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June 11th, 2010

Reading into it

So they found this photograph. In an attic. In North Carolina.

It is of two, small, poor, boys. Who do not look happy.

The boys are apparently, in the photo, slaves or recently emancipated.

Commentators are going on and on about how it shows "the horrors of the institution of slavery."

Frankly, I can't see that. If the report didn't tell me they were slaves, I couldn't tell that from looking at it. But I can see something I recognize.

I can see the same things I see in photographs of poor white children in the south during the Civil War and during Reconstruction. In pictures of child factory workers in Victorian England. In the faces of the Okie children living in camps in California in the 1930's. In the faces of desperately poor children living today in rural areas, urban areas, American towns, Bangladesh slums. It is the same as I see in the faces of child soldiers in Southeast Asia or Africa.

It is the faces of children living in a horrible world. It is not a picture about slavery.

It is a picture of pain, and poverty. That is what you can SEE in the picture. The rest is imported baggage.

Get over yourselves.