Irony of freedom

I must say that one of the most intriguing ideals of this book is the irony of a country “pining for freedom” yet so quick to take it from those they can. Slavery is still such an issue today because, well because it really always was. Personally I do not encourage anyone to live a life filled with guilt and regret about something that they themselves did not take part in, but… I do feel it is important to see why African-Americans see the deck as always stacked against them. It kind of always was. Having been to multiple places throughout my life where racism is not only prevalent but unfortunately it winds up really being the only thing to do for many people on a Saturday night,  I find the shock of Caucasians that African-Americans are still not “over it” appalling. The largest problem that I see is that we, as historians, are constantly  trying to battle against a group that has a firmly held belief with logic. To me this is no different than trying to argue with a fundamentalist Christian that God doesn’t exist. Although I agree with the Ira Berlin completely when he states, “All of which is to say that what is needed are not only new debates about slavery and race but also a new education— a short course in the historical meaning of chattel bondage and its many legacies.”(5) The problem I see is that education does not always change people’s minds.

Although Berlin is clearly an expert on the subject of slavery, I was disappointed that his description of slavery as, “the story of the power of liberty, of a people victimized and brutalized,” seems to just outright stop at the end of the Civil War until the last paragraph of the essay. (13th,14th and 15th amendments)In may ways, sharecropping was just as brutal and victimizing as slavery was. Sure African-Americans were now “free” but really what does that mean if many are in no better condition than they were before? This too, I believe, adds to the “deck is stacked against us” attitude that one can see in many African-Americans even today. Even when their freedom was realized, the face of oppression simply changed. This being said, I found at least some solace in the essay by James Oliver Horton. He addressed the idea that slavery had a long lasting reputation (at minimum) well into the 20th century( by looking at Bill Clinton and J.F.K.) and by so doing explains in some ways why it is still a conversation. The only thing that I can add to this is the idea that slavery and its legacy reached well into the 20th century and the idea that we as a nation should just forget about it makes me cringe…


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