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The Past The Present The Future

Tutu and Franklin: The Past (continue)

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yes.

DR. FRANKLIN: And so far as the past is concerned cannot exist, because the past is something else, something quite different.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: I think what they are saying is that their recollection, or whatever they have heard about what happened is for them humiliating, and possibly in your country, they are experiencing certain things that happened to them because of this past, and they are not too keen to acknowledge it because out of the past have come the justifications for racism.

You know, the past of a slave, ancestry, means somehow that because people justify, say, slavery, by saying those who are slaves were inferior, somehow this has an impact on how people still treat the descendants of those who were slaves.

DR. FRANKLIN: And of course it has the effect of causing the descendants of slaves--

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yes.

DR. FRANKLIN: --to feel that if they reject the institution of slavery, they somehow are rising above it.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yes.

DR. FRANKLIN: And are enjoying the kind of freedom and equality which, which they wish to enjoy. But that's not the way it happens. That's not the way it has happened. For underlying slavery are all of these justifications.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yeah.

DR. FRANKLIN: These defenses.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yes.

DR. FRANKLIN: Which had their way of surviving.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yes.

DR. FRANKLIN: And in 1998, or '9, or 2000, we have people who hold on to those arguments about inferiority.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yeah.

DR. FRANKLIN: So that if descendants of slaves say that we are not inferior--that's a wonderful thing to say--

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yeah.

DR. FRANKLIN: --they are not, at the same time, saying that no one else thinks us as inferior, because some of those people continue to adhere to and obey the tenets that were set forth a century or more ago.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yes.

DR. FRANKLIN: Namely, that those people who are held in bondage ought to be there because they are inferior.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Absolutely; abso--

DR. FRANKLIN: And because they do not have the capacity to function as equal human beings, and so many of those people who hold those view--who held those views are still among us.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yes.

DR. FRANKLIN: Or their descendants are still among us, and--

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yes.

DR. FRANKLIN: --they have inherited those views. They've been trained in them, and if they've been--if they have learned or inherit those views, that they have inherited them, then it seems to me incumbent upon those who are--have been the descendants of slaves to hold to the view that this is a fiction created to maintain the institution of slavery.

If they don't, if they don't understand that, then they are not prepared to cope with the present--

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Absolutely; absolutely.

DR. FRANKLIN: --or with people who hold other views.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yes. I've, I've been reading in manuscript a book that speaks about the black church and human sexuality, and the author, who is a professor at Howard University, is holding forth that part of the way in which, what you might call "white culture," justified the treatment it gave to slaves was to attack their sexuality, to speak about the black woman slave as either a Jezebel, promiscuous, and therefore, what you did to her, if she was raped, it was her fault. Or you had the other image, the image of the mammy who was docile and obsequious in, in the master's house, and that this attack was an attack at the very humanity of black people, because it was attacking something that is so utterly central, so, so much what makes us to be human beings.

And I think there is a great deal that the black church, Af--African American society, and American society in general, need to hear in this--it's almost a cri de coeur, a cry to say recognize what this institution did to us. But we also would recognize it. We black persons, we mustn't deny that that is something we went through.

We should, we should be able to speak about our resilience, coming through this dehumanizing thing, to emerge as we have come. I mean it's something that we ought to celebrate.

DR. FRANKLIN: Yes. Indeed, the joy of understanding where we have come from will be intensified--

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Absolutely.

DR. FRANKLIN: --if we know how we survived--

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yes.

DR. FRANKLIN: --those dark days.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yes; yes.

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