Obviously, an African reverence for ancestors continues to reverberate within the African-American community today. The protection and memorialization of the African Burial Ground seems to resonate with African descended people everywhere, whether Muslims, Christian, or Traditional. Indeed, a significant number of individuals of European descent have also reached out in support of these resoundingly human efforts to respect the integrity of a cemetery. Yet, the sad truth is that disregard for African humanity continues to be demonstrated among those who have assumed the privileged identity of whiteness, an identity built upon the racist division between those who were and those who were not to be treated as human.
     The past and the present, the living and the dead, are connected. The treatment of the African Burial Ground reflects that of its descendants. We hope that, by shedding light on the past, the cycle of pain can be broken and slavery's continuing wounds might finally be tended. Recent United States initiatives for an apology for slavery and a dialogue on racism have begun with uncertain footing. Trapped in denial, and apparently comfortable with privilege, many Euro-Americans believe there is nothing to apologize for. With so little light on the past, how optimistic can one be about a dialogue to end racism in the present? As someone who often presents these data on slavery's hardships, I hear time and again the softer language of denial: "How do you know that whites did not experience the same hardships?"
     The need for the study of the African Burial Ground is therefore evident, in order to confront psychological denial with evidence and reason. Equally important are efforts to raise the most fitting memorial with which a community of nations might bestow unwavering sanction upon the value of the people buried there, whose very humanity was contested in life. Euro-America's psychological health may also depend on rising above denial and disregard, which would also be of consequence to the world community. We hope that our research can be of service to the efforts of President Clinton, and of the United Nations, in seeking open and salubrious inquiry into slavery and its continued effects. On behalf of my colleagues, let me close by expressing my gratitude for this opportunity to share our information and concerns.


1These results were based on preliminary study of the first one hundred remains examined. Current data on four hundred remains show a forty percent child mortality and seventeen percent infant mortality, which is forty-three percent of child deaths.


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August 2000