I’ve never understood the fantasy of a plantation wedding. I still don’t.
Maybe it’s because when I see plantations, there’s nothing in me that yearns to celebrate an intimate moment of my life there. Not after what’s been done.
I see pain in so many different forms. I see billions of dollars generated from countless, mistreated Black individuals who would build great things in terror and would never get to see a dime from their labor. The anger and disgust I have towards plantations is palpable to me because they’re monuments epitomizing the worst of humanity.
These were places of torture and experimentation. They were burial grounds. They were prison farms of forced labor and they reek of death and despair. Those are things nobody can’t restore no matter how they’re dressed up and used in an effort to change or deny what they stand for. They’re too far beyond repair.
I get why people obsess over antebellum houses. I’m from Alabama. There’s nowhere that I can go in any direction to escape the endless endearment of antebellum homes. But at the end of the day, their legacy was built, literally, by very real and very violent means. They served as home base for one of the greatest evils in human history and birthed the playbook for the racist infrastructures we have today.
I wish that I could disassociate myself from the blood soaked grounds that these houses stand on. I wish that I could use them as harmless backdrops, but I can’t. All I see is a symbol of oppression and abuse that housed men and women who embodied cruelty and malice and brutalized millions to their deaths. People who looked just like me. Right there by the Weeping Willow that you think is a “beautiful” place for you to put your altar for your special day.
I can never distinguish if it’s willful ignorance, apathy, or if the thought of all the tragedy that happened on these properties just doesn’t cross people’s minds. I couldn’t figure it out when Color of Change had to demand that the Knot and other companies stop promoting their fabled plantation weddings.
Maybe I should blame the Alabama school system for softening slavery and distorting history. Even they owned up to it. But this has been a nationwide problem. All of our school books read the same, displaying half truths and attempting to redirect us from seeing that the United States fostered one of the most sinister spans of time and that plantations were at the center of it.
So why would someone, whose ancestor was either a slave driver or a beneficiary of racism, retune their thoughts on plantations? How would they? They wouldn’t. They would minimize something that happened hundreds of years ago (not true), claim that there was some form of happiness here that wasn’t rooted in suffering (not true), and that we should appreciate the grandeur of these buildings and forget about the things they housed.
And in the face of everything that’s going on in the world where we are trying to tackle racist structures at their very core, I didn’t want to let this one go untouched.
My fiancée and I have been together for nearly 6 years so we decided to get a wedding planner. We eventually made it to the location stage and our planner wouldn’t stop talking about one specific place that she just knew we wouldn’t turn down. According to her, almost every bride fell in love with it.
It was a plantation.
Two Black people, ready to profess their love, were given a plantation as their first option. This would be a place that would be a part of our memories forever. We were irate, mostly from the audacity of the suggestion. We gracefully told her why the plantation and any other was off the table and that they should be for anyone else. She responded with an, “oh, I didn’t think about that,” and that response is something I’ve thought about ever since.
It wasn’t too long afterwards that we decided to put a pause on her services. This may sound petty, but let me tell you this. We need more people, who claim to be allies or to be anti-racist, to think about these things. It’s not just racists we have to contend with. It’s those who choose to be moderate in their approach towards racism. Not thinking about how your neighbors feel about the painful things you glorify is why we have not and will never do away with racism and it’s offspring.
In this society, we are often told that being the extreme of anything is a bad thing. That’s true to extent. But racism and the lack of knowledge about the symbols that emanate oppression is something that we should always be extremely against.
We condemn confederate flags and talk about monuments in honor of the confederacy, but forget to mention plantation homes. They’re iconography that still tell the story of the past and the fact that so many can look at them and not feel their negative energy is proof that we have a long way to go to rid this country of its tendency to whitewash horrific periods of time.
Plantation homes and their splendor have not outpaced what has been done in and around them. Romanticizing and reimagining them doesn’t erase the brutality nor the slavery.
This is supremacy hiding away in a subtlety, whether it is intentional or not. To delight in the pleasure of plantation homes and their apparent brilliance is to be in denial of the centuries of pain they come with.
We can no longer be comfortable with normalizing monoliths of this country’s aggression. That means the plantation you chose for your wedding too.