Happy Slaves?

When I see a particular way of thinking that crops up in different ways at different times in history, it makes me stop and wonder if that same way of thinking may be lurking in our midst, unseen, and unrecognized even today.

 

In some of the places we went on our Civil Rights trip last fall we discovered that people in various places blamed “outside agitators” for stirring up racial unrest. MLK was seen by the whites in Birmingham as an outside agitator, for example. Freedom Riders who came by bus to the south from various parts of the country to test the Supreme Court ruling against segregation in interstate transportation facilities were called outside agitators. The assertion was that things were just fine between the races until these outside agitators came along and stirred up trouble.

 

It reminded me of something I had seen in a movie or read in a book about some plantation owners during the time of American Slavery. Apparently some “good” slave owners would take comfort in a belief that their slaves were happy. Evidently these slave owners truly believed that if they treated their slaves well, and behaved toward them with kindness, that this was enough to offset their bondage. I remember seeing in a movie or reading in a book somewhere about an exchange between such a slave owner and one of his so-called happy slaves:

 

Slave owner: “I treat you well. You are happy; right?”

 

Slave: “Well, {a long pause}, I guess if I’m so happy, then you wouldn’t mind trading places with me; right?”

 

[Was this from the movie, The Butler? I don’t know. I saw it or read it somewhere. Or maybe I just imagined it?]

 

In any event, the whole notion of happy slaves has had me wondering in the past few days.

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One thought on “Happy Slaves?

  1. Interesting title,Dr. I don’t think that “happy slaves” quite applies,but I think a lot of people are “comfortable slaves”.Not really happy with their jobs,weight,looks, habits,fill in the blank.We are too comfortable,and it would mean getting out of the nest to do something about it.”Happy slaves”?No,just comfortable ones.

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