Letter FromrnLouisianarnby Chris SegurarnThe Peculiar InstitutionrnA selective!}’ historical motion picturernabout a 19th-centur- rebellion aboard arncruel Spanish slave ship rakes in megabucksrnas a result of media hype, includingrnthe notation that white production assistantsrnwere forbidden to put Hie stagechainsrnon the black actors aboard thernreplica vessel. No one mentioned thatrnthe original chains were first put aroundrnblack ankles and black wrists b’ blackrnslave-traders or that the leader of the featuredrnreolt is tlionght b- historians tornhave entered the slave trade himself afterrnhis repatriation to Sierra Leone.rnThe Bush administrahon threatens tornbo’eott the U.N.-sponsored World ConferencernAgainst Racism, Racial LOiscrimiuaHon,rnXenophobia, and Related hitolcraneernin Durban, South Africa, because ofrnschedidcd consideration of reparationsrnfor slaver^- in the United States, and thenrnwalks out because of Arab attempts to definernZionism as racism.rnThe U.S. go’ernment feces mounhngrnglobal criticism for supporting reparationsrnfor victims of Nazi genocide again.strnKau’opean Jews and apologizing for internmentrnof Japanese-Americans at homernwhile offieialh ignoring suits for compensationrnbv former “comfort women”rnforced into sexual sla en’ b Japanese occupiersrnof Asia, all during WoHd War 11.rnI liumbing their political nose at tliernUnited States, the Dutch are building arnnew international war-crimes court at thernHague to trv such defendants as SlobodanrnMiloseic for ethnic atrocities in thernformer Yugosla ia. The Bush administrationrnis concerned that the 1998 treat}’rnestablishing the court could be used to tr’rnU.S. soldiers and governmental officialsrnin foreign courts.rnThe Southern Christian LeadershiprnConference, founded bv Marhn LudicrrnKing, Jr., at the beginning of the U.S. ci’-rnil-rights movement, announced in Augustrnthat it is attempting to end racial profilingrnand seeking reparations for sla’crv.rnIn panel discussions, members of therngroup said that blacks .shll suffer from diernracism of the nation’s past and that thevrnwould tr’ to fix the nation’s lingering inec|rnuities.rnCloser to home —if ou lie in southwestrnIjOiu’siana —Cajun attornev andrnpresident of the Council for the De elopmentrnof French in Louisiana WarrenrnI’errin continues to petition Queen L.lizabcthrnof England to apologize for thernlStli-centur” deportations of Acadiansrnfrom what are now the Maritime Pro’-rninccs of Canada. And es, at breakfastrndiscussions in ba’ou-coimtr’ kitchens,rnthe notion of reparations also surfaces likerndie snout of an alligator poking throughrncoffce-eolored w atcr.rnThe race card is being played ever’-rnwhere. PracticalK’ no one on the face ofrnthe eartii is in”ulncrable to accusations ofrnraeialh moti”ated thoughts and actions.rnHistor’ was slanted one wav tor so longrnthat it is aetual]’ dangerous to take a balancedrnlook at an’ unpleasant moment inrnthe past.rnMeanwhile, amidst all of this tumioil,rndie sleep’ litde town of St. Nhirhnille,rnLouisiana, sponsors—of all things—a poliHcalKrnincorrect witness to its own crdtnralrnheritage. ‘1 he African-AmericanrnMuseum, which opened on Ba’ou Techerndiis summer, dares to suggest diat slaer’rnwasn’t as bad as we ha’c been led to belierne —at least not here.rnThe concept is certain to be debated.rnIf it is even basically true, howe’er, thenrnit suggests drat w hat Barr’ Goldw ater saidrnin 1964—diat racism has to be resolvedrnin the human heart—was alread’ beingrnaccomplished in a backwater Louisianarnba’ou town.rnAt first glance, one might think thatrnthe messenger should watch out for concealedrnideological weapons. In feet, thernre’crse is true. Lhe St. Martinville CitrnCouncil (two of the fie council membersrnare black, die maor is wfiite) unaniniousK’rnapproved the African-AmericanrnMuseum onh’ after earefulK’ scrutinizingrnthe historical facts and deciding diat thernmessage would fl in the local polidealrnarena.rnInitiallv, according to Ma’or EriernMartin, the council members had said,rn”Are von craz’? The single most sensitirne stor’ in the SouHi?” B’ ignoring diisrnepisode of American liistor’, however,rnwe might oerlook important eidence ofrnracial liarnion’. Interracial marriage, forrninstance, was not uncommon in some ofrnthe Gulf South colonics in the earliestrnears, Hiougli Louisiana law and customrnforbade the practice. Biraeial couplesrn”jumped the broomstick” (a marriagernecreniom’ of Celtic origin, not .-Vfriean).rnEvidence refutes the con’cridonal assertionrnthat all of these black/white sexualrnunions were tantamount to rape.rnThe Roman Cadiolic C^liurch kept—rnand, undl recent vcars, suppressed-baptismalrnrecords listing parents of differentrnraces, and nian’blacks in Louisiana ha’ernnow traced dieir ancestr^• back to prc-e.-rnpulsion Acadia and imperial France.rnHistoricalK’, information at die museumrnexplains, the products of diese interracialrnrelationships made up a third class in thernlocal societ’, a sort of buffer caste behrnecn whites and blacks called “Creole.”rnThe word has manv definihons. ThernOxford English Dictionar lists its originrnas French, deri’ative of the Spanish criollo.rnmeaning “native to the locality; belierned to be a colonial corruption of criadillo,rndiminutive criddo, bred, broughtrnup, reared, domcshc.”rndhe definihon in the OF,D traces diernword’s root to the Latinrncreare—to create, .ccordingtornsome 18th eentun’ writers originalhrnapplied b South American Negroesrnto their own children born inrniVmerica as distinguished from NegroesrnfresliK’ imported from Africa.rnIt is also applied to “Spaniards born inrnthe West Indies,” according to die definihon.rnFarther down, die definition reads:rnA person born and naturalized inrndie countrv l^nt of Fairopean (usualKrnSpanish or French) or ofrnAfrican Negro race: die name lia’-rniiig no connotation of color, and itsrnreference to origin being distinguishedrnon the one hand from beingrnborn in I’.urope (or .’frica> andrnon the other hand Iroiii aboriginal.rnStill farther down, die OLD definihonrnstates the word “now usualK’ | means | arnCreole white, a descendant of Europeanrnsettlers, born or naturalized in thoserncolonies or regions, and more or lessrnmodified in t’pe b the climate and surroundings.”rnNear die end, the cxplanafionrnreads, “now cliicfl’ applied to die nafi’rne whites in the W. Indies, the natixernFreneh population in Louisiana, Mauritius,rnetc.”rnThe word’s definition is still coiitro’crsialrnin Louisiana, but, for the most part, itrnis used to identih’ black music and cuisinernor people of African derivation whorn:56/CHRONICLESrnrnrn