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It's Problematic to Accuse Ancestry's Interracial Ad of Whitewashing Slavery

The existence of one story does not discount terrible atrocities.

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To ignore the countless slaves who were victims of rape would be a travesty. To say that Ancestry is doing that very thing with their latest slavery-era ad is reaching.

Ancestry is a popular genealogy website based out of Utah. For years, people of all backgrounds have used the information to learn more about lost family histories. Recently, Ancestry thought to advertise its services with a commercial depicting an interracial couple escaping from the South.

A white man is seen trying to convince a black woman named Abigail, presumably a slave, to run away to the North with him, so they can be married. Abigail begins to question the idea before he tells her that there's a place "across the border" where they can be together. After asking her to leave with him, the screen cuts to pictures of the couple and a marriage certificate.

The website was quickly accused of whitewashing history and romanticizing sexual exploitation. The outrage over the commercial was so severe that the ad was removed altogether.

"Ancestry is committed to telling important stories from history. This ad was intended to represent one of those stories. We very much appreciate the feedback we have received and apologize for any offense that the ad may have caused. We are in the process of pulling the ad," the company tweeted.

Let me start by saying that I share the same sentiments about cutesy depictions of slavery. Far too often, the uncomfortable parts are glossed over in favor of a good Hollywood story. Just watch the slave scenes in The Patriot or Brad Pitt, whose studio produced 12 Years a Slave, grace the screen.

However, the mere existence of past atrocities and bad storytelling does not mean that the Ancestry ad deserved the outrage that it received.

For one thing, there's no possible way a viewer would assume that the commercial is showing exploitative sexual abuse. At least one user questioned if Abigail belonged to the man trying to get her to run away with him. It's a safe assumption that the characters are forbidden lovers and nothing further.

Others criticized the commercial for having the white love interest suggest that they run north, either to another state or to Canada, to be together. While it's true that northern states enjoy a sort of ahistorical absolution for their imposition of segregation on free blacks, it's also not completely far off to have this couple look for hope in the North. After all, we praise the bravery of Harriet Tubman and other conductors of the Underground Railroad, which was designed to help slaves in the South escape to the North to access better and freer lives.

Most importantly, there is no universe in which a single romance discounts the very real suffering of rape victims. Had the commercial insinuated that many historical rapes were actually just romances, then this point would be legitimate. But it's also likely that consensual interracial relationships existed in this climate. These are no less worthy of a story. In fact, The New York Times did a profile on the descendant of this very kind of union in 2018.

Social media brigades like this one have led to some pretty big blunders.

Only two years ago, the world was doubled-over in laughter when a young girl waltzed right into her dad's live interview. The dad giving the live interview was a white professor named Robert E. Kelly. Once the internet was given enough time to whip up some hot takes, social media users criticized Kelly as a father and employer after assuming that the Korean woman who frantically rushed into the room after the young girl was his terrified nanny. As it turns out, the "terrified nanny" was actually Kelly's mortified wife and mother of the young girl. Critics were soon called out for relying on poor stereotypes to deny even the slightest possibility that this was a legitimate family unit.

When critics went after black British filmmaker Amma Asante's Where Hands Touch, a fictional love story between a biracial German girl and a member of the Hitler Youth, Asante maintained that the accusations of Nazi romanticization were unfounded. Not only is their violence and bigoted rhetoric quite present in her film, but Asante has also made it known that she is on a professional mission to highlight untold black stories in her work, like the existence of biracial Germans during the Holocaust.

"When stories are hidden, and they haven't been told, I think that when we hear about them, we have an expectation that they should sit more firmly with experiences that we know and we recognize," she told IndieWire amid the controversy. "I interviewed people who have experiences, and those experiences weren't necessarily comfortable ones, but it's their truth, and it's not our right to challenge that."

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  1. “To ignore the countless slaves who were victims of rape would be a travesty. ”

    But enough about Saudi Arabia.

  2. Is there a schedule when wokesters complain about too much diversity in film and TV, and then switch to complain about too little?

    Or do they just complain all the time?

    1. They just complain all the time. To signal something. They think it is their virtue but it’s actually something else.

      1. haha. Tulpa meets self-awareness.

      2. If the man were black and the woman white, there would only be praise. Except on Gab.

    2. I’ve noticed recently that they will complain when white writers don’t include minority characters, but then complain even more when white writers DO include minority characters (because they don’t have the knowledge or experience to write them)

    3. I believe their is a wheel they spin

  3. “To ignore the countless slaves who were victims of rape would be a travesty.”

    Why? They’re dead. Their rapists are dead. Rape and Slavery are both illegal.

    Dwelling on it is the tragedy.

    1. Dwelling on it is the tragedy.

      Yup. One of the the defining characteristics of the proggy mindset is a nearly complete dismissal of actual history. How many have heard about what their Soviet comrades did whilst “liberating” Berlin? Kind of puts the entire American thing into a different perspective, doesn’t it?

