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Friday, October 18, 2013

enslaved persons

A few years ago I took a trip around the US and went to several historical sites in the east. 
 I noticed that in many (I think all) of these locations the word “slave” was not used.  In its place was the expression “enslaved person”. 

My initial reaction was, “Well there is another example of politically correct nonsense.”

But the expression hung around in the back of my mind and finally I felt the need to analyze it.  What do the two terms say about the individuals who wear them?  How is the word whose root word is slave, used?  In the first case “slave” was a noun.  The individual was a s-l-a-v-e.  In the second case “enslaved” was an adjective.  It described the individual’s condition, not his essence.  The individual was a p-e-r-s-o-n (who had been enslaved).

Now, I know what you’re thinkin’.  To the slave it is a distinction without a difference.  Maybe. But even in the hardest of times perhaps the most important thing of all is how you think of yourself.  Frederick Douglass may not have made the verbal distinction, but I believe that he did make the psychological one.

Be that as it may, a modern American who wants to understand his country and how the reality of its history correlates with the exceptionalism of its vision ought to consider the distinction above to be about a very significant difference. 

PS  The term enslaved person also implies the existence of an enslaver.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting observation. The clarity provided by the choice of words is pointedly out of character for an institution (the Federal Government) that generally strives to hide reality through the clever choice of words.