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Kindred

Many of our class discussions lead to questions about the acceptance of slavery during the time: why did the slaves not rebel? why didn’t northern abolitionists do more to stop slavery and rescue slaves? How can enslaved peoples actually be considered property rather than human? One of the scariest parts of slavery it seems is that the participants and even the slaves themselves went along with it, often without really questioning it. Kindred addressed this issue with a frightening tone; even modern people can be made to accept such atrocities when it becomes the ‘norm’. Butler expresses this concern through Dana and Kevin’s slow adaptation to the 19th century south. Early on, Dana is disturbed by her own changing behavior, noticing “how easily we seemed to acclimatize…it seemed as though we should have had a harder time adjusting to this particular segment of history- adjusting to our places in the household of a slaveholder…And I was perverse enough to be bothered by the ease” (97). For Dana, as a black woman, this is especially problematic as she is slowly learning to accept her own oppression. She returns to this issue again and again. When she sees young slaves playing a game that imitates the sale of slaves, she is disgusted at how these children have accepted slavery with enough levity to turn it into a game. She tells Kevin, “‘The ease seemed so frightening…Us, the children…I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery'” (101). Dana begins the novel by lecturing a young Rufus on the use of the word “nigger,” explaining to him why it is offensive, yet by the end she must accept beatings and abuse to save her life. After she is badly beaten, she cries out when she thinks “See how easily slaves are made?” (177).

Reading this, it made me think that there are some possible parallels in our modern world. Issues like slavery, which were accepted as normal at the time despite the horrific abuse and oppression involved, are now seen as shocking; how could people not see the horror of the situation? Issues concerning LGBT rights, women’s rights, and racism (among many other controversies) might follow a similar path. Though many people accept the abuses done to LGBT people, is this something that will seem shocking and impossible a century later ?

 

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