Dominant culture in much of the U.S. has long romanticized grand, antebellum-era plantations as a throwback to a bygone era, conjuring up images of Gone With the Wind romanticism while glossing over the heinous slavery that took place on them.
Plantations, with their mansions, tree-lined driveways and well-kept grounds might make a visually stunning backdrop for an event, but the whole slavery reality gives "stunning" a whole new meaning. Ignoring that reality—which people have done for decades—produces pretty pictures, but when you fully acknowledge the horrible history of the ground you're standing on, it's hard to feel okay about using a plantation as a party venue.
When Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively held their wedding at Boone Farm, a South Carolina plantation, in 2012, they were likely looking through a fairly typical white American (or in Reynolds' case, white Canadian) lens. But in an interview with Fast Company, Reynolds expressed profound regret for their wedding location choice.
"It's something we'll always be deeply and unreservedly sorry for. It's impossible to reconcile. What we saw at the time was a wedding venue on Pinterest. What we saw after was a place built upon devastating tragedy. Years ago we got married again at home—but shame works in weird ways. A giant fucking mistake like that can either cause you to shut down or it can reframe things and move you into action. It doesn't mean you won't fuck up again. But repatterning and challenging lifelong social conditioning is a job that doesn't end."
Ryan Reynolds revealed he and Blake Lively regret holding their 2012 wedding on a former slave plantation in South… https://t.co/Q2ukjMU3OX— E! News (@E! News) 1596579928.0
Reynolds' acknowledgment could be viewed as lip service if it ended there. But it doesn't.
On the financial front, Reynolds and Lively made two $1 million donations to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights last year. They also donated an additional $200,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund this May following the killing of George Floyd.
Though Fast Company says Reynold's is reluctant to talk about racism too much, for fear of being just another white celebrity drowning out voices of people of color, the star has used his social media platform to draw attention to social justice issues and encourage civic action through electing leaders that will make needed reforms in the justice system.
Regarding justice in the workplace, the actor, producer and entrepreneur also told Fast Company, "Representation and diversity need to be completely immersive. Like, it needs to be embedded at the root of storytelling, and that's in both marketing and Hollywood. When you add perspective and insight that isn't your own, you grow. And you grow your company, too."
Reynolds is backing that statement up with action as well. In an Instagram video last week, he announced the Group Effort Initiative, in which he will be using a portion of his salary on an upcoming film to bring in people from marginalized communities to work on the film, get paid for training, and gain valuable skills in the filmmaking industry.
It's one thing to recognize that you've done something insensitive or harmful. It's another to acknowledge it, learn from it, and make amends through real action. While we can't undo the past, we can all strive to build a more equitable and just future.
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