I grew up in Arkansas. There an elementary school taught me what I now call BRT (Benevolent Race Theory): that slavery was kind, paternal, and civilizing for slaves. It was a distorted view of race that took me years to free myself from. (Benevolent Race Theory proponents usually say that they like Black people and mean them no harm.)
Here are some of the misguided ideas that I was taught by school and society when I was growing up in the South. Those ideas tried to justify slavery and racial abuse and have been taught in America since the beginning. BRT teaches that:
- Slaveholders rarely used intimidation, force, or brutality to control their slaves.
- Forced, Jim Crow segregation was good for both White people and Black people.
- Legally segregated schools were “separate but equal.”
- Black people didn’t mind the back of the bus because they got to sit together.
- The fact that there were a few Black slaveholders means slavery wasn’t wrong.
- We shouldn’t criticize slaveholders because they were living by the values of their time.
- Slaves were too financially valuable for their traffickers to mistreat them.
- Most slaveowners were good to their slaves and had good intentions towards them.
- Black people would be better off to forget their history and the evil done to their forefathers.
- Black people should be quiet and appreciate that they’re living in America.
- Slaves and hired Black domestic workers were usually treated with kindness.
- If a White person has a Black friend, he’s definitely not a racist.
- There’s a “Curse of Ham,” that means Black people need to serve White people if they want to be in God’s order.
- Slavery elevated and civilized Black people instead of degrading and abusing them.
- Runaway slaves were wrong for making it harder on the slaves left behind.
- White supremacy was overall good for America and didn’t really cause much harm.
As an adult I began to read about race in America and I discovered that these ideas are falsehoods. They are myths that need to be renounced and replaced with the fuller story of American history.
To discover and accept the unpleasant facts of history, we need to set aside emotional attachment and explore it with an open mind. I wrote a book to help do that, called: Off the RACE Track From Color-Blind to Color-Kind.