Feministe Proclaims: CNN — We’ll Show You Our Slave Roots If You Show Us Yours

From the blog Feministe about a CNN story on Michelle Obama’s “slave roots”:

(W)e would have loved to see CNN do is to acknowledge that all Americans have slave roots, not just Michelle Obama. We are a country that owes much of our prosperity to our slave labor history. The White House was built by slaves. Thomas Jefferson would not have had the leisure to write one of America’s most treasured documents had he not owned slaves. This country would not be here if it weren’t for slaves. This is not news. Slavery is part of our collective history, and not just the history of Michelle Obama and other descendants of the African Diaspora.

More after the jump.

Instead of noting that, CNN presented their trip to Friendfield as celebrity story–like going to Spain with Penelope Cruz!–and thoroughly erased the reality of slavery from their coverage. Describing a former plantation as “Not exactly ‘Gone With the Wind’” is almost laughably offensive, implying that if Michelle’s great-great-grandfather had been lucky enough to be a slave on the fictional plantation of Tara, his life would have been that much better. The piece does detail some of the woes of life at Friendfield, noting that the shacks the slaves lived in were hot in summer, cold in winter, and provided little protection from creatures ranging from chiggers to alligators. However, nowhere does CNN note the other unpleasantries Michelle’s great-great-grandfather and other slaves likely experienced, such as rape, flogging, or having one’s child taken away. The most jawdropping line, to us, is this one: “And unlike the CNN crew, the slaves were not free to leave.” No kidding. But hey, lucky you!

The writers at Feministe make an excellent point in that slavery is often discussed as an isolated issue that only affected American blacks and the South, rather than discussing it as part of the “Big Picture,” where slavery impacted everything from the American way of life to the economy. No part of American life went untouched by the scourge of slavery and it is a history equally shared by both white and black Americans (not to mention by people across the Diaspora). But as long as we talk about slavery as only us and very little them, nothing will ever get reconciled.

7 thoughts on “Feministe Proclaims: CNN — We’ll Show You Our Slave Roots If You Show Us Yours

  1. All I gotta say is … WOW!On Mrs. First Lady in that yellow dress.Is it gonna get me listed as an “eminent threat” for oogling the Presidents wife?Daum!

  2. Feministe is actually carrying the weight–which is rare for non-distinctively identified Black groups to do in advocate social justic agency for Blacks. I am impressed. This website however is not mainstream and its effectiveness in spreading their sentiment in action depends on their intentions to stick with educating and holding their block/base accountable to building on this agency to educate how most Americans don’t carry the weight of their privilege of not being the identified and pin-pointed heirs of slavery. It’s ironic that I literally had this conversation on the train yesterday morning with a co-worker (who is White) in explaining to blatantly that Whites who we revere and respect at our job are arms-lengths Liberals get credit and gain credibility as powerful political capitalists working on policy that looks like it is trying to leverage equality for Blacks and Others but they have distinctively White superior lifestyles. They get away with taking credit for caring because of their policy work but their active lives are not in agency of carrying any weight. My co-worker agreed and mentioned that she did not know how to start herself to carry the weight of her privilege. And she asked how would Whites start to even do it. I told her it would be collective and singular turmoil. I could not lie to her and tell her it would be easy. I told her that her physical presence now would be challenged to even consider if her lifeline would have reached to produce her if her family and other Whites did not live such an enterprising life based on the luck of not having to have had to centuries ago carry any of the weight. I told her that at the moment that we were talking it might not have ever even existed with her family’s lifeline reaching to the future of existence and comfort of existence which is clearly more superior to me who does not have a functioning, enterprising family unit that knows how to master the American system like her family does. She agreed and told me that no one made her have to carry that much that I posed to her at that moment before. And I told her that I knew it was heavy but imagine that her life and the lives of others who have privilege and comfort would just start to carry that heavy weight and reconstruct "what ifs" not in favor for themselves…they might have mental breakdowns. They would defintely start to resent us more to displace their anger with themselves and their family and social units that never handled the leveraging before. They would actually hate us more for making them face the truths about what all of racism is and that they live it as our cool-at-work and cool White friends who get to walk the face of the earth free of charge of not having to pay the taxes of our legacies and theirs.Feministe needs to create an educational campaign. I hate when hipsters and hybrids write about change but do nothing strategically systematic in programming to make it vivid and tangible so that people would have to be confronted with interacting with the new discoveries/lighbulb moments that could initiate real tangible (touchable, feasible) change.

