A tale of two houses

The gray house. (courtesy)
The gray house. (courtesy)
The white house. (courtesy)

When I was invited to join the trip with Telos to explore the history of US slavery in the south of the US, I was reluctant. After all, my concern is the Israeli-Palestinian actual conflict and not an ancient and remote story of injustice, irrelevant to the peace and reconciliation we are working for in the PCFF. But the things we learn when traveling far can sometimes show us what we fail to see and understand, the things just in front of us every day.

Yesterday, we visited the Whitney Plantation, one of the two memorials for centuries of brutal, violent exploitation of black humans, imported from Africa to feed the need for cheap workforce. The owners of the 1,700-acre sugar cane plantation lived in the big white house. They were good white people, living by the godly order that they are the supreme race, and they should provide work and shelter to the black people.

They were nice, kind, benevolent, polite, well educated and had nothing to do with the daily oppression of the 107 enslaved black men, women and children in the wooden barracks of the farm, creating their wealth with their sweat and blood. In the gray house, the overseers made sure this labor machine would continue to function, at no-matter-what human and moral cost. Suppress any kind of revolt, emancipation attempt, or association.

The theme along this entire workshop is the refusal of white Americans to acknowledge their dark past, so they can advance towards a future of reconciliation with black Americans. This refusal to look at the past is not typical to the Americans only. For many years, we the Israelis, have refused to look at the dark moral spots of our history (and present) and courageously acknowledge them, in order to advance for peace with the Palestinians. When we live safely and rightfully in our comfortable “master house,” we should not forget we are sending our young boys and girls to the gray house, to “oversee” and maintain the injustice that allows us to feel prosperous, good and clean.

We also only want to know so little about our past and present. Our only chance as a society is to have the courage to say, “yes, we’ve done wrong, let’s acknowledge that and move to correct the future.”

About the Author
Yuval Rahamim is the co-General Director, Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families Forum.
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