Who Are “Linked Descendants”?

 … (T)he great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.  It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations.  And it is with great pain and terror that one begins to realize this …

James Baldwin, “White Man’s Guilt,” in David R. Roediger, ed., Black on White:, NY: Schocken, 1998), 321.

As social beings we are linked or related to each other in a million ways. As an expression of this, we often spend time with new people we meet trying to figure out positive linkages or connections in the recent past–people we both know, places we’ve both been, experiences we’ve shared.

However, this blog on shared connections will focus on communication between those of us whose ancestors dealt great harm to the ancestors of others of us. Our primary preoccupation will be with the colossal centrality of slavery, its legacies, and the pervasiveness of racial oppression in this country as lived through by our families down into the present.  Ironically, we are trying to address and heal such “historical harms” in a society seemingly dedicated to the proposition that we now live in a “post racial” society where white supremacy in the U.S. is no longer deemed a serious problem; the instruction is to “get over it!”  This perspective is not only dead wrong, it’s tragically diversionary.

Just as with conflicts between individuals, to get to the sweet, safe place of community, we believe that we cannot go around the deep problems caused by this country’s basis in enslavement, we must go through them. We need deep dialogue between descendants of perpetrators and victims of historical crimes if we hope for reconciliation. Unless the actual events, consequences and the painful feelings that such historical recognition brings up are acknowledged and dealt with together, reconciliation is superficial, even impossible. The beloved community we seek will only be authentic if we address the extent of the damages done through the generations and how these wounds have been passed down into our present lives.

Not many people are prepared to take on such a challenge or even think about it – white, black or otherwise.  But for those who are, who are willing to talk openly and honestly about the “hard parts,” to open their hearts with each other, we offer this blog in the interest of freeing all of us from the disease of white supremacy on which this country was founded.  We are indeed chained to our history, especially if we are not aware of it and are not dealing with it.

4 thoughts on “Who Are “Linked Descendants”?”

  1. I loved rereading you post again which is all the more powerful now that it is on-line. You’ve added much clarification to what we mean by the term “linked descendant.”

    1. Hi Felicia, I found this very interesting. In particular because Prince Taylor, Sr. (1828-1928)was my great grandfather. His parents were Abel and Daphny Taylor. He fathered 26 children. I would appreciate any information about his plantation life, as I am the family historian and would like to include it in the family tree.

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