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The American Civil War was the topic of U.S. History; the teacher asked us to imagine what life was like for a slave.
I was fresh from South Carolina and had just finished reading ‘Mandingo,’ so I raised my hand and said, “I think it would be awful to get bred.”
“Get — bread?” the teacher asked.
“Yes, ma’am. They bred slaves for the babies.”
“Where did you hear that? I’ve never heard such a thing.”
I instinctively knew Mandingo was not a good source, so I said, “Everyone in the South knows how to breed livestock. Slaves was livestock.”
The teacher smiled. “Were,” she corrected. “I’ll research this tonight, and if you’re right, I’ll apologize tomorrow.”
The next day I got an apology.
“By the laws of competition no one can carry on a thriving business in breeding slaves for the market, unless the rights of mothers be utterly trampled underfoot, and (to borrow Mrs, Stowe’s phrase, babies be sold by the pound; 2, The right of chastity be utterly denied to every slave woman, and the right of rape be sharply conceded to the master ; 3, All right of a slave to a wife or children, as well as to property or to a native soil, be totally exploded ; 4, The unlimited use of the whip be given to the master. Every one of these things is not only a stern reality, (and if you do not know them, I must say it is you that are ignorant, not I that misrepresent,) but they are even so cherished that no man in the South could publicly speak against any of them, without being tarred and feathered, or otherwise violently driven out.”
The Character of the Southern States of America, 1863
I consider the white supremacist a barbarian, and I define barbarism as a set of regressive beliefs and behaviors that are destructive to an advanced global civilization.
“Barbarism” in its contemporary sense is variously interpreted as meaning either a technologically advanced but extremely exploitative and oppressive society (e.g. a victory and world domination by Nazi Germany and its Fascist allies); a collapse of technological civilization due to Capitalism causing a Nuclear War or ecological disaster; or the one form of barbarism bringing on the other.” Barbarian Defined
Barbarians are not stupid; they make contingency plans when facing defeat.
Consider that as early as 1822, slave owners in Charleston discussed the use of ‘white tradesmen’ as a cheap substitute for slaves:
“Sufficient data are not at hand to form a precise estimate of the whole expense of a Charleston black mechanic or house servant. But from the above statement, it must greatly exceed that of the field slaves. And when the draw-backs from his efficiency are considered, it is probable that the labor of white men will, on the whole, be as cheap as that of the slave.
Thoughts on a Slave Revolt 1822
The Union won the battle against the brutality of slavery, but the former slaves were viewed by their former owners as a problem:
“In 1860, failing to solve its part of the world’s problem of equity in human relationships, the commonwealth clashed with the dominant idea of the period. In the championship of their system the planters and their neighbors were defeated, and their system was shattered as far as it could be by its victorious enemies encamped upon the field. But the pendulum swings again. Facts of human nature and the laws of civilized social welfare are too stubborn for the theories of negrophiles as well as of negrophobes. The slave labor problem has disappeared, but the negro problem remains.”
The Slave Labor Problem in the Charleston District 1906
Lawlessness and terror were the South’s solution to the ‘negro’ problem, just as they are now.
“After the Civil War, [slave patrols] seamlessly morphed into the Ku Klux Klan, the Red Shirts and other extra-legal organizations with the same purpose: to keep the black population cowed and under control. Fear of the black population is also why Southern society long-accepted brutality in law enforcement to a greater degree than other parts of the country did.” American Violence and Southern Culture
Some people think of the victory of the Allies over the Nazis as an irrevocable defeat of evil.
The same claim is often made about the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“Ronald Reagan defeated evil!”
No, he didn’t.
The United States won a temporary victory over Russia’s Soviet Union, now a corrupt capitalist oligarchy that infiltrates our media and abuses the freedoms of our democracy to make our lives a living hell.
Evil adapts and waits.
Evil retreats, and becomes invisible until its crimes are such a stain on the collective soul they can no longer be ignored.
“The greatest evil perpetrated is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons”
Rob Goldstein 2016-2020
Header image, Getty Images
We have more in common then we care to know…becoming the targets of a mass shooting is just one of them.
A Nation That Has Never Let Love In
In a land that time has forgotten
there lives a people of a much lighter hue.
They rock back and forth on the porch
and sip from a bottle of Mountain Dew.
But in this land that time has forgotten,
there are others with a dark skin tone
who simply try and go about their business.
And they just want to be left the hell alone.
Though innocent of any wrong doing,
since they never asked to be here,
they worshipped the god of another
who said believe and never know fear.
So, on a hot southern night in June
in the old weeping willow tree,
the birds became quiet as the grave
and no hum could be heard from a bee.
Hate slithered right up to the door
of a church and was welcomed inside,
where there was prayer and love…
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My paternal Grandmother’s name was Sara
She died when my Father was still a boy.
My Father’s family had immigrated to the United States in the mid 1800’s.
Charleston was one of the few colonial cities after Savannah, Georgia that
allowed Jews to practice their faith without restriction.
Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue was founded in 1749. It is the fourth oldest Jewish congregation in the continental United States. It had always been my family’s synagogue.
My Father was Sephardic as was my Mother.
Sephardim refer to the descendants of Jews who lived in and were expelled
from Spain in the 15th century.
Some members of my family spoke Ladino.
Ladino is Judeo-Spanish. It is the spoken and written Hispanic language
of Jews of Spanish origin.
My Father and his Family were ‘Old Charleston’ and proud of it.
When he mentioned his Mother, he described a loving woman
who worked hard and was a leader in their community.
I have never heard the story of Sara’s illness but my Father said
that she seemed to vanish a little each day.
I don’t know the name of the illness but the word ‘cancer’ was whispered.
In the Charleston of my Father’s youth, people had many superstitions.
People with Cancer were shunned because everyone thought that Cancer
was contagious or that cancer was a form of demonic possession.
Some people thought that rubbing a toad on the affected breast healed
And far too many people still believe all illness is punishment from God.
There remains a residue of stigma that attends Cancer in American society.
We still associate health with virtue and illness with moral lassitude.
The death of my Father’s Mother deeply wounded him, and I think that
this wound altered the course of his life.
We’ve learned ways to mitigate damage to our bodies.
We know much more about everything in 2016 but we still have much
We never replace our sisters, mothers, favorite aunts, best friends and
As we consider the women we love and honor and the women we have lost, let us all do one small thing each day to make the future enlightened and more compassionate.
Dedicated to Sara.
I should like to have met you.