About That Modern Day Slave Story

I don't want to say too much about this myself, because I am a white woman and, even though I don't know my own ancestral history and whether or not my ancestors owned slaves (I'm adopted), it's not for me to assume how slave descendants or modern-day slaves think and feel and experience their lives. That said, I'm a long-winded girl and it is hard to contain myself.

For context, read this essay in the Atlantic, but read with a wary eye.

Then go watch this video by Ijeoma Oluo, because, as usual, she nails it. It's her voice that inspired me to share and I hope you listen respectfully.

I will say that I wish the author of the Atlantic essay had considered that maybe it's not necessarily his story to tell either. While everyone can tell their own life stories, he told another's story without ever really knowing her side (just what he projected onto her). He cannot have know what Lola thought and felt, despite living his entire life with her, because she likely could never have truly revealed herself to people who owned her.

I also want to be wary of this ubiquitous narrative told from the perspective of slave owner that portrays slavery as wrong (or mostly wrong, or somewhat wrong, depending on the story) or the modern white boss person (who may as well be slave owner of their nanny or maid or driver, if not for meager wages), but then makes sure to insert moments of tenderness and laughter or some sort of perceived loyalty (whatever that means) between slave and master/maid and white boss.

You've seen it before: The Help, Gone with The Wind, etc. and it's supposed to justify the treatment of the slave/subservient person, since they supposedly love their master (or their master's children) or what-the-fuck-ever. So why would the author of this piece include it if not to justify, if not to slightly absolve himself and his family of this one horrible fact: they owned a human being.

This subject has been tackled MANY times over by writers more educated and more eloquent than I (and Ijeoma said it above), and I urge you to end this blog and go read writing by PoC, because, obviously. But, I want to say it here anyway: the slave does not have a CHOICE!  A human being is bound to have human reactions to her surroundings because she's a human and not an object (another aspect of slavery) and we can't take those reactions and behavior and make assumptions because of it.

It doesn't matter that all parties involved in this story are Filipino; the story is the same. It's about power structure and who gets to own the narrative.

A. Nobody asked her. Lola didn't get interviewed. She didn't get to tell her story. She didn't tell us how she felt about the situation. Her voice is only expressed through the eyes of one of her masters.

B. Why don't we, whether decedents of slave owners or at least of non-slaves or even modern slave owners stop projecting our own shit onto people who were/are not allowed to speak for themselves?

To put this is a little perspective: ladies, do you hate when men explain womanhood to you, mansplain your own experience as a woman? THIS IS THE SAME THING. He mansplained the shit out of Lola's experience as a slave.

And he  criticized his mother's treatment of their slave only because his mother was cruel. He apparently was a-okay because he was nice(?), and he gave her a small allowance, and he eventually offered to take her home. There's no such thing as a benevolent slave owner. It qualifies the slavery as okay as long as you're not too mean to your slave.

Nothing, NOTHING, justifies owning a person. Nothing.

You can stop explaining now. Because nothing.

SHHH! Nothing.

Nope. Nothing.


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