Unattended children will be sold into slavery
I notice a wooden sign hanging on the propped open door: “Unattended children will be sold into slavery”. I close my mouth, grit my teeth and head toward the shop.
I’m greeted by two white women, one around my age, the other older. I ask them if they own this shop, to which they answer yes.
I point to the sign and ask them why would they hang such a sign up? Surely they must know, especially living in the south, it is offensive.
The younger woman, with the older one nodding in agreement, immediately tells me Black people love the sign – they always laugh and tell her they think it’s hilarious.
In fact Black people often even come inside to laugh with them about it.
Even though I have not mentioned Black people, I ask her if she thinks Black people would ever tell her what they really think? And anyway, I’m talking about me, I think it is offensive.
She tells me so what if I’m offended. What about her, she thinks women who don’t wear a bra are offensive. It’s the same thing.
I ask her how is the offensiveness of the liberation of my breasts equivalent to the offensiveness of the enslavement of human beings?
She then puffs up even more and gets more in my face to indignantly inform me that white people were sold into slavery too, in fact she proclaims white people still are being sold into slavery.
I tell her in what I hope is a calm, enigmatic probing tone, I see where she is coming from and turn my attention to the older woman who has been nodding in agreement but not spoken yet.
I try to discharge the air and bring them back to my goal of wanting them to destroy this sign so I attempt to find that reasonable ground. I tell them I understand they’re trying to be cute, children can be an issue in an antique shop but why capitalize on racism and genocide. I suggest why not hang a sign that says children will be dipped in brass and sold as antiques, or something equally pointed.
The older woman, slightly amused, tells me why should I find it so offensive, since I’m white and also slavery happened so long ago.
I do not argue with her about how only a certain form of enslaving people ended but certainly the legacy and practice of slavery continues for white people and against black people.
I do answer her because we as white people living now were born with this legacy of slavery and it has NOT gone away. Before she can express the disbelief that crosses her face I say because just two days ago, white congressmen hissed and booed our president and called him a liar on the floor of the congress for the first time in history of our country.
The “look” passes across her face and she nods silently, pondering. Just think about it, I implore her.
And do the right thing, I add under my breath as I leave them huddled against the door.