Back from the South


After a surprisingly quick seeming 13 hour car ride, we are back in Indianapolis. It was interesting being in South Carolina for the first time in about 15 years. My experience living (mostly) in California since that time has sharpened by far my impressions of South Carolina. Perhaps it is just that I am older now and more sensitive to it, or perhaps it was my greater interest in history and culture, but what stood out for me in much greater relief than ever before was the relation of slavery to this part of the US. It was everywhere. In the Rice Museum in Georgetown and the words of the docent taking us around; in the townhouses and mansions of Charelston; In the gardens of Brookgreen and its Lowcountry Museum; in the statues honoring people like Strom Thurmond at the statehouse; in the words spoken by some of the residents. One realizes how much whatever wealth this part of the world once had, it was based on the ill gotten gains of slave labor. It is a past that the people here would rather forget, and yet they are bathed in its incidents every day. And unfortunately, these stains fade slowly, as evidenced by the subtle play of languange in the people of the area and in the attitudes of some. After living all those years in California, I was definitely aware of race and racism within the culture, but of a more multicultural kind. It was never so obviously about a binary white/black division. Not true in South Carolina. Sure, this trip was as much about a vacation at the beach, appreciating nothing more (or less) than the beauty of the natural environment and having a great time with my family. But it was also a valuable reminder of the original sin that formed a large part of the identity of this nation, and an entreaty to move forward and heal the wounds that are still not quite closed.