I didn’t know what it is like to have this kind of family history growing up. We are Northern as you can get being from Minnesota. The only thing my family ever talked about was we had a civil war hero in our family who named his son after President Grant, because he served under him.
Then, when I married my husband, I inherited a tragic past. His family is from Louisiana. His mother had done extensively genealogy, and she told me that both her family and my husband’s father’s family were slaveowners. Also, my husband’s great-grandfather led a lynching. I feel like I own that now, because I married into it. I assume any economic privileges that come to us from the family have some fruit of the poison tree aspect to them. Maybe not. But families pass their wealth down from generation to generation, and any advantages his family may have had could be, probably are, tainted.
My husband hates it when I even mention this past. He is exceptionally sensitive to the whole matter, because he is so ashamed. He is a social worker, considered himself someone who works for social justice, and he retroactively wants to beat the hell of his ancestors. But you can’t change the past. I tell him all that matters is what he does now. I don’t think that helps.
When they say, “Only come to resist oppression with me if you feel your salvation is tied up in mine” to allies, I always say, “I know it is.” Because you couldn’t get more hurt than my husband is about the crimes committed by his namesakes. I know it felt like some of my humanity felt lost when I was now related to slaveowners. I know, I know, folks are not supposed to take blame for the acts of the past, but you wonder about these people. What was wrong with them? And wouldn’t it be nice to just give em a good punishment?