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View Diary: So You're Shocked Some Young, Southern White Dude Defended Slavery at CPAC? (249 comments)

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  •  This isn't just in the south. (22+ / 0-)

    I heard that when I was a kid when they told us in elementary school that the founding fathers were slaveowners.  "But they treated their slaves very kindly."

    Slavery is evil.  I'm going to try to be fair-minded about this and assume that not EVERY single person who was involved in slavery in some way was an evil rat bastard.  There probably were some otherwise nice people who owned slaves, etc.  Otherwise.  

    But "treating your slaves kindly" is a contradiction in terms.  It's semantically meaningless.  It's like saying, "I rape women kindly," or "I molest children kindly," or "I use puppies for target practice kindly."

    I'm sure that if you point this out, the next argument will be something along the lines of, "Oh, but what would those slaves have done without their master?  Nobody would have hired them and they would have starved!  It was kinder to keep them on as slaves."  Thomas Jefferson himself made an argument like that in justification of his continued slave ownership.  

    That's probably where the CPAC guy was going next with his line.  Why, those slaves should have been grateful for what they got!

    The truth is, no slave would have needed that sort of "kindness" if he hadn't first been enslaved.  

    I really wish they could get that CPAC guy on Rachel or some other show so somebody rational could draw him out on just what he's thinking.  Just give the guy a microphone.  He looks like the kind of guy that loves attention.

    •  As I've Always Understood It (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      latts, Dumbo, Cassandra Waites

      "Treated them kindly" simply means "didn't administer lots of beatings." I heard that phrase a lot as a defense against notions that slaves were routinely and savagely beaten.

      Of course even if that were not the case saying "they weren't beaten as much as you might think" is such an incredibly pathetic defense to the institution of slavery that someone should be ashamed for saying it out loud.

    •  It's a nuanced kind of evil. (0+ / 0-)

      In Jefferson's time, how could he have truly washed his hands of slavery?

      It probably wasn't economically viable to run the plantation on paid labor, so his options were to give up the plantation or continue using slaves. He could have closed the plantation completely and sold the slaves, but then they'd still be slaves. He could have sold the plantation with the slaves, but there again... they'd still be slaves. None of these actions would have reduced the amount of oppression.

      Or Jeffferson could have freed the slaves and then used his remaining fortune to transport them to the North and set them up with jobs and housing in a city where they'd be accepted as free people. That probably would have been the right thing to do, but the personal cost to Jefferson himself would have been immense; he'd be voluntarily removing himself from the aristocracy to become, probably, an ordinary lawyer in a Northern city. Huh, now that I write that out... sure, why not?

      I do wonder what would have been the principled and practical thing for 18th-century or 19th-century slave owners to do. I'm curious about what options they realistically had, as individuals, to avoid contributing to the evil. People are really wrapped up in their culture and class so they might not act on the things that seem obvious to you and me today.

      I am absolutely not saying that slavery was anything other than purely evil. I'm just considering the practical options available to the principled, albeit wealthy and privileged, people of the time like Jefferson.

    •  How do we know? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dumbo, schnecke21

      Good point.

      But the other interesting question is:  How do we know they "treated them kindly"?  It's not like anybody ever arrested the slave-owners who weren't so kind.  Nor are there a lot of historical diaries from slaves that would allow for comparisons.

      My guess is that mostly the "treated them kindly" claims come simply from the slave-owner's general reputation (in the white, slave-owning community) -- i.e. he was "a good man", or a minister, or a respected community leader, or a president, so "of course" he must have treated his slaves kindly.

      Thanks for the posting and comments.  As a northwesterner, these comments were an eye-opener to me.

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