Dignity And Respect

June 29, 2016

Reburying the slaves, the would-be Islamberg pogrom, the Albany response to the Orlando shootings and the need for rational gun policies

Where to begin. I’ll start by mentioning the slaves, the ones found buried in the suburb of Menands right outside the City of Albany, discovered when a sewer line was being dug for a building project. These slaves were of course black, chattel apparently owned by a branch of the illustrious Schuyler family that lived on what was then back in the 1700s a country estate.

These 14 slaves were buried honorably in a forgotten graveyard in individual pine boxes, all oriented East to West, seven children six women and one man. This shows that the aristocratic Schuylers of Menands had some regard for their human property, after all the estate at that time was mostly isolated from the more settled areas and thus among the residents of the estate there must have been quite a bit of familiarity all around. Analysis showed, among other things, that all of these slaves were born in New York State, they were as much native to this land as their masters were.

Remains Of 18th Century Slaves In Their Ossuaries Beneath The Portrait Of Philip Schuyler At Schuyler Mansion Remains Of 18th Century Slaves In Their Ossuaries Beneath The Portrait Of Philip Schuyler At Schuyler Mansion

When I heard that the remains of the slaves would be displayed at Schuyler mansion, at the home of Revolutionary general Phillip Schuyler which is located down the hill from my house, a ghoulish part of me was hoping to see the actual bodies. Not sure why, but that was in the back of my mind. There are a few photos of the archeological dig circulating, one shows a mostly complete skeleton exposed in the dirt. Some of the skulls were intact enough so that reasonable reconstructions of the faces of the slaves could be sculpted.

But displaying carcasses would have been terribly disrespectful. The theme of what has been called the Schuyler Flatts Burial Project was respect, bestowing a level of honor upon these underclass folks that surely would have baffled them when they were alive. Indeed the high level of interest in people who are being regarded as spiritual ancestors of the black communities in Albany produced some wonderful ceremony.

Each set of remains was placed in their own box which was constructed by 14 different groups or individuals, ranging from schoolkids to expert woodworkers. All the ossuaries as they were called were beautifully made, much effort went into this volunteer community effort. Each box was only a few feet long though, basically we are talking about collections of bones that did not require full sized boxes like those these folks originally were buried in.

Facial Reconstructions Of Three Of The Adult Schuyler Slaves Facial Reconstructions Of Three Of The Adult Schuyler Slaves

The 14 ossuaries were displayed in the downstairs hall of Schuyler Mansion, which is where the white aristocratic Schuylers would have lain in state after their demises. It is unlikely that any of the slaves would ever have been allowed to set foot in that hall and certainly their remains would never have been honored inside that mansion when they passed. The portraits of the Schuylers looked down upon the ossuaries, I tried to imagine the shock and horror that the masters would have felt if they could see this, but I realized the depth of their aristocratic aversion was beyond my understanding.

The next day there was an elaborate burial ceremony at St. Agnes Catholic Cemetery in Menands near the original burial ground which I missed but I hear was very moving. Someone mentioned to me that it was a shame to put all those well crafted boxes in the ground like that, but that was the point. Honor and respect are for the living, despite all our wealth and decoration or lack of it we all will eventually confirm our inherent equality when we return to the dirt.

Inspecting The Ossuaries At Schuyler Mansion Inspecting The Ossuaries At Schuyler Mansion

Back in the 1700s The Schuylers were the masters and the black slaves were the human beasts, everyone knew their place in the fixed hierarchy and few questioned it. Today that certainty about hierarchy is gone, thus all too many individuals strive to climb over and suppress each other, scratching and clawing and backstabbing in an ever changing landscape of pointless social struggle. It constantly amazes me how hard most people work at this. Perhaps such behavior is a nostalgic yearning for the days of fixed hierarchy.

These days the usual idea is not to better one’s self to achieve superiority but to downgrade the other person by whatever means are at hand. For example, white people of all economic classes have grudgingly been forced to abandon their automatic sense of superiority over black people. The Burial Project is a strong reminder of that change, a signpost you could say near the end of the road. However, if traditionally inferior people such as black folks can no longer be regarded as inferior by the rest of the population, then there has to be found another group of people who can be relegated to that bottom role.

In our present day perhaps the only group of people it is okay to denigrate and spit upon in this country is Muslims, or more specifically, lower income Muslims, especially immigrants. Rich Muslims, such as the the totalitarian Sheik of Abu Dhabi who owns the Global Foundries chip fab in Malta north of Albany, he and his representatives are of course regarded as exceptional. Money magically confers superiority. But if the Muslims are working class, immigrants or black, then we have been repeatedly told that they are fair game for abuse.

Residents And Visitors Wait For The Bare Naked Islam Nitwits To Attack Islamberg Residents And Visitors Wait For The Bare Naked Islam Nitwits To Attack Islamberg

This past May The Wife got involved with physically opposing some of that “acceptable” discrimination of Muslims. Islamberg is a small isolated town in Delaware County near the Pennsylvania border with a population of not much more than 200 people. From Wikipedia:

The hamlet was founded in the late 1980s by… a group of primarily African American Muslims who left New York City, reportedly to escape crime, poverty and racism. They built a community of some 40 family houses, with its own grocery store and bookstore and place of worship… "Holy Islamberg", as residents refer to it, is also the headquarters of the Muslims of America organization.