Erasing History: No Slavery Photos Allowed

What Are Censorship's Historical Consequences? | IFK

If a historical image is “distressing” to someone living today, 170 years later–well, then, let’s opt for self-imposed amnesia and not let anybody see the picture anymore!

That seems to be what the Massachusetts Supreme Court is saying.

So now a woman can sue Harvard for displaying some ancient photos taken in 1850–“widely-published, historical photos” (https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2022/06/23/court-harvard-can-be-sued-for-distress-over-slave-photos/). Photos of slaves, to be exact. Harvard allowed the photos to be seen (as opposed to forbidden photos that may never be seen–except I guess these are now forbidden), constituting a “reckless infliction of emotional distress.”

What is this? We can only have nice history from now on? We are not allowed to know what happened in 1850, not allowed to study it, because someone might be distressed? We can’t just say, “Well, then, if the pictures distress you, don’t look at them”? There are pictures that distress me. I don’t look at them. But I don’t insist, “No one in the world should be allowed to see those pictures!”

Okay, for sure, we don’t want to go around distressing people. But here a court seeks to impose by force what ought to be an act of courtesy and kindness. It’s one way to wipe out courtesy and kindness. The woman says these are pictures of members of her family. So show some other pictures. Or meet with her to discuss the matter like grown-up human beings.

But how are we to study history if historical images are withheld from us?

So who says anyone is still studying history? At Harvard, no less.

8 comments on “Erasing History: No Slavery Photos Allowed

  1. This whole slavery thing is getting very old, to say the least, and I have always wondered why a vital truth has been with held for all these years. That is the fact that it was black people who sold black people into slavery; not white people. Yes, I know, white people are guilty of buying them, but it was still their own people who made the sales. It is a little like blaming only women for abortion. Everybody seems to be comfortable for ignoring the fact that men are involved in the process of pregnancy in the first place, and they usually insist that the baby be aborted so they will have no responsibility. Well, another of life’s llittle mysteries.

  2. Does this mean we can’t show pictures of the Nazi concentration camps? the piled-up bones of the Cambodian killing fields? or any other pictures that are MEANT to show how horrible a given event was, which is the whole point of showing the pictures in the first place?

    Actually, we’ve already seen this happen with pictures from 9/11. The photos of people falling or jumping from the burning towers were suppressed because they were so “distressing.” But if you don’t see the horrors, they don’t seem so horrible, and the motivation for fighting a nonexistent horror dissipates quickly. So maybe it was to downplay the jihad that the pictures were banned. And maybe it was a white supremacist who wanted the pictures of slavery removed … hmmmmm?

    1. Yeah, well, I was actually being sarcastic in that last sentence. Or then again, maybe we can use the accusation that was leveled against Larry Elder, i.e., “the black face of white supremacy.”

    2. We shouldn’t be allowed to see things that somebody doesn’t want us to see. Yippee! We’re all six years old again!

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