Many slavery plantations are beautiful. And they hold historical significance. That doesn’t mean they should be used as wedding venues. This is the position of Patricia J. Williams, a professor of law and philosophy who directs Law, Technology and Ethics at Northeastern University.
In an op-ed in The Nation, Williams detailed why families should refrain from hosting weddings at slavery plantations. Aside from the fact they are “dancing on graves,” Williams said the custom romanticizes the horrors of American history.
“This history is too resonant in my body. It’s not easy for me to work up any kind of nostalgia for a style of life that depended on slaves, hierarchy, imperiousness, and pomp. And I frankly despise how the tourism industry has underwritten childish rituals of antebellum dress-up in crinoline and whalebone and marketed them as romantic, swoony, and gossamer,” Williams wrote.
She raises the issue of “double consciousness” coined by W.E.B. Du Bois – the burden Black people in America carry; an inward dichotomy that prevents them from just relaxing and letting go of things that white people see as a non-issue.
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The reason many plantations remain beautiful is because they were well maintained by the slave labor that caused them to thrive in the first place. The subsequent generational wealth that resulted from the tortuous kidnapping and enslavement of Black people most certainly help the owners keep them that way.
Though many white families bask in the beauty of the plantation and the fun they had dressing up in antebellum attire, Williams reminds readers, Black people have a hard time doing that because the era brings up different visions for them – and they are not cause for celebration.
“We hate the traces of slavery; no matter their innocence, the symbols summon pain. They pull a perfumed scrim over atrocity. It is the same reductive euphemism of those who refer to slaves as “African immigrants” or “indentured servants,”” she continued.
Revisionist history is prevalent in America. So is ‘white-washing’ it. Williams isn’t saying all people who’ve gotten married at plantations are embracing or condoning racism and celebrating the institution of slavery. She’s saying at the very least, they are ignorant to, or unconcerned about, their past, present and future ramifications.
Williams doesn’t want America to forget the pain of her ancestors – much in the way it wouldn’t dare forget the sacrifices of the founding fathers.
“Stop getting married at plantations,” she admonished. “They’re built on human degradation.”
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