Shock is necessary

In your news story describing the slave auction at the Jeffersonian Thanksgiving Festival ["$250 furor: Slave auction stirs passions," December 2, 2004], I was disappointed in the reactions of the festival director, Mark Beliles, the NAACP, and Rick Turner. I hope these community leaders will use this event as a springboard and an opportunity and give more thought to how the histories of all Americans can be portrayed in a realistic and thought-provoking way next year.

As Virginians– the inheritors of a legacy of slavery, Jim Crow laws and massive resistance– we have a great responsibility to expose and repudiate the evils of the past every chance we get. As a community that profits from colonial history and Thomas Jefferson's presence, we have an even greater responsibility to honestly portray the failings of our nation's founders.

Our history of exploitation of Africans, Native Americans, indentured servants, women, and the poor should not be seen as a blemish on a mythic golden age, but as a sign of hope for how far we have come since that age of injustice. These history lessons are also an important road map as we challenge ourselves to work for "liberty and justice for all."

I would like to thank Scottie Williams and Anson Parker for their courage and willingness to shock their neighbors. Shock is a necessary tonic for a community grown complacent. Silence is complicity. May we all be so bold and passionate.

Gene Fifer