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Reply #150: I didn't bring up those subjects, but I'll take a stab at this one. [View All]

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QC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-05 10:50 PM
Response to Reply #96
150. I didn't bring up those subjects, but I'll take a stab at this one.
Personally, I think the idea of placing a monument to the slaves on the Mall is an excellent one. I'm with you and the original poster on this one.

I think that the indentured/convict labor issue is an important one for several reasons. One is that it's a very ugly chapter in our own history that not one American in a hundred knows the slightest thing about. Schoolbooks gloss over it, lest the kiddies start getting ideas about whether this is really a place where anyone who works hard can get ahead. The truth of the matter is that at least half of the early European settlers of this country, and by some estimates even three-quarters, came in bondage. In the early years, the majority of those died within a very short time. Only a tiny fraction of them ever got their fifty acres and became independent farmers. The vast majority died under indenture or became the ancestors of today's poor white class, a group of people that even exquisitely "enlightened liberals and progressives" feel free to dump on, as we see every day right here at DU. Well, "rednecks" and "white trash" are products of their history, like everyone else, and if we are going to bring some measure of justice to this country we need to know that history.

Second, I'm one of those hopelessly old-fashioned lefties who believe that class still matters. I think it's important for people to know that this country was built on bonded labor, and that those who were in charge were willing to exploit anyone they could get their hands on. Sounds kinda like the world we live in today, doesn't it?

Third, I believe that most modern American lefties just aren't very good on class issues. We can riff on race and gender until the cows come home, but class is mostly forgotten. The history of those colonials in bondage is an excellent reminder of how powerful class has been and remains. If we are ever going to build a coalition that can take this country back, we are going to have to get up to speed on class again.

Last, American racism is a product of the class system that predated it. It's hard to understand racism without understanding the social dynamics that brought it into being.

So yeah, I'm with you on the need for a tangible commemoration of the slaves who helped build this country, but I think that exploitation takes many forms, all of which genuine progressives need to know about. That's why I'm always willing to discuss the subjects of indentured servitude, convict labor, sharecropping, tenant farming, etc.
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