Alisha Gaines: White Guilt and Allyship on WGN’s Underground

Although Underground might be flawed history—often as anachronistic as its notable musical soundtrack—it provides helpful models for resistance. Executive producer John Legend makes it plain: “What these stories are intended to do—and what I think all storytelling is intended to do in some ways—is to hopefully develop some empathy among us so that we see each other, understand each other’s backgrounds, understand each other’s stories, and also understand the inhumanity that fellow human beings were able to inflict on each other in this country that’s supposed to be the land of the free.” Continue Reading Alisha Gaines: White Guilt and Allyship on WGN’s Underground

Alisha Gaines: Ninety Minutes a Slave

First, we are instructed on how to be good slaves: “Never look a white person in the face,” and always say “yes sir and yes ma’am.” As the program promised, we encountered diverse attitudes regarding our fugitivity: slave traders who bought us only after we correctly answered questions about our assumed skills and imagined slave identities (I passed the test when, as a self-described cook, I knew the first step in frying a chicken meant wringing its neck); white women who wanted us off their land because they would have to pay a $500 fine for each of us; another, obviously doomed fugitive slave; a raving white man spuriously blaming us for his wife’s death and his unemployment; Quakers who offered dry cornbread and respite; and a free black family. Before returning to the museum, an oracle appeared to read each participant’s fate. Some would drown, others would settle in Indiana as either dentists or blacksmiths. Me? I would be apprehended by slave catchers, returned to Kentucky, and branded as a runaway. Continue Reading Alisha Gaines: Ninety Minutes a Slave