My father’s family kept slaves – and he defended it. Acknowledging it matters | Slavery
, 2022-09-14 02:00:00,
My father, a successful lawyer and former aerospace engineer with an Ivy League degree, was an ardent defender of slavery. Throughout my childhood, at the dinner table and the park, and when driving past public housing, he held forth on the superiority of white people and, as he saw it, the inferiority of everyone else. He idolized our ancestors, who enslaved Black people in Mississippi. He would routinely denounce abolition as the meddling of know-nothing northern “bleeding hearts”.
“Birds of a feather flock together” was his mantra. This zeal for segregation extended to storytelling, and banning images of integration – lest his daughter be tempted to consort with anyone who wasn’t white. He used my mom’s nail polish to cover Black children in picture books, or cut their faces out altogether. When I was seven years old, he took out a brown-skinned toy on the side porch and hammered it until its head came off. Then he threw it in the garbage, where he said it belonged. He forbade me to watch Sesame Street because Black and white children played together on the show.
His cruelty was pointed and multifaceted. Once, when he asked what I’d learned that day at my fundamentalist Christian school in Miami, I mentioned that when someone fled enslavement in the South and was captured, their enslaver cut off their toes. My father was so angry, he seemed to levitate. He canceled my plans and his own, and spent the weekend sketching civil war battlegrounds, lecturing me…
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