Posted by: constantinakatsari | February 1, 2010

Racism in Class

As soon as the class began I noticed that every person in there was white. Does anyone else feel that will either limit our discussions or direct them in certain ways? For instance when looking at American slavery, this will be an issue that we ‘may’ feel detached from. Im not sure that if I was a decendant of slave from the 18th century I would look at the sources in the same way. I am not going to speculate on how I would feel if I was in that position as I have no idea, but I am sure an African American would have different insights to me. Aslo, does anyone feel ‘guilt’ can play a part in how a white person discusses American slavery?

How did everyone else feel about that documentary “Diggining for Slaves” at http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/chronicle/8627.shtml 

 Personally I think it seemed a bit patronising. It was made in the 1990s I believe, and I doubt that if it was made now it would be made in the same way; which is shocking in itself because it shows how attitudes have changed in a few decades. Was interesting how they only very briefly mentioned the crossing over from Africa (and for some reason there was some very upbeat music playing in the background at that point). Also, with a documentary about Roman slavery I would assume that at some point they would mention Spartacus? Why didn’t African Americans get their mention of Nat Turner?

 David Carthy

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Responses

  1. They didn’t mention Nat Turner because that wasn’t the focus of the documentary. It’s called ‘Digging for slaves’ because they were looking at the archaeology, it’s process, goals, and how it’s shown to the public. That’s why it glossed over the sea voyage.

    If it had been a straight historical documentary about what happened to the slaves then the revolts would have been mentioned, as would the procurement and transportation of slaves etc.

    As for the class being all white, I think it may well be reflected in how we view slavery. But I hope it won’t be, that we’re past that. I don’t feel guilty about slavery, I didn’t take part, neither did my parents or grandparents or even their parents! I think it’s analogous to me as a woman getting angry about sufferage if we studied that. It’s long past, many people suffered, but we’ve learnt our lessons from it as a society and should be able to study it dispassionately as academics.

  2. Having just watch ‘Digging for Slaves’ it’s really hit home that we may not be getting an accurate picture by all being white, middle class and well educated. I agreed with Mary’s comment before about us being detached, but having watched the documentary it’s glaringly obvious that a large portion of Americans and people of African origin still aren’t. Should this affect the way we handle our discussions? Are we being insensitive if we ignore it? Or would it just be extreme political correctness?

    The other aspect that really surprised me was how to handle the portrayal of slaves living quarters etc. in Williamsburgh. I’d never realised quite how sensitive an issue it was – portray the sometimes brutal reality of slaves living conditions and leave some visitors feeling humiliated, or censor them and potentially outrage others. Is this the same with written history? Is any of it truly reliable – especially if it’s written by an African American historian? It all comes back to how detached and objective any of us can be.


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