Thursday, March 6, 2014

Leonard Pitts & "12 Years a Slave"


A column by Miami Herald writer Leonard Pitts has been published today that recommends that everyone attend a screening of the much applauded and Oscar-winning movie 12 Years A Slave.

Pitts says this: "As a nation, we have never quite dealt with our African-American history -- the unremitting terrorism, the ongoing violations of human rights, the maiming of human spirit."

He speculates that African-Americans will be reluctant to view the movie because it will reinforce their resentment over the injustices of the past and that whites won't want to watch it because it will revive their guilt.  He feels that " the pathway to (reconciliation) lies not in going around, but together, through that which brings us heartache and sorrow and makes us weep."

The "peculiar institution" that kept slaves in bondage had existed everywhere from time immemorial, as it does today in other parts of the world. These slaves were considered property, valuable property. While they were worked, abused and sold without regard for their own feelings, they were never the object of extermination. Leonard Pitts and other African-Americans exist today for that very reason.

We can't know how many native Americans would be alive today if their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, generations reaching back into the 16th century, had been able to avoid death at the hands of European invaders. Perhaps it's better to be dead than to be a slave. We can't know that, either. But Leonard Pitts is alive today because his ancestors were slaves, not native Americans.

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