  3. Not only do we all have slave roots b/c slaves made much of the infrastructure of the nation possible do we all owe a debt to slaves but there are a whole lot of white folks out there who are descended from slaves and don’t know it b/c somebody decided to pass and slip into the white mainstream. Some white folks get MAD when they hear that. I saw in the Washington Post once that it could be as high as 1/4 of all American whites have such a heritage.

  4. I am white, French and I am fed up of that obsession of repentance coming from white Americans. I think that all civilizations used slavery and it’s the western civilization that abolished it. To be more specific, the first countries to have abolished slavery in the history of humanity are France and England. You should read the work of the black historian Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau. (French)The African slavery was invented by Africans themselves. When African kingdoms were at war the victor was selling entire enemy villages men, women and children on slave markets. It’s the European colonization that stopped the legal practice of slavery in Africa.I am tired of people saying that countries like France are guilty of crimes against humanity because of slavery. France never allowed slavery on its territory since the Middle Ages. Due to their Christian roots and unlike Africans French found slavery to be a repugnant practice.Furthermore, slavery has been an economic system for thousands of years so stop talking as if only blacks have been slave.To sum it up: The message of U.S mainstream media and politicians is that the white exploited poor black Africans in the past while the truth is that the majority of slave traders in Africa were black (selling other black to Arabs and others some of them were sold to U.S plantations)

  5. did Frederic just say that France never had slaves?! your ignorance is so offensive that I have to pause for a moment and realize that you are French, meaning you actually believe what you’ve said! slavery and your colonies have been nicely edited out of your history book and the racism that is so blatant in your country towards members of your former colonies goes unnoticed by whites. When I visited France, important dates of slave uprisings were nicely edited out of the timeline in the history museum. Racism against Arabs was so blatant that even I felt oppressed!slavery as a profitable institution in the New World is different and separate from Arab and African slavery. In order to logically discuss one, you can not lump them all together. By all historical accounts, African slaves were treated as members fo the households-full human beings-and were kept as slaves only until they debts were paid off. The majority of slave owners could not have been african or Arab because they did not keep large sections of land that required constant manual labor like sugar mills or plantations. therefore, they did not require a labor force of hundreds and even thousands like the Europeans did in the New World. Realizing that the quickly disseminated native population was not equipped for hard hard labour, France stole slaves from Africa to serve as a free source of labor. While slavery was abolished in Europe, France and England had no qualms about continuing to rape, enslave, steal, and mutilate Africans in the New World. The French were notorious for being some of the cruelest and sadistic slave owners- willing to rape a slave girl and then cut the fetus out of her womb while she hung from a tree,for example. In Haiti, the French were so cruel that no African lived to adulthood. Slaves died so quickly and so often from mistreatment that the plantation owners regularly recieved new "shipments" of stolen Africans. Madison Bell researched the practices of french slave owners for his book on the Haitian revolution "All Souls Risng".( Oh yeah, Haiti. I guess you didnt think we still knew about that minor embarrassment to Napoleans army, did you? ) you claim France never allowed slavery yet the the descendants of Africans enslaved by the French still remain in Haiti, Martinque, and St. Lucia, just to name a few places. how did they get there? Why do they all still speak French?As the descendant of former French slaves and slave owners, I am offended and appalled by your ignorance. While American race relations arent perfect, what I’ve seen on my visits to France are saddening and backwards. The french believe that they are so enlightened, yet they refuse to acknowledge that people of colour should be treated as full citizens in France even today. France is overdue for a civil rights movement and your former colonies are overdue for an apology and restitutions. You can start by giving Haiti the $25 billion you stole back.

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