12 October 2021
For my student facilitated activity we gathered in the common room of the ground floor of our Air-bnb to discuss the things we had seen throughout the day. The discussion was led and implored us to think of the areas we had stopped by, McLeod plantation and Drayton hall. The goal was to elaborate on the differentiation between looking at what we had seen as viewers, versus the perspective of those who had expended labor in creating the place. In relation to the specific activities of the day we sort of were immersed in this touristy plantation culture which focuses on the beauty of the place and richness of the land, rather than addressing and talking about the horrors and perspectives of the enslaved that were there.
Our group entering Drayton Hall, photo by author
During the experience, individuals reflected on the places they had viewed as well as the thoughts that they had while perceiving everything from the day. This was all discussed in a productive vulnerable fashion. The conversation was extremely intimate and provided opinions and perspectives that were very insightful. Due to perspective being so subjective we found differences in interpretation and had to even address difficult topics such as white agendas, the perspective of the minority, and economic influences on what we had seen. The areas we had discussed and visited were Drayton hall and Mcleod plantation. We had talked for about an hour. Some of the heavy questions that arose were:
Could a white person ever comprehend or understand the perspective of a black individual?
Would it be better to use a word such as empathy opposed to understanding?
Is it possible to ever really put yourself in someone else's shoes?
Is it possible to have an anti-racist interpretation of a plantation?
This conversation was so important to me because it was important to discuss the differentiation between individuals' outlooks on what they had encountered. It’s important to address and ask the question, what is the real goal of the preservation of these plantations that were an instrument to the genocide of a people? It also matters because perspective is something that is undervalued in this society. I often think of perspective as an image or a photograph. Two people could both be looking at the Eiffel tower. One person is looking at it from underneath and one is looking at it from the front. The images may appear like two separate places when in reality they both are looking at the same exact thing just from a different perspective. I think sharing perspective is important because a lot of times we as people feel like we don't have anything in common, but in reality we are looking at the same exact thing.
Silver branding tools displayed at Drayton Hall, photo by author
In the process of doing this activity I wouldn't say I directly learned something about myself but I would say I reaffirmed what I was already in the process of learning. During my research I had the pleasure of doing interviews and throughout these interviews I found overlap in things that I had learned about myself and what we were studying in class. There was a common overlap in things such as isolation, family, pain, and identity. These are all concepts that I had been confronting in my own life.
In terms of where we visited it impacted me greatly in terms of the realization that plantation culture is extremely glorified. I took a step back and thought, what is the purpose of keeping these places available and open to the public if we aren’t meant to question and confront the dark reality of what happened in the space.