When I embarked on my flight to Charleston, South Carolina, I didn’t expect to find inspiration. I expected to find good food, nice beaches, and respite from the 9-5 many of us have to come to know. I also knew that South Carolina had participated heavily in the Slave Trade and maintained the remnants of the plantations that existed so that people like me could tour it and learn more about the history of these plantations.
“Black Victim To Black Victor” Book by Adam B. Coleman
My partner and I researched the plantations with the best reviews, which sounds like a terribly insensitive thing to say about a place where many suffered under brutal conditions, but when I visited such a place, I wanted it to be one where I could absorb the most information.
What I found on Instagram during the research was pictures of people having wedding photos or celebrating their engagements at this plantation. Identity politics is a cruel and heinous thing, but something about people having celebrations at a place that inflicted so much suffering didn’t seem like the proper use of the land.
After all, as someone that comes from Jewish descent, I wouldn’t endorse turning Auschwitz into a photo op and wedding venue. Nevertheless, we bought tickets, packed up the car, and drove to the plantation through the beautiful roads that lead up to it, surrounded by green trees that protected you from the sky, and up to the gates of the plantation.
We opted to tour the plantation largely by ourselves, given the paper map at the entrance, which was a mistake due to my millennial status and heavy reliance on google maps to get around. Eventually, we found ourselves at Eliza’s House, a small almost trailer park sized house named after Eliza Leach, a woman that worked at the Middleton Place Plantation for more than 40 years and was the last person to live in the house. The house was small, unfit for the family that lived in it. Eliza’s house also features a list of 2,600 Middleton Place slaves that served on the plantation.
One of the free tours on the plantation was a lecture about the history of slavery at Middleton Place. We were just wrapping up our self-guided walk around the plantation, past the gators in the lake (yes there were gators) and were getting ready to head back to the car to our next destination.
We walked past three tombstones of deceased slaves and as we headed back to the car, we were passing the chapel where the lecture had relocated during the rain. The lecturer was discussing Eliza’s House as a stop we should all make on our visit to the plantation. A black family was also on the tour as the lecturer explained the history of racism in the country and how, deep in his heart he believes it still exists today, but that he doesn’t know how to fix it. The black family there mentioned that they had all gotten together for a family reunion in South Carolina. Many of their friends and family were afraid to go, but the three of them came as well as the young daughter of one of the women who looked no older than 8.
The family spoke of the emotions they felt as they happened to discover the name of their ancestor on the walls of Eliza’s house during their visit. The discussion between them and the lecturer got deep as we all wondered how to solve the divide that seems to exist today between races. The agreement upon the group centered around the responsibility resting on parents to raise the next generation to be better and to be kinder. Bitterness was not the topic of the day, but kindness.
No matter which side of the debates around Black Lives Matter or Systemic Racism that you sit on today, it is paramount that we all agree on kindness being the way forward. Teaching hate and resentment cannot be the way forward. We will disagree, and we will fight, but we cannot lose sight of humanity, even the humanity of those we profusely disagree with.