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I found myself thinking today about Thomas Jefferson. It is well known now that he sired a number of children with one of his black slaves. What did they call the offspring back then? Picaninnies? I’m not sure. It doesn’t matter what you call it. I do know that part of his children—sons and daughters—went on to administer his estate and another part grew up under the whip. I am trying to imagine my own son or daughter being a slave when I can actually intercede to stop it. How could he allow his children to go down into bondage? These were my thoughts, and how I was thinking today.

T.J. is what I will call him. I can just imagine his friends called him T.J. The slaves may have known him as “master,” “suh,” or some other title, but he was T.J. to the public. T.J. was a remarkable man. He thought noble thoughts. He actually pondered how a nation that he had a part in making should operate—the principles it should inveigle. T.J. had large cranial capacity; you can see that in the portraits. He had a lot of brains in his head, and he used them to be one of the writers of the constitution. He helped establish a way to keep the “tyranny of the majority” in check for our new democracy. I wonder if he was looking at all those picaninnies out there beyond the study of his window while he pondered these self-evident truths? Perhaps he was inspired somehow. Maybe he considered that they might one day become a majority—maybe the thought encouraged him to put brakes on the whole tyranny thing.

T.J. doesn’t get as much credit these days for Monticello. It was a remarkable accomplishment. The architecture is richly detailed and mathematically complex, a suitable challenge for one with lots of brains. The library is easy to locate, since it is center to the whole house, and very well stocked. What does he have in African American literature on those shelves? Does he have portraits of his dark children hanging on those walls? How about the black mother? Maybe he kept a little cameo somewhere to sneak a peak at now and then, in the wee hours of night, when flesh and inky blackness are one and the same. T.J. built Monticello, as they say. I can just see him now, digging the footings for his foundation, laying up the masonry stone by stone, and adding the finishing touches after it is all near completion. Okay, maybe not. He probably had his brother-in-laws out there, doing the work— the ones he didn’t want to acknowledge as family, the darker relatives. Maybe he hadn’t consummated at the time he built his opus. I have a feeling, though, that many a darkened hand participated in Monticello, the house that T.J. built.

Speaking of the house he built. It is fair to believe that old T.J. went to his grave with the knowledge that his dark secret would remain forever hidden. I wonder how he would have conducted himself if he knew otherwise. Lust is a funny thing, I suppose. When he saw that little slave gal, all bent over in her cotton dress out there in the field, he must’ve went wild, I imagine. White women couldn’t do those sorts of things, even in the bedroom, I imagine. What is a natural man to do? Then, there is the issue of property. Men have always been territorial about their women, but imagine having bona fide ownership of that woman; this takes it to another level entirely. I can see old T.J. now, coming around doing his midnight creeping, under cover of the darkness and in the delicious darkness that he owned. I can hear the whispering of the slaves (let’s call them kindred spirits, shall we?) as they say to one another how ol’ master done got her with child again. No one but a few black people know. No one will ever know exactly how it was for you, T.J.

Then I started thinking about the what ifs. What if T.J. and his cohorts could somehow see the racial strain we are all experiencing now? How would he have conducted himself differently? Maybe he could have been a trendsetter. I can see him giving a speech, maybe one supplied by a brother in law. He could tell the public that he wanted to walk it like he talked it. Something about how there are lots of white folks, but not so many black folks, so let’s not tyrannize them. After the speech, he can do a little ribbon cutting ceremony. He could release his slave concubine and their offspring to freedom, declaring, “These are my children.” Beautiful. He could wisely propound on the self-evident truths. He could have even went overboard and decided to let all of the slaves go, but he had a plantation to run, a Monticello to build, and a reputation to uphold. How insignificant that all seems now. Such action could have led to intermarriage and a more natural racial harmony in our nation. We would have darkened the blood just a bit, that’s all. So what?




------
"We sit here stranded though we're all doing our best to deny it." (Visions of Johanna) Bob Dylan


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The following comments are for "One Drop, My Ass!"
by brickhouse

I concede
You are right, this all happened long ago. I am not trying to be too judgemental, since I hate the thought of it. I was writing this fully from the perspective of today. I really expect no more of T.J. than his time and place merit. Unfortunately, there is still plenty of historic perspective being applied to modern problems, and I wanted to throw this opinion on the mat for that reason. Thank you for the forthright and honest critique.
Claire Rocks!

( Posted by: brickhouse [Member] On: April 10, 2004 )

Claire.....
I am going to throw another hat into the ring.
You spoke about how the nation that is the US wouldn't be who or what it is today without it's past -it's history. I agree of course it’s a simple statement, but one that is universally true.

However, taking the context away from the US for a second, I sometimes feel hindsight deserves to be scathing. Sometimes, maybe I'm wrong here, nations need to be 'aware' or slapped in the face by their mistakes before they actually realize they made mistakes in the first place.
Ignorance and denial are two despicable words, sadly however, they cloak many a despicable act, and the only way to remove the cloak is to stick agencies and bureaucrats in enquires and tribunals.

