Ethics Quiz: The Luxury Slave Quarters

First Hitler’s watch, and now this!

Wynton Yates, a black lawyer from New Orleans, posted a TikTok video last week expressing his outrage that Airbnb was listing the “Panther Burn Cottage” at Belmont Plantation in Mississippi as a luxury bed-and-breakfast rental. The remodeled structure was described as an “1830s slave cabin” that had also been used as a “tenant sharecroppers cabin” before being converted.

“How is this okay in somebody’s mind to rent this out — a place where human beings were kept as slaves — rent this out as a bed and breakfast?” Yates asked in the video. Naturally the social media mobs reacted like Pavlov’s dogs to a bell, and, also naturally, Airbnb groveled an apology and took down the listing.

Thus does cowardice and conflict avoidance create dubious cultural standards.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Is it unethical to rent out or stay in a structure that was once used as slave quarters?

I obviously don’t think so, but I wouldn’t be making this an ethics quiz if I didn’t want to hear valid arguments to the contrary (unlike “how is this okay?”). I obviously don’t thin k so because my wife and I spent our wonderful honeymoon in a country inn and bed and breakfast on the site of an old Virginia plantation, and our lovely honeymoon cottage had originally been the slave overseer’s residence. It wasn’t haunted. We did not feel we were endorsing slavery by staying there any more than we felt touring the Tower of London was an endorsement of murder and torture. I spent a night at a (creepy) San Antonio hotel that had originally been the town jail. The stairwell outside my room had been the site of many hangings. Was I endorsing capital punishment? Do all old structures carry the curse of their previous use, requiring decent people to avoid them out of respect for crimes and misdeeds of yore?

The logical extension of Wynton Yates’ complaint would, it seems to me, require razing Mount Vernon, the White House, and our oldest universities, chanting “Unclean! Unclean!” as the fires burn. If Yates is offended by the past, then his remedy is, it seems to me, to avoid it, not to dictate rules that everyone else has to follow.

But maybe my position is tainted by fond memories of my honeymoon, all those years ago, before everyone went nuts…

29 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The Luxury Slave Quarters

  1. I agree that it’s not unethical, but there is a certain “ick” factor, at least in terms of how the property was being promoted.

    Even as I typed that, I had to ask myself: “so, should the property owner hide the fact that it was a slave cabin?” Not an easy answer, in my opinion.

    However, not unethical.

  2. No doubt, some people would approve of razing Mount Vernon and the White House because of their history. I don’t know what Yates would think of that, though. This seems like an ick factor here.

    It’s rather like the question the town of Braunau has faced concerning the building that served as the birthplace for Adolf Hitler. The building has been used as a storehouse for coffins and other things for years. They don’t want to tear it down because it’s a Renaissance-era building and the row of similar structures would look weird without it. They also don’t want to risk it being a shrine for admirers.

    It’s just a building, though. If it’s put to good use, what does it matter…unless, for people like Yates, the ickyness of it just transcends everything else and should prevent anyone from using the cabin.

    • Oh, a light dawns within! Now I understand the real purpose behind the Allied strategic bombing campaign during World War II. In their role as The Greatest Generation ™, they were looking out for us, their descendants, and trying to avoid in advance this potential ethical and ick problem. After all, what could be worse than staying in a house that a real live Nazi once lived in? It’s not like one could avoid that — after all Germany was full of Nazis during the 30s and 40s.

      A far better solution would be to bomb the hell out of all of Germany and burn down all those houses. Voila! If there are no more houses that used to belong to Nazis there is self-evidently no problem.

      The deaths and / or homelessness of a few million other Germans are simply unfortunate collateral damage.

  3. The question posed is, “Is it unethical to rent out or stay in a structure that was once used as slave quarters?”

    The clear answer is, No.

    In addition; I don’t care one bit if people choose to stay in such a place for whatever reason they choose. It’s a free country.

    Wynton Yates seems to have swallowed the social justice bull shit and based on this behavior appears to be a totalitarian minded fool. It’s a free country and Wynton Yates can bite me if he doesn’t like it.

