Reading a Vox piece about the writer’s experience giving tours of slave quarters, she encountered a lot of angry, older, white people who wanted to say slavery was not so bad. They said things like “Weren’t those slaves grateful for the good deal they got? Shouldn’t they have been more loyal, rather than trying to escape all the time?” A weird response, right? Are these people idiots?
I think not. I think what these people are struggling with is the desire to be free of self-doubt.
Unconsciously they are going through the following reasoning
1)If slavery is bad then I need to think about my life
2)If I think about my life I’m going to lose confidence in my life
3)Losing confidence in my life feels really bad. Worse, it is paralyzing. I won’t be able to raise my children, run my business, go to work, find a mate, if I lack confidence and am plagued by self-doubt.
4)Therefore slavery must not be so bad.
This reasoning is not so bad. Sure there’s an element of self-gaming and self-manipulation but that’s true of many chains of reasoning we respect more — Pascal’s wager, or fake it till you make it in AA, or the power of positive thinking, or Stoicism — don’t feel bad about not having things you’ll never get.
I think the only way to combat this meaning is to figure out a way that self-doubt can be fun. To view greater knowledge about the world — history, other people, slavery — as a an opportunity for fun. Isn’t it cool to know the actual story of race relations in this country? And not just from a nerdy perspective (nerds aren’t cool — duh) but from a confident, fun perspective. People need to be trained to feel that the more they know the more they can do and the more fun they can have and that only chickens need to put their heads in the sand to have a fun life with money, friends and girl or boyfriends.
Have at it, Democrats!