Where I hale from, N Ireland, hindsight is the largest doubled edged sword you could ever imagine. But one that has to be traversed everyday.
I say doubled edged because as much as we need to look back and remember to learn from our mistakes, it tears people apart doing so whilst also prolonging the bigotry and sectarianism as certain ‘idiots’ drown in their own self satisfying bliss.
And yet, I am firm believer that it has to be done; people’s pain needs to haemorrhage again to heal properly.
Politicians, if they can call themselves that here, (some of whom caused the thirty something years of bloodshed we have had) need to have all their atrocities thrown in their faces before they realize, as I said earlier, they even did anything wrong.
Governments, UK and Eire, also need to be brought to account for the actions, case in point, 'Bloody Sunday'.
I'm rambling now but really my point is, and I know it's not completely applicable because we’re talking different centuries, that sometimes the wisdom gained through hindsight is invaluable in actually re-building a nation.
In fact this ramble could go on indefinitely if applied to my darling nations past, I won't even begin to go there.
You have an elegant way with words Claire.
Cat

( Posted by: C.Lynagh [Member] On: April 11, 2004 )

Sorry Claire
Your right about the tone in places it didn't agree with me either.
It's proof of my impatience and down right red hot bloodedness that I read so far and went off on one of my own diatribes.
lol Oh well, considering that I have now read E's piece in depth, slap me on the wrist for being opinionated to the point of ignorant, because it caused me to skip the whole bit, I know realise you were commenting on. Tut tut, I should be reprimanded. Sorry. (None of that is meant sarcastically as it could easily be perceived)
On second glance, I feel the expression in his piece was on called for, it belittled his message and drew me away from the profoundness I initially saw.
There is a great deal in this work I like, but also areas I do not agree with, racially and sexually.

Cat

( Posted by: C.Lynagh [Member] On: April 12, 2004 )

IMHO
You know, I posted this as an opinion. That is what it was, my opinion. Claire and C. Lynagh, I respect your comments and acknowledge them. I really did not intend to belittle Thomas Jefferson so much as I wanted to express something that had been turning over in my mind recently, which is all about perspective. I think there are likely some people who feel I wasn't nearly harsh enough, but that isn't the point. Were you rattled? I hope so. Offended? It wasn't my intent, but our majority white society may want to consider the African American perspective before they become the minority ethnicity around 2050. Bono of U2 said in a live song once, "Did I BUG you? I didn't mean to BUG you," in talking about apartheid. I feel that the only perspective that is recognized is the white one; that is one of the main purposes I had for writing this. There are other perspectives, other worlds to consider. Please remember this is only an opinion: by its nature it is not required to be valid. I respect the opinions you have offered counter to mine, Claire and C. Linagh. As for mercer102, you did not attack the article, you attacked the writer. Naughty, naughty! By the way, I was fully sober when I wrote this. It was partly based on reading "The Classic Slave Narratives," "The Invisible Man," and "The Reckoning (Randall Robinson)."

( Posted by: brickhouse [Member] On: April 12, 2004 )

consentual or rape??
What is your opinion about the black slave women? The Color Purple shed some light on the life of us black women. What's the truth. My opinion is we chose to have somebody different than our brothers, uncles and our daddyies, speaking from exprience in both realms.
Why do you think kunta kentae got his foot cut off? We seem not to comprehend the meaning of 'no' and the concept of 'no'you have to contiue repeating 'no' or making a complete statement No.
Does it mean because you have black skin that you are not the enemy or does it mean that you are just ignored by your choice just because you are black skinned and of the black race? Where are the humans race? Where is the freedom to be exercised in the choice of your own??

( Posted by: Judi1 [Member] On: October 27, 2004 )

One drop my ass
They called them white skinned niggers.

( Posted by: Judi1 [Member] On: October 27, 2004 )

C.Lynagh...
I really liked reading this piece, at first it reminded me of a book by Octavia Butler called 'Kindred', it's very interesting if you ever need a new book to read, it's very light but covers alot of difficult issues.

I agree to some extent what Cat said, it's difficult for me on the N. Ireland issue being half Irish but considering myself a Londoner, I grewup under the bombing campaign which nearly kiiled my father so there is fault on both sides for that one but official apologies should be made.

I don't think it is healthy to ponder to much on the past, there is such a thing as over doing it.

The history of the US is complicated, but dwelling on it and passing modern judgements on the past never helps anyone, knowing that we have moved on is the most important thing we can do, because nothing can stop that progress from happening.

Don't beat yourselves up people!!! LOL!!

Alex :-)

( Posted by: Londongrey [Member] On: October 27, 2004 )

one drop revisited
This seems so far back. I am surprised that you, London Grey, have read this. Probably following Judi 1. The motivation to write that piece was from doing a survey of African American literature. I was caught up in the excitement of it all. I respect your opinion that looking at history through a modern lense is unfair, at least partly. I suppose I was trying the what-if approach to a real event. What if Thomas Jefferson had come out of his closet of filial love for a woman of another race? I was really making no attempt to judge the man except in the most offhand way to get to the real point of what-if.
Judi 1, if you came back here, I appreciate your comments, and am in no way offended. Race is one of those things that incenses people, but we will never break down our barriers by tiptoeing around all the sensitive issues.
Finally, Claire or Jessica, I have limited expectations that you will post this comment. Please understand that I am only responding because of all the vorpal alerts that have been sent to me recently. I'm flattered that people are even still reading this thing.

( Posted by: brickhouse [Member] On: October 27, 2004 )





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