Monday, April 20, 2015

Aren't You Ashamed of Your Ancestors

     I couldn't help but feel as if I needed to re-post a couple blogs from two years ago, thanks to the actions of Ben Affleck. For those of you who might not be aware of his appearance on PBS’s “Finding Your Roots” program that aired in October of 2014. It was recently released to the public that Ben Affleck requested, or demanded for the information about him being a descended of slave owners to be left out of the episode. 

Excuse me but aren't you ashamed of your family?

     That was a question recently asked of me while I was explaining that one of my ancestors was a slave owner.  I never gave it a second thought, hiding it that is. But some felt as though I should keep it to myself, as if I had done something wrong. When you are truly passionate about searching to find your family's history, if you think for one second you're going to find nothing but angels, royalty and fame...wake up! That's why I love the name of my blog "Sweet Tea, Tart Lemons & Memories". This particular find would fall into that "Tart" category, bitter and hard to swallow. I'll be honest yes, it was somewhat of a shock and hard to swallow but that was part of my family. Now I want to be completely clear I don't agree with what he did, I don't in any way condone it. Yes, it's wrong in my eyes to own another human being and treat them as if they are a piece of property. But as I explained it to her, that was my 3x great grandfather, not me, and during that time in history that was believed to be the way of life.
    
   It's OUR history and it's what makes us who we are today. If we all take time to look back into the history of our families we might not like everything that we see. But they are still family and you too don't have to agree with what took place during that time in history.  You should however take the time to learn about what life was like back then. By doing so you just might begin to understand that not everything is as good or bad as you may think.  Laws were different, medical treatments were different and the education system was even different. Many things have changed over time and why have they changed, because we have learned from our past. Granted some changes you might not agree with but these changes were made by viewing our past, our history.

The story continues….

     Brace yourself for this one, not only am I the descendant of a slave owner but also a descendant of a slave. Okay now I'll give you a moment to picture the look on her face…mine had a smile on it. You can only imagine the questions that came from her.

"Did the other side know?"

"How can one side of the family live with the other knowing this?"

"What in the world are you going to tell your kids?"
   
    Those were just a few of her questions during our conversation. I had to take a moment and try to explain without the obvious statement of "are you serious".
    
    Finding out that you are a descendant of a slave was another "tart lemon" moment. Hearing that one of your ancestors was a slave owner and then finding out that you're also the descendant of a slave wasn't that much of a shock to me. Let’s face it when we start to research into our family's history chances are you'll find that you are either the descendant of a slave or slave owner. Chances are that you will find both in your lineage on either side or maybe even both sides of your family.
    
    To be asked the question if the other side knew was pretty easy for me to answer with a “how would I know". But obviously they worked through it; I'm here after all, along with my kids.  That brings me to the question of telling my kids. I'm so happy that my kids enjoy hearing about what life was like for their ancestors. I didn't even give it a second thought when it came time to explain slavery and how that affected our family's history. They know that no matter what you have both the good mixed with bad and it takes both of them to make life, to make history. I felt as if this was the perfect opportunity to teach them about history and what part their ancestors played during this time in history.

     Slavery was wrong but unfortunately it happened and is part of our history. We have all discussed it and reflected on it many times whether through school, church or even conversations we've had with others. I've said it before, that was part of who makes us who we are today. Should we be ashamed of the actions taken by our ancestors, should we be angered by what others did to our ancestors? My thoughts on this are no, instead continue to learn from mistakes and bad choices made by others and don't repeat those choices and mistakes in the history we are creating.