Slavery has long existed ... so what?
A recent letter from a regular contributor noted that slavery was not created by the United States; it has existed around the globe in various forms as far back as human civilization has existed.
It was based on a multitude of factors and that people of color have, at times, engaged in keeping slaves themselves. In all these respects, the letter writer is historically accurate. But I would also add, "So what?"
The fact that slavery has — and continues today — to exist around the world in no way diminishes the magnitude of this tortured aspect of U.S. history. American historians typically date the beginning of slavery in colonial North America to be 1619. Therefore, in what became the United States, slavery grew and flourished for 246 years before it was legally ended in 1865. And that legacy haunts our society to the present.
A forced and degrading labor system that was based solely on the color of a person's skin resulted in a massive series of prejudicial notions and cultural attitudes that linger to the present. Our society continues to grapple with the deeply harmful effects of these perceptions. Plainly, progress has been slow in the face of continued resistance by those who wrongly believe that skin color dictates intelligence or personality.
Only when society squarely faces its worst aspects can it begin to overcome them and make a more fair and harmonious future for the next generation.