Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The heritage of a slave-owning culture

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Southern honor society was strictly for whites. Slaves and, later, African-Americans were not allowed to be sensitive about their honor, so their stance was more like that of Br’er Rabbit, who could slyly outwit his much stronger (and more dangerous) antagonists but could not afford to confront them directly—and Br’er Rabbit had to be constantly alert, with running and escape as virtues.

In general, the culture of the slave owners and their supporters in a slave-owning society must necessarily devalue empathy because empathy is risky when dealing with slaves, the risk coming from other slave owners rather than the slaves themselves. A slave owner who treats his or her slaves kindly and advances their interests is viewed by other owners as a threat and a possible cause of slaves becoming aggressively dissatisfied with their lot. Indeed, the antebellum South seemed to live with a constant low-level fear and anxiety about the possibility of a slave rebellion. We see that lack of empathy still very much a part of the dominant (conservative) Southern culture: the attitude of seeking their own gain and not caring about the community as a whole.

US police departments developed their own culture from their origins as slave patrols and nightwatchers, with responsibility to see that slaves did not escape and that no slave rebellion could take place.

Cultures persist over generations, and I think we still see the scars of the cultural accommodations of slavery to this day, both among Southern conservatives and in many police departments. One characteristic of Republican politics is looking out for oneself and having no empathy for those who are in strained circumstances. (For example, Republican states were willing to spend money to prevent Medicaid expansion which would give the poor access to healthcare.

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2019 at 9:08 am

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