Tue, 9 September 2014
The literary storm that followed an unfortunate book review in the Economist magazine has been a combination of outrage and rage. The review was critical of a book by Edward Baptist about slavery. The reviewer presented the case that the book lacked balance, neglecting to present the case in favor of slavery.
The Economist withdrew the piece. The recantation contained the review itself as a gesture toward transparency. It served as an allocution of sorts: an acknowledgment of the facts as part of an admission of guilt.
The controversy brought to mind the lessons of my youth and a larger message about history itself. The reasons we were taught what we were taught can teach us more now than we could ever have learned then.