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Southern White Slaveholder Guilt

Uploaded by Admin on Dec 10, 2000

Guilt is an inevitable effect of slavery. For no matter how much rhetoric and racism is poured into such a system, the simple fact remains that men and women are enslaving men and women. Regardless of how much inferior a slaveholder may perceive his salves, it is obvious that his "property" looks similar, has similar needs, and has similar feelings. There is thus the necessary comparison of situations; the slaveholder is free, the slave is in bondage-certainly a position that the slaveholder would find most disagreeable. So there is no doubt that any slaveholder with any measure of humanity within himself would feel guilt. And in fact, as the evidence is considered-including the pro-slavery propaganda-the reality of southern guilt is overwhelmingly obvious. The guilt is seen in their words, both private and public, uncovered in the pro-slavery diatribes, and understandable in their humanity.

Before this discussion of guilt in slaveholders begins, it is necessary to first define how we will define guilt. Certainly if a man says he is guilt-stricken with conviction we can take this as adequate evidence of his guilt. However, certainly not everyone takes this direct an approach. James Oakes makes a good point in recognizing that guilt is not always starkly obvious. "Guilt is the product of a deeply rooted psychological ambivalence that impels the individual to behave in ways that violate fundamental norms even as they fulfill basic desires (Oakes 120)." In other words, guilt creates such inner turmoil that a guilty man will deviate from normal behavior. In this case, we will have to show two things: first, a slaveholder is committing detrimental actions (to himself or his family) that show he is in mental distress, and second, that these actions are a result of his status as a slaveholder. It is obvious that we cannot prove the latter point, but we can show it is the most probable situation for his guilt. Finally, if a slaveholder is making pains above and beyond law and custom, it is most likely that these actions are to alleviate feelings of guilt. This is because we may assume any deliberate actions taken by any man are usually taken because he assumes they will benefit him in some manner. And if such an action is costly (money-wise), then it must have some allure in terms of personal happiness. So to show guilt, we will set forth examples of open...

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Uploaded by:   Admin

Date:   12/10/2000

Category:   Slavery

Length:   14 pages (3,170 words)

Views:   1575

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