The Laundry Never Ends

I tell you, that I didn’t have my parents do some laundry–at least towels–while they were here is a sign of my idiocy so sure I almost can’t believe I have the gall to sit around and complain about how stupid the dog is. Pot, meet kettle.

All I have been doing all day is laundry and writing about Isaac Franklin. I don’t know if it’s very good, but I found it plenty disturbing to write. I’m not trying to write a scholarly book. I want to write a kind of popular history that is well-backed by scholarship. I don’t know how that’s going. But my hope is that it will be fairly short. Because I want people to read it. Ha ha ha.

But I think one thing that I’m kind of displeased about when it comes to the scholarship surrounding Franklin is that, since Franklin and his cronies left such a detailed accounting of their rape-fest approach to life, I feel like their voices become the definitive voices of rapists of slaves. I mean, Edward Baptist writes so fucking brilliantly about how slavery is both a sexual fetish and the fetishization of commodities, but it’s all about raped women and powerless men.

And the thing is that, I think, there’s two things going on here, in part. One, it’s just fucking soul-crushing to look too long at this. I could not not imagine what it must have been like to be those women, raped and stolen from your family and, if you got sick and died, left in a swamp in rural Mississippi, with no grave to even mark your passing. So, of course, with the soul-crushing-ness of it, your brain grasps, just as a defense mechanism, at any kind of shield, makes for itself places you will not go. And the other thing is that other proclivities were probably not going to be so forthrightly discussed.

But of course children and men were raped. There’s very little discussion of it, but of course it happened. It’s what makes Hannah’s story of being purchased as a young girl along with her mother by Jackson and her recalling how Jackson doted on her and let her ride on his horse and on his shoulders. Why would a grown white racist man in a slaveocracy dote on a child he owned?

Now, I’m not saying that Jackson molested Hannah. I’m saying that, when you read about this ubiquitous social evil long enough, all recollections of kindness start to seem suspicious. Like grooming.

It’s hard enough to think of the planter class passing around women like party-favors. To think of them in charge of children separated from their families? With no moral or social boundaries they were willing to abide by?

I mean, at one point, Baptist talks about how Franklin has ended up with a pen full of “small fry,” children unpurchased and separated from their mothers. What happened to them? Who buys a child not yet big enough to do an adult’s work? And what for?

I don’t know. It’s sad and it makes me sick to my stomach, but I feel like pretending like all the rape victims were women lets us avoid thinking of the children and men who must also have suffered that way.

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