Much of America’s history has been shoved in a closet in the very rear of the basement behind stacks of mildewed books and broken dining room chairs waiting to be fixed someday.
We know the closet is down there. We walk past it all the time, the door just slightly ajar, the old porcelain doorknob ready for the turning. But we don’t look inside. It’s too scary, too likely that there will be something in the closet that we’ll have to deal with, pick up and handle. It will be unpleasant, messy, a reckoning with our neglect.
The road trip I want to take is a slow, backroad study of American slavery.
I don’t have the first notion of how to organize such a trip, but I bet there are people who will tell me. I know that big museums and historical tours are resources, that many people have invested tremendous time and money to telling the story, and so those places should be visited and appreciated. But I want to dig deeper, get off the tourist trail. Sit on the earth that people walked, look at the same rivers, hold something in my hand that is real, even if it’s stones from an old road.
It isn’t guilt that drives me, although as a white American and a person whose ancestors in New York almost certainly owned slaves in the 1700’s, there is reason to feel guilt, for sure. What pushes me toward this exploration is a thirst for knowledge or, more honestly put, a disgust with my own ignorance. Even though I’ve done plenty of reading, there is no substitute for going, for being physically present, and seeing with my own eyes the history the road has to offer.
It’s time to pull open the closet door and sort through what’s there.
Written in response to the WordPress #Bloganuary prompt: What is a road trip you would love to take?