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.