Friday, April 11, 2014

City in Denial

When I wrote “City in Denial” for STYLE Weekly, in February of 2002 for Black History Month, I knew less than I do now about how much slave-trading went on in Richmond leading up to the Civil War. Here's an excerpt of what I wrote 12 years ago:
Now, every time a controversy that touches on race pops up the oh-so-familiar cries are heard: "Oh Gawd! Let's hope this business dies down before it makes the national news." Like a dysfunctional family in denial, we don't want the rest of the country to catch on that Richmond is still trapped in yesteryear's snare. Well, take it from me dear reader — they already know. Everybody knows. Even in other parts of Virginia they know Richmond is frozen in time when it comes to race.
After this piece was published I heard a lot of feedback from it, more good and bad, but I heard both. Click here to read the entire piece.

Having grown up in Richmond I know that it’s been only recently that it seemed anyone was much interested in the many slave jails that once existed in Shockoe Bottom. So, yes, I’d like to know more about what actually happened, and I’d also like to learn what I can about how that aspect of local history was covered up so effectively for so long.

It would do us all good to study how our history books were cooked by the people who had the power to do so, back in the day. We need to do more than brush aside the cobwebs of denial that still cling to our notions of history about the Civil War. We need to take a hard look at how the truth was systematically processed into palatable lies that were taught in our public schools.  

In 2014, to think building a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom will really facilitate the scholarly investigation of that neighborhood’s history and archeology is just more denial. Dropping a sports arena into that part of Richmond, with its known and yet-to-be-uncovered history, isn’t about preserving or discovering. It’s about a few people making guaranteed money for themselves, by using money from all of the people.

Put me on the list of those who believe a world-class slavery museum in Shockoe Bottom, sans ballpark, will draw tourists from all over the world to Richmond. Maybe, for Richmond's brighter future, setting the record straight would be a good idea, too.   

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