Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Story We May Never Forget

Solomon Northrup

Today I came across an article. It is the original article published in the NYTimes on January 20th, 1853, about Solomon Northrop titled: The Kidnapping Case: Narrative of the Seizure and Recovery of Solomon Northrup. 

I can't even begin to fathom what Solomon had to endure in his lifetime, or grasp how he was able to bear it and bring up the strength necessary, for years and years and years, so that he would see the light of day again. One of the paragraphs that struck me the most was when the author describes how Solomon was forced to punish one of his equal, a 17-year-old girl female slave.

For those who watched the movie "12 Years a Slave" already have an idea of what Solomon had to do. It was one of the most difficult scenes to watch; however, the reality of it was even more cruel than what director Steve McQueen depicted on screen (if that is even possible).

Here are some passages I wanted to share:

"He [Solomon Northrup] was sometimes compelled to perform acts revolting to humanity, and outrageous in the highest degree. On one occasion, a colored girl belonging to Eppes, about 17 years of age, went one Sunday, without the permission of her master, to the nearest plantation, about half a mile distant, to visit another colored girl... She returned... and for that offense called up for punishment, which Solomon was required to inflict. Eppes compelled him to drive four stakes into the ground at such distances that the hands and ankles... might be tied to them, as she lay with her face upon the ground; and having thus fastened her down, he compelled him while standing by himself, to inflict one hundred lashes upon her bare flesh... Eppes tried to compel him to go on, but he absolutely set him at defiance and refused to murder the girl."

I feel it is important to remember this part of American history, always, as it continues to effect not only direct descendants of slaves, but all of modern society (i.e: the prison system, education etc.). As McQueens mentioned during his acceptance speech for receiving the Oscar for Best Picture. "Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northrup. I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery, and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today."

In Germany

I have noticed that a lot of German's don't grasp the importance of this story, or stories like these. Despite our own crimes committed and our horrors of history.

Racism comes in many shapes and forms and sometimes it starts with mutual respect, or the lack thereof. In Germany, it is acceptable to use words that that refer to people's race and color, which gives an expression a racist undertone. Expressions like "Black-Africans: Schwarz-Afrikaner" are commonly used. There is a cake in Germany "Negro Kiss Cake" etc. Usually, if you point it out to someone they reply they didn't mean it in a racist way.

But ignorance is not bliss. I think people need to be more sensitive when it comes to humanity's struggles, no matter what the struggle is.

If you refer to someone as "Black-African", why wouldn't you refer to yourself as Caucasian-German? Sounds ridiculous, right? Equality starts with every single individual. I hope if someone who hasn't been aware will read this and reconsider their ways.

Help break down color lines.

Educate yourself.

Watch the video below. Think about how the small things like mentioned above matter.

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