Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Coming To The Table: Dealing with the Perpetuation of Slavery


In spite of slavery becoming illegal over 150 years ago, our society still experiences many of the dynamics created during that time. Segregation, unequal distribution of resources, unequal educational opportunities and beliefs in superiority and inferiority based on skin color can be traced to the institution of US slavery and the beliefs that supported its creation and legalization. Laws were passed and beliefs about inequality were supported through “scientific” research and from church pulpits to support an economic system that privileged people of European descendant over people of African descent. Learning about the institution of slavery and ways its principles and practices were perpetuated after the end of legalization helps us understand our current reality and clarifies why many people of European and African descent have and are having a different American experience.
Although differently, people from both groups experience the traumatic impact of the legacies and aftermaths of slavery through attitudes, beliefs and experiences passed down between generations. Even though some intentional efforts have been made that have diminished the negative impacts such as Civil Rights legislation, time has not healed and untold and unfinished business continues to manifest in our society. Traumatic impacts, attitudes, beliefs and structures must all be examined to better understand how we can face our history and current situation in order to create a new reality for our descendants. It’s not enough to just better understand the problems; we need to create a strategy for addressing these issues without creating additional harm. The strategy must include uncovering underexposed history (and broadening knowledge and awareness of history that is already known), building connections between those with different experiences, healing harmful effects and taking action to stop perpetuating damaging beliefs and structures.