An Inclusive Litany

9/19/00

An account by Eric Muller, a young law professor at the University of Wyoming, originally posted to the Lawprof e-mail list, June 18, 1996:
On my very first day of teaching, in my very first class... I spent a while giving a thumbnail sketch of constitutional history, focusing for a while on the Civil War and the work of the Reconstruction Congress. In doing so, I talked about slavery.

After class, as I was gathering my notes and generally heaving a huge sigh of relief, a student approached me. She told me that I had said some things that had so deeply offended her that she'd been unable to concentrate for the rest of the class, and warned me that I was going to have to be a lot more careful about what I said. Naturally I was mortified that I'd blundered so badly on my very first day, and so apologized profusely. I told her that I'd appreciate knowing what it was I'd said, so that I could be more careful the next time. She told me, and I am essentially quoting, "Slavery was not bad. There were a lot of individual slaveholders who mistreated their slaves, and that gave slavery a bad name. My family were slaveholders, and our slaves loved us. What you gave us was the Union version of the War, but the victors always get to write the history."

I was speechless. I know we live in a relativist world, but I thought it safe to work from the premise that a couple of things, say slavery and the Holocaust, were evil. I guess I was wrong.

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