If someone wanted to turn Holocaust death camps into holiday resorts, most people would have something to say about that, and it wouldn’t be good. So, why don’t we feel the same way about old plantation houses and other remnants from the period of enslavement?
After all, both of them are reminders of genocide and torture, and both of them come from times when humans showed some of their worst traits. So why is Southern plantation tourism so popular?
The reason this comes to mind is because of a recent TikTok showing that someone is using an old slave cabin as a bed and breakfast. I’ll wait for you to pick your jaw off the floor…
It raised a number of issues for me.
First, that there are people who think revisiting the site of trauma and treating it as a holiday experience is OK. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve gone to exhibits relating to the period of enslavement. I was acutely aware of where this sat within my history and, for the most part, maintained a respectful silence. In fact, at times I couldn’t have spoken even if I’d wanted to, such were the emotions the artefacts stirred up.
Second, that in making this space available, the owner hasn’t honored the legacy. It’s not about how the enslaved people lived in the past. This revamped cabin has a bathtub, lighting and all mod cons. It’s not exactly historically accurate, is it?
Third, the comments from visitors… they were just awful, again ignoring the painful history. I’m not going to repeat them, but you can check some of them out in the video on this Twitter thread.
How can this ever be ok?
Yes, we have to be aware of our history, but this AirBnB listing wasn’t about that. Instead, it erased the painful history of that location and turned it into whitewashed - literally - tourist fodder. As a Black person coming from a long line of enslaved people, I find this hurtful and disrespectful. The lack of awareness is almost indecent.