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I’ve been researching my ancestors. As a middle class white American person, it feels disingenuous to look at only the fun parts of my family history, so I’m struggling to get my mind around the other parts. I’ve been thinking about it a lot during this process. I was clear that there was going to be some stuff I might not be proud of, as well as some things I was very excited to learn. And there is a lot of exciting and interesting history I look forward to delving into. Still, it’s jarring to see census data from 1830 and 1840 with my four times great grandfather’s household, neatly sorted out by age bracket, male/female, and free/slave.

If you are one of those (almost definitely white) people who think that slavery was “a long time ago” and people should stop “whining” about institutionalized racism, white privilege, and other parts of this complicated issue, try doing some ancestor searching. Because realizing how few generations ago it was legal in this country to own another person is sobering; and some of us do not have the luxury of living as though it never happened.

Institutionalized racism does affect ALL of us negatively (whether we acknowledge it or not), though not all of us have an increased likelihood of going to jail or dying because of it.

1830 census

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