We Don’t Get to Choose Our Ancestors


One thing that Barack Obama, Kamala Harris, Mitch McConnell, and I have in common is that we are all the descendants of slaveholders. Of course, slavery in the United States (and Jamaica in Kamala Harris’ case) was outlawed over 150 years ago. None of us ever had any contact with our slaveholding ancestors. IIRC, we’re talking about connections no closer than great-great-parents for Obama, Harris, and McConnell. In my case, the last owner of slaves among my ancestors was my great grandfather who inherited them when he was an infant. They were emancipated when he was three years old, so he never knowingly was a slaveholder in any real sense. He died ten years before I was born.

The four of us disagree about many things, but I’m sure that all of us oppose slavery.

We all have enough to be called to account for in our own lives without the added burden of our ancestors’ sins.