I was moved by the Feb. 11 Metro article on slave trader Isaac Franklin’s descendants, especially the depiction of the wall with slaves’ names and prices [“Healing a painful past”]. I’ve dabbled in genealogy, and it’s unpleasant yet clarifying to find documents with the names and valuations of humans my ancestors owned. Those bits of text are what seared the reality to life for me, forcing me to go beyond grudging and fleeting acknowledgment of a vague concept.
It’s tempting to insist, “That’s the past. It wasn’t me. I won’t feel bad.” The problem is consistency. We don’t hesitate to celebrate the good things our ancestors did, happily claiming them as somehow our own, bragging even. Which is it: “My ancestors’ actions have something to do with me,” or “My ancestors’ actions have nothing to do with me”? At the least, we should be brave enough to face and ponder the bad while humble enough to listen rather than lash out defensively when others discuss it.
Sean Oberle, Bethesda