Tuesday, January 3, 2017


I will never do it again but recently I was reading two books: “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi and “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead. I kept one upstairs and one downstairs, reading each when I had a bit of time. Both are powerful books about aspects of slavery in this country. Both are complex books with variable main characters and sometimes convoluted timelines. 

 I will never be able to pass any form of quiz about these novels, the names of the protagonists, or their chronology. [Unless I read them again. Which I might.] 

However confused I got (and I did get very confused), I don’t believe this foolish practice was without substantial benefit. 

Reading about any aspect of history should (in my opinion) help you better understand that history – at a deep, visceral level that transforms your vision of a time period and its impact on the present. My upstairs/downstairs reading did that exactly that. Never again will I underestimate the horrendous scars our ancestors inflicted on a people and their cultures. These books obliterated any romantic/’Gone With the Wind’ vision of this nation’s history. 

 It is never acceptable to force any persons to abandon their culture and language. It is never acceptable to destroy family units, overwork and over-punish anyone, to subjugate by terror, to deny anyone’s value . . . The list of unacceptable practices – crimes against humanity -- that our nation perpetrated (and perpetuates) is long and bloody. 

 It is good to understand this, to acknowledge it and, acknowledging this, to work in whatever way we can to ensure that we never, never do this again – to any peoples, whatever their race or religion or sexual orientation. 

No one should be confined to the ‘downstairs’ of our country.

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