David Bachrach’s reply (The Mail, 2/27) to another letter writer on why there is no national slavery museum (The Mail, 2/13) reminded me of just how important such a museum is. It also smacked of the African-American and Jewish community’s age-old argument of “who has suffered more.”
It is the ultimate in naiveté to assume that Americans will never forget slavery. Unfortunately, African-Americans aren’t nearly as vocal in sharing their painful history with Americans as is the Jewish community and thus are certainly at risk of rearing a generation of young people oblivious to what their ancestors have endured.
Slavery, like the Holocaust, will remain forever documented in our history books, but the horrors that African-Americans endured during the Reconstruction era and up until the 1960s are part of a shameful past this country rarely owns up to. Just as there are still swastikas etched in several areas of this city and many others, there is still employment discrimination against African-Americans, and church bombings and cross burnings when blacks venture into certain areas.
No one is exactly certain of the number of Jews who lost their lives during the Holocaust, just as we will never know the number of Africans who lost their lives on the slave ships that entered this country and others through the centuries of slavery, or the number of slaves who died at the hands of slave masters throughout the 1700s and 1800s, or the number of African-American residents who died in nearly 50 years of lynchings, or the number of African-American men who lost their lives in the name of police brutality in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.
We do know this: The Holocaust is over, and we all vow to never forget and fight against the mentality that created that horror. However, the effects of slavery on this country and on African-Americans have endured more than 100 years past the Emancipation Proclamation. But because it is the shame of this country and not Germany or some other country, blacks are almost forbidden to talk extensively about it except amongst ourselves.
I do agree with Bachrach on one point: There is no comparing the two. While the story of the Holocaust enjoys the attentive ear of Americans eager to ensure that such a tragedy should never again happen, African-Americans are rudely told to get over the past. Even the idea of an apology is too much for this country to bear.
For Bachrach’s information, congressional plans for a national slavery museum have been stalled and placed at the foot of the Hill for years now. It is the keep-our-dirty-laundry-in-the-closet mentality that hinders the commitment of a national slavery museum, not the lack of effort.
via the Internet