      “The rapes had begun as soon as the Red Army entered East Prussia and Silesia in 1944. In many towns and villages every female, aged from 10 to 80, was raped. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel laureate who was then a young officer, described the horror in his narrative poem Prussian Nights: “The little daughter’s on the mattress,/Dead. How many have been on it/A platoon, a company perhaps?””

      1. The Russian troops even raped captured Russian women captured by the Germans, so they didn’t discriminate.

        1. STILL need an edit button. So much for the comment upgrade. A like and dislike button would also be nice. And notifications, so it would be like an actual conversation where you could respond, instead of talking to a wall.

          1. definitely

        2. The Soviet forces and discipline were so bad that the initial Eastern European reaction to the Nazis was one of welcome. They thought nothing could be so bad as the cruelty and corruption from Moscow.

          They were wrong.

    2. Actually slavery as a punishment for crimes is still legal vis a vis the 13th amendment.

  4. I guess a story where individuals rose above the evil of their time is not acceptable to the woketarians. Only stories glorifying the Glorious Collective should be shown, eh?

  5. “Let me start by saying that I share the same sentiments about cutesy depictions of slavery. Far too often, the uncomfortable parts are glossed over in favor of a good Hollywood story”

    Let me start by saying fuck you, entertainment isn’t supposed to be flagellation.

  6. I guess I’ll have to read the article because I can’t tell who the bad guys are by reading the headline.

    1. If you have to ask, it’s you

  7. It’s not just slaves who were exploited, what about women at work or in college? We should probably ban all romantic comedies or anything romantic whatsoever. It’s offensive when men and women are happy together. We should all be constantly miserable in remembrance of bad things that happened to someone once at some point in the past

    1. Thumbs up for this one.

  8. I hope for Ancestry’s sake they’re planning on replacing the problematic ad with one featuring a Viking raider making off with a Scottish maiden in lieu of a bag of gold. You know, if once you pay him the Dane-geld, you never get rid of the Dane. You never back down to the SJW, it shows weakness and fear and the pack of jackals are insatiable.

  9. I find “problematic” problematic. I prefer idiotic, or evil, or banal fucktardery

  10. Slate shows what, for journalists, seems a distinct lack of curiosity:

    “But it doesn’t much matter whether Abigail Williams was a real person who actually fled to Canada with a white man. If this never happened, then we have to wonder why Ancestry.com settled on this fictional story—a sop to white egos, cast with attractive actors and set in a very stylized “historical” milieu, the whole thing oddly reminiscent of Titanic—to sell the concept of genealogical discovery. If it did happen, then Ancestry.com cherry-picked one historical story, a complete outlier within a much larger history containing many, many terrible and traumatic situations—rape, family separation, the selling and buying of black women for purposes of breeding—to advertise their service.”

    https://slate.com/human-interest/2019/04/ancestry-ad-inseparable-racist-slave-history.html

    Here’s a thought – if it was made up that’s indeed too cutesy, but if it’s real (and how hard can it be to find out? wouldn’t the ancestors have signed off on this ad?), then yes, focus on that rather than on a slave ancestor who got raped or exploited. I notice that there aren’t any ancestry ads with Genghis Khan, though I imagine lots of people can trace back to him, and not through voluntary love stories either.

    1. And the ad directed viewers to the site ancestry.ca, and I think they were aiming at a Canadian audience.

      So if there’s any “bias” in the ad it’s anti-American bias. “Maybe your ancestor escaped from a Yankee slave-driver and came to this country at great risk to establish a normal life – up yours, Yankees!”

      1. (Yankee here used in the Canadian sense)

    2. If their is no indication the woman is a slave shouldn’t the assumption be they were fleeing to avoid anti-miscegenation law?

      There’s a whole lot of revisionist history these days denying the existence and agency of the large population of free persons of color.

      1. The fact that it was aimed at a Canadian audience suggests to me the Underground Railroad.

        But I did find this if you’re interested:

        Scroll down to “1930: MISCEGENATION BLUES” (my idea for a subhead would be “O Klanada”)

        https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/mothers-day/the-canadian-marriage-at-150-a-look-back/article33962570/

  11. Super-serially problematic

    “Forbidden Fruit is a collection of fascinating, largely untold tales of ordinary men and women who faced mobs, bloodhounds, bounty hunters, and bullets to be together — and defy a system that categorized blacks not only as servants, but as property.

    “Here you’ll meet, among other extraordinary characters…A white woman who falls in love with her deceased husband’s slave….”

    1. “Ah, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found you! ….”

      1. That would be racist. So would “it’s twue, it’s twue.”

      2. Brown Sugar. My nickname for mt South African “colored” GF. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOfDD2OYOZE

  12. I don’t know why they had to come up with this romanticized hokum when Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings are ripe for the picking.

    “Sally, come to my study. I need you to adjust my astrolabe.”

    1. Your labia?

  13. Yankees ban Kate Smith’s “God Bless America” because she sang about darkies and pickaninnys 80 years ago. No word yet if they’ll rename the team to appease disgruntled hispanos and latinics.

