Showing posts with label slavery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label slavery. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Huntington Library cancels a scholarly conference: Too many white participants!

The Huntington Library canceled a virtual conference titled "Landscapes of Exploitation in the New World" after the planners realized that nearly all the speakers were white.

Moreover, the Huntington folks looked over the program and concluded that the conference itself was problematic because it "conflat[ed] exploitation with slavery and colonization." Or, as a Huntington tweet explained, it was canceling the conference "in order to acknowledge the racial exclusiveness built into the structure of the program."

What the hell does that mean?

Huntington took down the link to its canceled conference program, but I found it on a tweet message.  Perhaps I am insufficiently woke, but I couldn't discern anything that was racially insensitive or politically incorrect.  On the contrary, the conference presentation titles seemed like the typical blah, blah, blah that I would expect from the Huntington Library.

I realize that Huntington's conference cancellation is a tempest in a teapot and that the political tensions over the conference theme are inside baseball that regular folks will never understand. Nevertheless, I am sorry that Huntington did not have the guts to stick to its guns and hold its boring little conference.

If I interpreted the conference program's turgid language correctly, the conference presenters would have given papers about other forms of human exploitation in colonial America besides African slavery--which apparently is a grave political offense.

But in fact, Africans were not the only people who were enslaved and exploited during America's colonial era. French Acadians were deported from Nova Scotia in 1755 during the Grand Derangement and resettled in all thirteen American colonies. In essence, the Acadians were enslaved.

As Yale historian John Faragher wrote in A Grand and Noble Scheme, the British uprooted the Acadians as an act of ethnic cleansing. The Brits wanted to remove the French-speaking, Catholic farmers from Canada to extirpate their culture, their language, and their Catholic religion.

Moreover, the people who actually rounded up the Acadians, burned their homes, destroyed their crops, and loaded them into what were essentially slave ships were Americans.  The British approved the genocide, but the American colonial militia--mostly from Massachusetts--performed the foul deed.

Don't you think that contemporary Americans should examine every unsavory aspect of our heritage rather than obsess on only one tragedy--the tragedy of African slavery? Should we not also contemplate the enslavement of Native Americans in New Mexico during the Spanish colonial era? Should we not meditate on the exploitation of Kentucky coal miners, Oklahoma tenant farmers, and the Irish who landed on the Eastern Seaboard during the Potato Famine?

We will never begin to understand American history unless we are open to all scholarly endeavors that examine our heritage--not just the ones pre-proved by the cancel-culture crowd.  That then is why the cancellation of the Huntington Libary's puffed-up little conference is a grave misfortune.

Ethnic cleansing: The Acadians are deported from Canada and forcibly resettled in the American colonies