Hey fans (and by “fans” I mean “fan” and by “fan” I mean “the Russian brides proposing to me in my comment section”). My research excursion to Providence and Newport was a success, and I look forward to subsequent trips down there to follow up on some leads. Special thanks to M, who hosted my lazy ass for a night and let me have the use of his car while cramming for his exams. Expect pictures soon, particularly ones of me tempting supernatural fate!
Today, however, I feel compelled to address a news item. It’s a month old, but the fact that I — a news junkie — have not heard of it until now is in and of itself a testament to how troublesome said news item is. I vent bile, below the fold.
Back in June, the top four in Congress unveiled a memorial to the slaves who built the capitol rotunda. The memorial, and the attendant ceremony, was the culmination of a decade’s worth of work by the very ominously named “Slave Labor Task Force.” The story goes that in 1999 someone (a socialist, probably) somehow discovered a yellowed pair of receipts for slave labor leading to the convening of a task force to discuss and debate the best way to honor the work of these individuals, people who were building a majestic testament to the pinnacle of classically inspired republicanism, people who would spend the majority of their lives in literal and figurative bondage.
The result? Not one plaque, but TWO plaques! Ooooooh . . .
Ten years of work, during which time archives could have been combed to find out who exactly these people were. Considering that one of the slaves — the ingenious and resourceful Philip Reid — was identified to the point that he figured in speeches by both Blanche Lincoln and Mitch McConnell, it seems the wherewithal was there. Would it have killed you to post some names in “Emancipation Hall?” Maybe tracked down surviving relatives for a more “personal touch?”
Ten years of work. Two plaques and simpering, patronizing speeches suggesting that the slaves were thinking “walk humbly with god” while they were being forced by strangers to carry ginormous stones in the malarial heat of a DC summer. Obviously I can’t get into the hearts and minds of African American slaves, but I’d be willing to bet that they were thinking more along the lines of who do these evil bastards think they are or gee, I hope in a couple of hundred years someone makes a plaque or something about this. That will totally make up for this whole “being thought of as chattel” thing.
Ten years. Seriously, task force. You could have at least thrown up another statue. Isn’t that the default setting for DC monuments anyway? You could have done one of . . . I dunno . . . Philip Reid? The speakers at the unveiling seemed to love him. I’m not exactly talking reparations here. Paying people for their labor retroactively if they’re not Goldman-Sachs is communism, obviously.
The thing that’s really jarring about this? There was little to no coverage of this ceremony outside of blogs. Cord Jefferson has an excellent piece about the . . . shall we say . . . “unfortunate implications” of both the plaques themselves, and the ceremony as a whole. I guess the liberal “lamestream” media was just too wrapped up in Beiber fever to report on this. I mean, it’s not as though chattel slaves being employed to build a monument to representative governance doesn’t have profound conceptual and symbolic implications regarding the role race has played in American history. Or that the bureaucratic snarls leading two ten years of half-assing it and unfortunate commemorative speeches might indicate that this legacy is by no means over. Or that this happened in a historically African-American city might have some sort of bearing on our collective blindness. Or something.
I’m turning right back around to fly out to Buffalo tomorrow evening, so posts may continue to lag. I will try and post SOMETHING before then, however. Honor bright.