  14. One of the worst cases of historical revisionism is black Africans’ own role in the slave trade, and the African kings and warlords whose wealthy kingdoms relief entirely on slaves. When the Portuguese showed up in Africa it was like people from Westeros showing up in Slaver’s Bay.

    1. +1 reality

      1. Really? Pointing out that the Europeans bought the slaves from African warlords and kings who had been selling slaves for centuries gets a flag and a block? Who even flagged me?
        Sure, comparing it to Slaver’s Bay was an exaggeration, but no more so than the historical revisionism denying Africans’ own role in the slave trade. There’s this new trend of focusing on the ancient, wealthy, advanced civilizations of Africa, and how they weren’t primitive at all (this is largely true, though mostly due to a lack of written language in most of Africa), but those “We Wuz Kangs” people ignore that most of these were slave societies, relying on slaves both for domestic labor and for selling to other kingdoms and tribes.

        Similarly, slavery (albeit not chattel slavery) was prevalent in most of the Americas before Europeans arrived. Chief Seattle had dozens of slaves at the time of the Emancipation Proclamation, as was custom in his culture. Sacajawea was stolen from her village by a rival tribe in a deadly ambush on her village and sold to a French trapper as a child bride when she was like 13, which was incredibly common in pre-Columbian America.

        We live in a strange time where the dominant civilization must atone for their sins and focus entirely on their bad historical deeds, while the conquered and oppressed civilizations get to completely whitewash and sanitize their own histories. For basically every other civilization and all of human history, it was the opposite.

  15. How these things are treated by the woke is fascinating. I was watching a British documentary on the Ottoman Empire. The documentary described women being chosen for the Sultan’s harem as like being chosen for an elite finishing school. However, while being a rather comfortable slavery, it was sex and breeding slavery. The Turks tended to prefer blonde European women for sexual use.

    1. Forget about the many paintings of “Odalisque”.

  16. Why would you assume this has anything to do with slavery because he says escape? He also says WE can be free. Is he a slave too?

    1. If he was helping a slave escape, especially for “miscegenation” purposes (and marriage!), then he’d face some serious consequences unless he was *very* well-connected.

    2. He’s free to fuck his lover. Is that a bad thing?

    3. That is the strange thing. If she is a slave, then it would seem she is someone else’s slave. She is unlikely being sexually exploited by the man who hopes to go North with her.

  17. I can’t seem to find *any* news outlet which put in legwork to find out if there actually was a fugitive slave named Abigail Williams who married a white man named James Miller in Canada. Ancestry put up what it claimed was a marriage certificate – if they made this up, *that* would be a count against them. But if it’s a true story, presumably told with the descendants’ permission, then it would be an excellent example of finding some interesting family history.

    If you know your history
    Then you would know where you coming from
    Then you wouldn’t have to ask me
    Who the heck do I think I am
    /Bob Marley, “Buffalo Soldier”

    PS – Googling Abigail Williams brings up another (white) person of the same name who accused several “witches” in Salem. Fans of the Crucible would already know of this Abigail Williams.

  18. Found thru ancestry dot com that my maternal 4th GGmother was a black women in Tennessee in the 1840s. Also found that a direct GGfather going back even further was nicknamed “Slaver”. Wonder why, eh.

    That is America. We all have our history whether or not someone likes it.

  19. I found out that my family tree is riddled with outrage enthusiasts like myself.

  20. I used ancestry.com to uncover my distinguished ancestry.

    One ancestor specialized in wealth redistribution, especially in the railway sector.

    He died tragically during a ceremony held in his honor, when the platform on which he was standing collapsed.

  21. Ancestry.com is part of the genealogical effort of the Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints, which is why it is in Utah. It stuns my mind that many people are voluntarily turning over DNA samples in order to “find” the part of the world their ancestors came from.

    Ethnicity and national origin are very different things. Germanic tribes lived all over Western Europe, not just today’s Germany. Where people live today does not mean their ancestors did also.

    With a well populated DNA database, Identifying a person becomes trivial by tracking close relative’s DNA, even if that person never gave a DNA sample.

  22. 659/5000
    The official online gambling game site now comes with bringing about online gambling games where you can play the poker game will get the money bet with the player player all of Indonesia that has been incorporated into this game registers. By placing a low deposit you can bet with the others and if you win with a high percentage then the opportunity to get money is much greater. The list fee is very cheap so you don’t have to worry that the money you have sent for registration will be replaced by online gambling money here.

  23. My buddy found out that he is a father with the town bicycle thanks to 23 and me. Luckily his son was in his thirties when he found out and he never had to pay child support.

  24. Every person on the planet is a descendant of rape and slavery, both victim and perpetrator.

  25. “Problematic”?

    Look, stop trying to appear edgy and ironic, nobody trusts Reason to be libertarian enough to assume that you’re just being edgy and ironic.

    It’s not problematic, it’s stupid.

  26. I’m just happy that none of my ancestors was orange.

  27. […] It’s Problematic to Accuse Ancestry’s Interracial Ad of Whitewashing Slavery  Reason […]

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