In September, I took a day trip with my cousins to a former slave plantation in New Orleans, Louisiana. We thought it imperative to learn more about our history, the unique legacies of survival and resistance of our ancestors.
It is quite unfortunate that some of the only few places available for us to look are sites of trauma and such deep violence.
Before the journey, we’d imagined ourselves ready for the experience. But the reality of standing on the soil where our ancestors had been enslaved was much heavier than we were prepared for.
For me, it wasn’t just contemplating whatever connection I may or may not have to the site, but also witnessing other visitors’ vastly different relationships to it, as well as the language used for the entirety of the tour that made the experience so intense.
One of the greatest shocks we experienced was being the only Black people on the site. The staff and other visitors we saw were white. The language used by our tour guides and on the displays almost completely omitted words like “white supremacy”, “racism,” and “exploitation,” and in its futile attempts to honor the enslaved, credited them for their “skilled craftsmanship” and “hard work”.
I entered what was originally the slave quarters to find a white family glaring admiringly at a picture of a former Slave. They commented on how “glorified” he looked. I was more than a little shocked. We were standing on the very ground where Black people had been held as prisoners. I hadn’t been prepared to witness people approaching the site with levity.
We were told by some of the staff that we weren’t allowed to take pictures in the masters’ family home, but it was perfectly fine to wander through, and take pictures of the slave quarters. Umm but why ?
I did however sneak a picture of an inventory of sorts –a sales record that described the slaves and how much money they were worth. This was a stark reminder of how black folks had and continue to be dehumanized and quantified like any other commodity.
If you ever do visit a historic site such as this one, I encourage you to take the necessary steps in protecting yourself and your energy. To try to find healing in a place rife with evil, to curate your own experience. I encourage you to pay visit to sites such as this one, with mindfulness and respect.