in Africa long before the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and virtually every Black slave who came to North America was first enslaved by other Blacks and then sold to Whites. Slavery in Africa was abolished by Whites — not by Blacks — and in Sudan and Mauritania it continues to this day.
In the United States, the 1830 census found that more than 3,000 free Blacks owned slaves, and there were Black owners in every state in which slavery was legal. In 1830, free Blacks owned more than 10,000 slaves in just the four states of Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina:
Andrew Durnford of Louisiana owned more than 100 slaves. Madame Ciprien Ricard, also of Louisiana, owned 168 black slaves. Black masters bought and sold their property and offered rewards for runaways, just as White masters did.
At the same time, only a small minority of Whites were slave-holders. In the states of the Confederacy, only one in five White households owned slaves. Needless to say, the millions of Whites who are today descended from post-emancipation European immigrants had no ancestral involvement in slavery at all. Finally, slavery was ended by the efforts of Whites, not Blacks, and came at the end of a war that cost the lives of 600,000 White soldiers.
For all these reasons, slavery is hardly the simple tale of bad Whites and good Blacks many make it out to be. Any museum that slants the past, and that pits one race against another through excuse-making and guilt-mongering, will harm our society rather than help it.