I woke up to an article this morning that spoke to recent development of the late Thomas Jefferson’s estate. The article relished in the plantation acknowledging Sally Hemmings’ role in his-story. Though often portrayed as Jefferson’s “great love,” Sally Hemmings was Jefferson’s concubine. Despite overtly confronting what historical writings of Jefferson normally deny, the article continues to romanticize the horror of enslavement in imbuing a crippling ignorance depicted in the following.
I. Use of the word “Monticello”
To be completely transparent, I had to consult the dictionary upon encountering this word. Monticello, it turns out, simply means plantation. The use of this word functions to distance Jefferson from what he was, a slave owner who inflicted his cruelty on the most celebrated plantation in the United States.
II. Referencing Hemmings as “the mother of Jefferson’s children”
Though not able to consent to Jefferson due to her enslavement and the pervasive environment of white supremacy, Hemmings is commonly referenced as “the mother of Jefferson’s children” or his lover. His story often projects their relations as that of star-crossed lovers, not occupants of two vastly different positions in the very power system that continues to haunt blacks globally.
The issue of consent is one that remains contentious. Consent is central in discussing the white female body and #metoo, but hovers over black and white relations that appear to be consensual in our current setting. Hemmings was not able to consent to sexually activity with Jefferson, let alone love him in the cruel climate that claimed her humanity and hung it on their systemic estate as decor. Hemmings’ portrayal as a consenting concubine or legitimized mother, functions to paint Jefferson as a man in love, not a rapist in power.
Hemmings does prove a formidable canvass for understanding contemporary manifestations of their violent engagement. The same system that enslaved the minds and bodies of our ancestors is still very much in place, yet consent remains an under-discussed topic. What I mean here is that given the systemic asphyxiation of black minds under white supremacy, melanated people remain unable to consent to relationships with white people. Black people, who have elevated their melanated status in a journey to consciousness however, do posses the mental freedom to consent, but would not given their astute perception of race and its global functionality.
My argument is essentially similar to what Gayatri Spivak makes in “Can the Subaltern Speak.” Spivak argues that due to the mental mutilation of the subalterns mind, their “choices” mirror the choices made for them by their oppressors. “Choice” is chosen when your mind is mentally consumed. Blacks are persistently force-fed images that paint whites as the height of society, sexually desirable, and great nurturers. Despite these attributes being antithetical to the truth, the white supremacist environment that encases us in alterity chooses a “white” and “non-black” body for the mentally enslaved—depicting consent as both not non-existent and socially acceptable.
III. Celebrating her inclusion in “his” story
The articles from Jefferson’s estate bask in the feature of what was believed to be Hemmings’ room in a new exhibit. The write-ups are all the same, a performance of self-congratulatory debauchery. An act that praises white supremacists for acknowledging the human resources that enable their pseudo superiority. This functions similarly to the show the white media has created around Trump and his pardons. These actions, are deliberate. They exist and are exhibited only to foment the myth that “things are so much better now” as we stand in the same spot of our ancestors, blinded in the obscurity white media, white education, and white history continues to grant our truth.
The truth is Jefferson as a romanticized rapist, and Hemmings as a silent sufferer, embody what it means to be “presidential.” In the contemporary climate, it has become custom for the masses to detach themselves from Trump the individual by denying him the title “President.” The issue here is that denouncing Trump from the title awards “president” an undeserving revere. The term president does not speak to prestige or responsibility. The word “president” is just another word for white supremacist, as everyone “sworn” into this role takes an oath to protect and serve a republic born from the blood of blacks.
“President” references George Washington, who although the first “president” was not the first white supremacist. Washington is Willie Lynch. He encompasses the males who castrated and killed Claude Neal, and the males that tortured and murdered a fourteen year old Emmitt till. It was extremely hard to write the previous sentences without using the word “animal” in place of “male.” I reasoned with the following “Males are not men, but humans are animals.” Similarly, presidents are not people, they are not capital, they are an embodiment of an ideology. An ideology that is inherently anti-black.
The black collective, despite their financial status, education level, aesthetics or any other attribute that may convince one to believe they are special, remain identical to Hemmings. Whether at a school, bank, or private sector position, most of us remain espoused to contemporary plantations. Though unlike our ancestors, many of us believe that words like “consent” and “choice” mark a freedom chained hands, veiled by these very words, can’t quite reach.
Black Power ❤