lohelim asked: RE: the conversation about Roman slavery, class, and race relations. I'm a classical studies major and it really bugs me when we get into conversations like this and frame it in the context of US race relations. To Romans, there were functionally only two races - Roman and non-Roman. They did not give a flying crap about skin color as long as you worshipped their gods (or made a pretense of it), paid their taxes, followed their laws, and fought on their side.
Yes, I am aware it “bugs” you. It “bugs” a lot of people.
I’m noticing a pattern, and the people it “bugs” the most are almost always academics. I am assuming you actually read the conversation, but you still sent this message, so I guess I’ll just say it all over again.
Racism today affects how we view the past.
Racism in 1930 affects how we view the past.
Racism in 1850 affects how we view the past.
Racism in 1787 affects how we view the past.
The knowledge we currently possess has been filtered though all of these centuries before it got to us, and each century between us and the ancient world has shaped how the knowledge was passed on.
Every conversation we have about Roman slavery, class, and race relations is affected by not only these factors, but who we are as the people researching, reading, and exploring these materials.
Where did your information come from? How did you form these opinions and ideas? Someone wrote a book. You read it. Someone with authority you trust told you. Knowledge was passed from human being to human being. It doesn’t come from some kind of Supreme Universal Authority, it comes from human beings. Human being are not objective.
In plain terms-in previous eras, these histories were purposely racialized because the authors who wrote them were racist, and lived in an era where furthering white supremacy was highly encouraged and well-compensated.
Instead of challenging, confronting, or refuting this influence, the reaction has been “Hey, let’s just drop it already" from most of the disciplines involving history (which is honestly just about all of them).
Instead of trying to curtail or ameliorate the voices that infused white supremacy into our education in the first place, most people seem a lot more comfortable shush-shushing the voices that want to point out that that happened. To confront it head-on, and explore how this influence continues to shape our ideas, our worldviews, and our knowledge of the past.
It bugs you. Good! I’m not comfortable, you’re not comfortable, so let’s go digging because no one promised anyone the truth is a comfortable pair of well-worn shoes that fit everyone exactly the same.