In fact, I believe I am responsible. I did it. I am White.
A 4th great-grandfather owned and/or Mastered more than a few of those ships on the Slate depiction. I have a list of them all,their routes and passengers from a museum in Liverpool. It makes me sick.
His son was the 1st of the side of the family to live in America. He raped his only slave at least 4 times because she bore him 4 sons proved by DNA and records. Her first son was born when she was 15 so I guess he was a pedophile, too, although I am sure he was just providing cheaper labor. What’s cheaper tan a slave? One that he didn’t have to buy.
Everyone of my 3rd and 4th great-grandfathers raped their slaves and had children and their offspring are my cousins today. I have and continued to apologize to each of them as I seek them out and contact them. And I apologize to you, too. As my father always said when this came up: “The times were different and it was just as wrong.”
Our colonies were founded on greed, not on religious freedom. Jamestown was settled before Plymouth. Investors in the Virginia Company of London hoped to profit from the wealth of the New World. In 1606 King James I granted the Company organizers exclusive rights to settle in Virginia. A 13th great-grandfather of mine invested in the 3rd Charter of the Virginia Company of London. And Jamestown was the place where the first 20 Black men were indentured.
The landowners “indentured” both Black and White people, giving them contracts for specified periods of time to work until they were freed. Usually 5 to 7 years. Then there was 1640 and John Punch. Three indentures fled. The two Whites captured had their contracts extend by several years as punishment but John Punch, the Black escapee was sentenced to a lifetime of servitude. After that, Black indentureds typically were lifetime “servants” and things began to change more quickly.
Then Headright: each indentured imported broughtthe landowner another 50 acres. But then the White and Black indentureds living together were having relationships, friendships and children and began to rebel TOGETHER. This had to be stopped. The Headright system spilled over: indentured White men when their 5 to 7 year contract was up got 50 acres, a mule or horse and the vote. Or, if they paid their own way to American to be indentured, they also usual got $50. They got reparations. The wedge held. The African slave trade provided for workers in the form of slaves only.
A 10th great-grandmother in old Virginia was a Nansemond Indian. She married the grandson of the investor in the Charter. Two of their many children were dark skinned. Their land was taken from them when Virginia passed laws so that no one dark skinned person could own land: remember that there were many mixed raced people from the indentureds’ loving relationships. I am proud that the brothers’ siblings moved with and in support of them to North Carolina. I am very sad that my 9th great grand Uncles had to carry papers declaring that their mother was an Indian not a “negress” and that she and their father were Christians of good charater. I have copies of these papers.
And my story is longer and uglier still, if anything can get uglier than kidnapping, rape and selling people. It involves Reconstruction, Jim Crow and most tragically to me, a grandfather in the Klan. My parents never said the “n” and I was reared to believe that truly all of us are created by the same God and therefore equal and loved. I have learned that too many believe something different. I wish that the America I was brought up believing in existed. It never has.
My story is America’s story. I suspect it isn’t any different from most of White Americans who have roots in the South. I suspect it isn’t different from most. And it is time we begin showing empathy and working to make what we have done, what we are responsible for or at least have used to walk over you with, is finished. White affirmative action continues in legacy, nepotism and privilege yet people fight affirmative action for Blacks? We bind ourselves, our future and our grandchildren almost as tragically as we have always bound you. The suicides, alcoholism and addciton that one may trace in my family since the end of hte Civil War is greatest in the family made richset from slavery. I believe America pays generationally for her original sin, too.
So, again, I believe I did it. I am responsible. And I work against this lie that America was ever what we may all dream it to be because until we accept who we are, we cannot become who we want to be.
The richness of my family since finding and meeting our Black cousin is increased, at least for those of us who accepted it and don’t live in denial of scientific fact. Our respect for our Black cousins is vast. Our love is lasting and deep. And because we can compare records, White Privilege and it’s legacy is clear. Irrefutable. I hope to use my well researched story to help the willfully blind see.
The truth set me free. It is the only thing that will set any of us free. The America some Whites now strive for never existed for everyone and anyone fighting for that doesn’t hold morals or values consistent with freedom or justice for all.
I believe in and will fight for reparations. If it worked for Whites in the 1600's it will work today. Reparations should have been part of the Emancipation Proclamation.
I watched the aftermath of girls just a bit older than me killed by terrorists’ bombs in a church in Alabama on the flickering black and white TV. I saw daddies killed on that same TV and young black men hanging from ropes in the shadowing oaks. I never believed I’d see all the rights won in the 1960’s denied in the 2000’s. I am ashamed.
Thank you for another honest and deeply meaningful article. I am sorry for all my family and, as a result I, have had to do with the hateful, murderous and terrorist treatment with which you were brought to this land and with which you have been treated since.