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Dear Becky, No, I will not be attending your plantation wedding – TheGrio

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

This is a fictional letter to a fictional white person, but it’s a letter I expect to have to send for real at some point. It’s almost wedding season, and y’all know how white people be sometimes.

Dear Becky,

I wanted you to hear directly from me why I will not be attending your wedding. It’s because you chose a plantation in Alabama for your venue. I can’t believe that after all the conversations we’ve had in the group chat, you are still comfortable getting married in a space known for being a site of historic trauma for African-American people. I’m disturbed that lots of white people are having weddings at plantation sites but you’re the one who invited me so this middle finger is for you.

I know you think “slavery happened a long time ago” because you put those words in the group chat. I remember because when I read those words I projectile vomited onto my phone. It was definitely not so long ago that I have forgotten about the things that happened there. The beatings, the rapes, the killings. I couldn’t possibly exist on that site and not think about the horrors that happened to my ancestors there. I would see you coming down the aisle and I’d be wondering if I was standing on a spot where some enslaved person was murdered. It’s crazy to me that you’re able to go there and not think about that. But that’s what white privilege is all about — being able to ignore the reality of race whenever you want.

Becks, you booked the place knowing its history — you knew what was meant by the word plantation. I know you think “the physical beauty of the plantation will ensure it’s a beautiful day,” but how could the aesthetics of the land overshadow the fact that this is a place drenched in violence, dehumanization and white supremacy? You just chose to overlook all of that and hold your wedding there even after Josh said in the group chat: “Do you think it would be OK to get married at Auschwitz?” 

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Racism isn’t merely about what we say with our mouths, it’s also about what we do. You have said that your “family did not own slaves,” but can you not see how you are participating in the slave economy right now? Let me make it simple: You are giving money to people because they own a location that was a slave plantation. The value of any piece of land is not just in how it looks. It’s also about its history. But despite the traumatizing history of those acres — or perhaps because of that history — you paid the fee. That means you are now participating in the slave economy. You’re also trying to normalize a place that’s part of the history of slavery in America. That’s wild.

Bex, my mother said if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all so let me put it this way: Your ability to ignore the history of slavery is impressive. I admire the way you move through the world completely unburdened by the most evil part of American history. I respect the way you can erase history from your brain. Or, maybe I should say, I respect the way you have avoided learning about the history of slavery.  

I will never get used to the way white people see the world. I cannot ignore what happened to my people and the many ways it continues to impact my community and our country. But you can ignore all of that. You can act like it never happened. Your whiteness has allowed you to shut out other people’s viewpoints. White privilege has hooked you up with a very convenient form of blindness. Must be nice.

I think language is part of the problem. The way people in this country talk about slavery is sanitizing. You’ve been shielded from how evil slave plantations are because of holes in your history classes and white amnesia. First off, stop calling it a plantation and call it a slave plantation. That would force you to confront reality. But more than that, I once read a post on Kottke that said instead of calling them slaves we should call them “hostages” and instead of slave owners we should call them “human traffickers” and instead of plantations we should call them “death camps.” When you inject those terms into the dialogue and throw out the sanitized language, then it’s a little harder to ignore reality. 

If you think that is a space fit for a wedding, then that means you either don’t know what really happened there or you don’t care. Either way, this friendship is over. I can’t be friends with someone who would make this choice. 

That said, I hope you will still accept my wedding gift. I bought you and Brad a set of iron shackles I found on Etsy. They will serve as a reminder of the graves you stood on top of on your wedding day.

B, while you’re getting married I’ll be at home watching “Django Unchained,” a movie where a formerly enslaved man takes a bullwhip and whips his former master. I love that scene. Anyway, I’ll be watching that and hoping that as you walk down the aisle, the ghosts of the enslaved float up out of the ground and yell boo and scare the white privilege out of you.

Your ex-friend,

Toure


Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of Masters of the Game on theGrioTV. He is also the host and creator of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s” and the animated show “Star Stories with Toure” which you can find at TheGrio.com/starstories. He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.

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