I'm Sorry for Hosting a Plantation Retreat

Years later, Richard Eskow still bothered by event
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 20, 2014 12:55 PM CST
I'm Sorry for Hosting a Plantation Retreat
This undated photo released by the Louisiana Office of Tourism shows the Evergreen Plantation in Wallace, La.   (AP Photo/Zave Smith)

After Ani DiFranco offered a belated apology for planning a songwriting retreat at a Louisiana plantation, Richard Eskow decided it was finally time to apologize for his own plantation retreat, which he helped host years ago. The retreat was a getaway for clients of Eskow's employer, and Eskow was uncomfortable with the situation—an all-white group of executives being served and entertained by an all-black staff, including "women in caricature headscarves." But "ours was not an especially left-wing line of business, so I didn’t feel I could safely make political remarks about our temporary home," Eskow writes at Salon.

For years, he's regretted that decision. On that trip, as the horrors of slavery were glossed over and the South was glorified, he realized that though his entire group likely felt uncomfortable with the arrangement, "we were also benefiting from the American legacy of white privilege." And even if he had broken through his fear and said something to the black staff, "it probably would have come out as the usual hackneyed and self-serving blend of white liberal guilt. What could I say to make up for generations of slavery and oppression?" In the end, he has one simple piece of advice: "When the descendants of slaves tell white people that slavery is still painful, believe them. Just believe them." Click for his full piece. (More slavery stories.)

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