No Excuses for Slavery


“But no excuses, no time-bound rationalizations, and no paeans to our ancestors’ kind and generous natures or how they “loved their slaves as though they were family” can make it right. Our unwillingness to hold our people and ourselves to a higher moral standard—a standard in place at least since the time of Moses, for it was he to whom God supposedly gave those commandments including the two about stealing and killing—brings shame to us today. It compounds the crime by constituting a new one: the crime of innocence claimed, against all visible evidence to the contrary.”

“In truth, even those family members who didn’t own other human beings had been implicated in the nation’s historic crimes…In 1753, Tennessee passed its Patrol Act, which required whites to search slave quarters four times each year for guns or other contraband. By the turn of the century…these searches had been made into monthly affairs. By 1806, most all white men were serving on regular slave patrols for which they were paid a dollar per shift, and five dollars as a bonus for each runaway slave they managed to catch.”

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise