Letter from a Freedman to his Old Master was shared on Facebook by a friend, and I was absolutely
delighted to read a letter than got a lot of press back in it's day. Freed during the civil war, along with his wife and children, this man was asked to return to the farm by his old master, who was losing said farm due to NO FREE LABOR. What strikes me about the letter is the measured and highly reasoned response that Jordan Anderson wrote to a man who had enslaved him and his family, and raped two of his daughters. Now, I would have just thrown my former master's letter away, or written back something utterly vitriolic. Perhaps gone back to try and kill the fellow. So, I recommend you read the letter, and I am assured that you will be impressed as well. Compare his words to the common discourse today over race relations, politics or religion. No comparison. Someone gets angry at your words today and they are likely to shoot you.
The topic got me thinking about Frederick Douglass, one of our nations great writers and orators. When I was in 5th grade I did my biography report on him, and I still remember much about his life because he profoundly impressed my 10 year old mind. I was probably just coming to the realization that people were enslaved, here and throughout the world. When younger, I think I equated 'slavery' with domestic service or hired farm hands. Little did I know. Time, education and reflection have increased my horror at what was done to Africans brought to our shores. Here's a quote by Douglass, and it resonates today but also makes my head hurt with impatience.
“We shall look over the world, and survey the history of any other oppressed and enslaved people in vain, to find one which has made more progress within the same length as the colored people of the United States. These, and many other considerations which I might name, give brightness and fervor to my hopes that that better day for which that thoughtful amongst us have long labored, and the millions of our people have sighed for centuries, is near at hand.”
I wonder what he would say about the conditions that still exist today for millions of African Americans. I tend to think he would be outraged. He came so far in so short a time, due to his learning to read (illegally) when a child, and because of the individual circumstances of his life as a Freeman. Many who live with the direct legacy to slavery have also done well, and it always feels so dangerous to generalize, BUT the statistics don't lie and there are plenty of them to verify that "people of color" are still not on a level playing field in this country.
Sure, now we have a President of the United States who is of mixed race, African father and European American mother, Ann Stanley. Our racial strife is crazy bad, and I know we are living through a time in history when, perhaps finally and permanently, white people are learning to give up their fears and notions about 'the other.' Until we, as a collective of white skinned people from myriad parts of the world, get our priorities straight (freedom and justice for all), the strife will continue. We've been watching the demographic shift for decades now, and at some point soon, white European Americans will be the minority. What we are seeing now is scared bigots in their death throes. Adios, amigos, welcome to the new age. As for me, it can't come soon enough. I want a country where everyone really can do well, really can achieve their highest desires, aspirations and dreams. Not a country that gives lip service to our creed.
And don't get me started on American Indians. The confrontation over the proposed oil pipeline has got my blood boiling and I have half a mind to drive on over and join the protest.