Pinterest and The Knot pressured to stop romanticizing former slave plantations as "romantic" wedding venues

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/12/04/pinterest-and-the-knot-pressur.html

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This one’s ripe for the White Culture thread.

Also:

actors Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds held their wedding at Boone Hall Plantation, where dozens of black people were enslaved.

Aw fuck, guys. Geez.

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This trend always struck me as the equivalent of holding a wedding at a concentration camp site, so I’m glad that Pinterest and The Knot did the right thing. There are already more than enough virulent bigots longing for the “good old days” of slavery and exploitation of PoC without encouraging the merely clueless and ignorant to join in.

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So serious question - what is the solution here?

I mean some of them can be/are living history museums, but not all of them can be.

I agree if the marketing is to give you an experiace from back in the “good ol’ days”, then they are white washing history and promoting a nostalgic lie. But if they are separating themselves from the past and moving forward as just a nice venue, can it separate itself from the past? Should it?

Hrm, trying to arrange my thoughts better… like I totally get that if one is marketing it as an ol’ timey good ol’ time when everyone knew their place - that’s bullshit. But if one can’t present the venue in a neutral light, as just a nice venue now, then is it just doomed/cursed because of its dark past?

I guess living in Kansas most my life, I haven’t ever had to consider this, as we didn’t have plantations. Generally I am of the mind that people can take things and remake them into something new and redeem it. But maybe that isn’t the case here.

So I’ll ask the question - what is the solution here?

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The solution here is don’t be a self-absorbed (and frankly, ghoulish) dick; don’t get married or spend that kind of money anyplace where people were historically raped, tortured and murdered.

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Well, they existed on a small scale, but fortunately they’re not being marketed to people as wedding venues.

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“Good news, Honey! Dachau is available for our dates!” /s

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I guess living in the US my entire life means I haven’t had to consider having an Auschwitz wedding, but I know there’s no “redeeming” that.

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Somebody, somewhere, will have really tried for that.

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I I’m not aware of any slave plantations in Kansas, if you know of the contrary please forward me the info. I am sure part of the reason is because cotton doesn’t grow well here.

Slavery was legal in the territory until it was outlawed in 1860. There were slaves, but they were generally a handful on small farms, vs the large plantations of the South. There was about a 5 year period where abolitionists and pro-slavery supporters mainly from Missouri clashed over whether Kansas would become a slave state or not.

So if plantations are the equivalent of Auschwitz, then would it also be fair to say that we should either have them only be be historical museums, or destroyed and buried?

If it isn’t fit to host events, then why should they endure?

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This reminds me of Michelle Obama’s powerful speech about watching her young daughters play on the lawn of “a house built by slaves” on Pennsylvania Avenue. In that case she was making a case for how far the nation had come in the pursuit of its highest ideals over the previous 240 years, which made the White House seem like a symbol of hope and promise that had grown from troubling origins.

In the case of these plantations it seems like the people marketing them as romantic venues want to skip right past all those horrific origins and just focus on the aesthetics of the locale without contemplating the suffering that made such beauty possible.

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I was thinking about this, and the first problem is that even if they were just selling themselves as aesthetically pleasing structures, it’s still hugely problematic. One doesn’t use a Nazi concentration camp as a wedding venue, no matter how nice the building is. (Or even an infamous murder house, even if it were just one atrocity.)

But the really huge, enormous problem is: they aren’t. These sites aren’t just presenting themselves as nice buildings in which to hold events. (For one, they’d not continue to call themselves “plantations,” if that were the case.) They’re inevitably capitalizing on a grotesquely romanticized historical (slavery) narrative to some degree. They have to, because it would be impossible to see it as a romantic venue otherwise.

As for solutions? I’d say it’s the same as with every other building associated with atrocities. They’re used for educational purposes; torn down; altered to make the connection to that past unrecognizable; lived and worked in, uncomfortably. Unless the purpose of the building is educational, they go running from any association with that history, not embracing it as plantations have.

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Pretty much.

I would prefer they stand as museums, but only if they can be done tastefully. Focus on slavery, because plantations were nothing without the slaves who worked them. If that makes white people uncomfortable, so be it, history is supposed to make white people uncomfortable.

I would rather destroy a plantation than have it do feel-good tours for white people’s benefit, though.

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And to get married there basically signals “if this were the Good Old Days™, we would have owned slaves”

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Hear! Hear!

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That, or “I’m so grotesquely ignorant of the history, it should be an actual crime.”

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It really does.

I like Ryan Reynolds as an actor (his wife, not so much) and this makes me lose some respect for him… even if he didn’t personally pick the venue and had nothing to with any of the planning.

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And if the answer is “historical museums,” does the fact that many of them are actually physically interesting and beautiful places risk glorifying the people we should be condemning in, basically, the same way confederate memorial statues do? (Cf., for example, Monticello.)

Would tearing down a plantation house and building something new on the land change anything, or is it the land that’s problematic? If the political will existed (ha), would it be enough for the government to take these properties from their current owners, sell them, and redistribute the proceeds as reparations? What if the current owners cannot have had any connection to slavery? (A family acquaintance, a first-generation Vietnamese immigrant, bought land in rural Virginia that used to be, I think, a tobacco farm. Would he deserve to be dispossessed in a general plantation taking?)

What, even, is the scope of the problem? Are we talking about 100 plantations or 10,000?

Not marketing them as 19th-century racist LARP wedding venues is, as you say, a no-brainer, but it’s low-hanging fruit, and there are a lot more problems associated with dealing with the country’s toxic past.

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I think it was a commentator on NYT’s 1619 podcast who said she never had any interest in those “haunted plantation” tours because the ghosts who supposedly stalk the grounds always seem to be rich white ladies whose problems were comparatively trivial compared to the people who were enslaved there. Why don’t we ever hear about the ghost of a teenage slave girl who was regularly raped by her master between periods of back-breaking labor? Or the ghost of a mother who lost her own baby to malnutrition because her breast milk went to feed the children of the white family who enslaved her?

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