Daniel Suddeath

“What were they thinking” is the question most of us ask when we consider our ugly history of slavery and those who supported the cause.

Seeing statues of Confederate leaders razed before our eyes leads us to imagine how people of that time period could have justified such a barbaric and cruel enterprise. There’s no excuse or rationalization that can be offered to normalize enslaving another human being. It doesn’t matter what time period our ancestors lived in, they were simply wrong for allowing the practice to continue as long as it did.

As we know, slaveholders weren’t just limited to the South. And as we’ve seen time and time again, racism isn’t confined to one region of our country. There were always those who knew slavery was wrong, and some spoke out against it while others waited until a civl war was waged before truly taking a side. It was easy to justify slavery for some during the early 19th Century, just as systematic racism has been simple for those of us who have benefited from it to overlook because “that’s just how things are.”

We’re coming to grips with our reality, and we should always question our ways of thinking. Life evolves and so should we.

But as we castigate our ancestors and tear down statues, it’s important that we also hold ourselves accountable. Recent protests have brought to the forefront issues of police brutality and racism against black people, and hopefully we’ll see meaningful change as a result of this movement. However, as we consider how history will view us in 150 years, we may realize that this is just the tip of the spear.

For example, think about how we’ve dealt with immigration, particularly over the past decade. Multiple presidential administrations have not seen a problem with locking kids in cages or having families torn apart in the name of fighting illegal immigration. Decades from now, especially with the Latino population projected to grow substantially in the coming years, how will our treatment of immigrants, both legal and illegal, be viewed?

Before you answer, remember that legality isn’t ultimately a barometer of right and wrong. Slavery was legal in our country at one point in time. Until the Suffrage Movement, it was illegal for women to vote. Segregation was also within the rights of business owners during a time in our not so distant history.

Certainly rights for LGBTQ citizens have come a long way just in the last decade. From gay marriage to the Supreme Court’s recent decision banning discrimination against LGBTQ employees in the workplace, several key victories have been won in the fight for equality.

But I’m still young enough to remember when homophobic slurs were thrown around loosely and not just as “locker room talk.”

Many religions still stand in opposition to homosexuality. How will they be remembered in 150 years?

Who knows what the future might bring? Do you really believe in 2170, we’ll still be eating meat raised from livestock?

Eating meat is so engrained in our society that we overlook obvious animal abuse. We don’t view what we eat as being real, but share a link to a story about a dog market from China on your Facebook page and see how many angry emojis you get as a response.

In 150 years, it’s likely any meat we eat will have been created in a lab. Might we be viewed as animal abusers because of our current diets and our reluctance to view factory farming as inhumane?

Here’s another topic that’s always causing a stir and one honestly that comes down to opinion. How will abortion be viewed in the years to come? Will pro-choice be the norm, or will the practice ultimately be banned?

Many advocates believe abortion is a woman’s choice. If that standpoint ultimately withstands the test of time, will pro-life supporters be viewed as misogynistic and controlling?

What if abortion is ultimately banned? Will history label those who supported it as murderers?

How about guns? As thousands of people die to gunfire each year in our country, how will the topic be broached long after we’ve been laid to rest?

What about our culture? Will academics centuries from now judge us as being a little dense because we argue all day over societal problems while our movies glorify violence and our music praises womanizing?

Winston Churchill was famously quoted as saying “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.”

Churchill probably never would have guessed that in 2020, the words “Was a Racist” would be scrawled on his statue in Parliament Square.

The point is, what’s accepted now may seem odd, if not downright evil, in the future.

The protests are causing many to argue over whether or not a group of people has the right to block a street, or if we need police, or if a statue should be torn down. What they should be teaching us is that we should always be cognizant of our decisions, that we should take part in our government and be active in the community, and that it might not hurt to envision how our lifestyles and beliefs may be viewed long after we’re gone.

Daniel Suddeath is the senior reporter at the News and Tribune. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @DsuddeathNT.

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