Monuments to the Unthinkable

What I think is helpful is not to conflate these two things or not to suggest they are the same, but to put them in conversation with one another so that we can learn about them, so that I can think about what it means that Angola prison in Louisiana – the largest maximum security prison in the country where 75% of the people held there are Black men and 70% of them are serving life sentences – what does it mean that that is built on top of a former plantation?

I’ll always remember my trip to Dachau and standing in Dachau and seeing this sort of vast expanse of gray land. Look to your left – you see the remnants of the crematorium. You look to your right – you see the remnants of the barracks. And I close my eyes and I imagine what it would be like if; on that land, they built a prison. And in that prison, the vast majority of the people held there were Jewish.

I couldn’t even finish the thought exercise because it was so viscerally upsetting. It was so absurd. It would be such a horrific, inexcusable manifestation of antisemitism.

…And yet here in the United States, the largest maximum security prison in the country in which the vast majority of people are Black men serving life sentences, many of whom work in fields, picking crops for pennies on the hour – what does it mean that that place is built on top of a former plantation? The failure of American memory around chattel slavery allows a place like Angola to exist in a way that a more direct confrontation with memory in Germany would never allow a similar space in Germany to exist in the same way.

Clint Smith
NPR – Fresh Air – ‘Monuments to the Unthinkable’ explores how nations can memorialize their atrocities – December 1, 2022

youtubemuseumandmemorial.eji.org

It is the very act of attempting to remember that becomes the most powerful memorial of all.

The Atlantic/Clint Smith
How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America – June 1, 2021 by Clint Smith 

Author: RAnthony

I'm a freethinking, unapologetic liberal. I'm a former CAD guru with an architectural fetish. I'm a happily married father. I'm also a disabled Meniere's sufferer.

Attacks on arguments offered are appreciated and awaited. Attacks on the author will be deleted.

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