  4. In Catholic practice, if a sacred object has been desecrated, it is either destroyed altogether, remade into something profane, or has to be formally consecrated again. I wonder if the Left could at all be appeased by some formal ceremony by which an object once tied to slavery is re-consecrated (or should it be exorcised?) and then is official restored to normal use. I mean, a method that doesn’t involve burning it to the ground and salting the earth around it…

    • Probably not, unless its use was to turn 180 degrees, like building free apartments for people of color where once a plantation stood.

      • Upon reflection, “appeased” isn’t really capturing what I’m thinking, as though we were rolling over for them. Instead, maybe “defanged” would be more appropriate. However, it is still fanciful thinking at best. The reality is that the Left has no concept in their worldview that will ever allow them to let go of something. They cannot forgive, because forgiving would force them to relinquish a power hold over those they want to control. They also cannot admit to any progress in racial relations, because admitting progress weakens their raison d’etre. Thus I would like (in the wishing sense) that were some means to formally rededicate something that officially declares it freed of any connection to slavery, so that the Left no longer had any ground to stand on.

  5. Considering you can or could at one time stay in the house where Lizzie Borden almost certainly whacked her parents, and go to an exhibit on torture at the Tower of London,no, this isn’t unethical. What to do about this nation’s capital, then? Should the US do like Brazil and build an entirely new, purpose-built capital somewhere further inland that isn’t tainted by slavery? I can see it now, a Brasilia of the Northern Hemisphere, complete with mirror-finish skyscrapers. government palaces that look like something out of Gene Roddenberry, punctuated with memorials exclusively to women and people of color.

    • I mean, Kansas City is centrally located, easy to supply, geologically stable, on a river, not in a swamp, lots of room to improve the airport situation or build more housing…

      So if you want a new capitol…

      Just sayin’.

      • Ahahaha, more likely purpose-built, but that’s also an idea. I find it interesting that you’ve actually given thought to this.

        • It was done in a book I like after DC got wiped out by a meteor strike. The more i thought on it, the more it made sense as a location.

      • When I was a child, I recall being told that the town I was born in, Grand Island, Nebraska, was actually at the geographical center of the United States…

        I think fewer people lived in Grand Island than work at the Pentagon, so they might need some civic improvement projects, but what the heck, I am sure the residents would be willing to sacrifice a bit for the good of the country.

        And Nebraska was always a free state — might have to be careful which side of the river you were on in Kansas City.

  6. “Historians of the future will have a hard time figuring out how so many groups of organized jackasses succeeded in leading us around by the nose and morally intimidating the majority into silence.”
    -Thomas Sewell
    I just hope this begins in the “near future” rather than later!

  7. THIS SLAVE QUARTERS B&B in Natchez, MS, was restored, and is operated, by a black couple.

    We stayed in a “castle” in Ireland that was actually a prison fortress. A privately owned & occupied house near Talladega, AL has a few cells (w/chains & etc.) in the basement that were used, before there was a nearby legal facility, to temporarily house various local miscreants, include escaped slaves, before they were transported elsewhere. They (local historical society?) used to give tours of that part; may still do. (Note to Jack: Original owner, J.L.M. Curry [an ancestor] was a Harvard grad).

    Just about any site or structure, if old enough, is bound to have at least a few distasteful bits of history that could offend someone. If you’re one of the current perpetually offended class, you’ll selectively find the ones you care about. It’s not surprising, since what they do in these cases is essentially just a variant of the heckler’s veto. And we’ve seen more than enough evidence of how they love to employ that particular trick these days.

  8. “The logical extension of Wynton Yates’ complaint would, it seems to me, require razing… the White House”
    Don’t give the Canadians any ideas.
    It’s not unethical to repurpose a building. Its past use isn’t tied to its current use. Does a torture chamber become ethical just because it used to be used for treating children? No. Same with this situation. Promoting it as a former slave quarters might be a bit off putting, if the purpose wasn’t to help educate about the history and how we’ve improved since the early 1800s. Lying about the fact that it was once slave quarters would also be unethical. But nothing about using a former slave quarters as a current hotel room is unethical.

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