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None Dare Call it Genocide

On 24 November 2019 the PBS Newshour Weekend edition reported on a performance reenactment reimagining the largest slave uprising in American history. The organizer was artist Scott Tyler, known professionally as Dread Scott, whose adopted name is a nod to the past - Dred Scott. The artist is a provocateur, whose works are intended to provoke thought, rather than merely please the eye or ear.

PBS Reporter Brian Palmer notes "Scott hopes this performance will make people reevaluate what they think they know about this period and how slavery is presented today on plantation tours".

Dread Scott then states : "These are sites of genocide. They're sites of genocide, and yet they're set up in a way that people take tours that whitewash the history, and other people come to have their wedding there. Who would have their wedding at Auschwitz? Who would do that?"

Genocide is a word with a very precise meaning, articulated in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide" which states that "genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group..." Indeed, the word did not exist prior to this convention, and had to be invented to describe the Nazi's attempted final solution of the Jewish Question.

The chattel slavery of Africans was brutal, and abhorrent to modern sensibilities, and still to be found in some obscure parts of the world.

Slavery was not genocide. Slave masters did not intend to destroy their slaves as a group. Slaves were oppressed, some were tortured, and some were murdered, but slaves were valuable property. Slave masters would no sooner destroy all their slaves than they would burn down the big house where they sipped mint juleps on the veranda.

Genocide is what the Rohingya are presently experiencing. Genocide is what the Chinese are presently inflicting on the Uighurs. The present condition of African Americans is dreadful and a shame for the nation, but slavery was not genocide, however provocative such a claim might be.

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