Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Language Matters (Slavery Edition)

Much of the language we use to describe slavery and the civil war, even the language used by people who otherwise know better (myself included) perpetuates romanticized views of the era. Brought to my attention by @gaumwhat, this great article has a more detailed explanation, argument, and advice.
The distilled version, however is:
  • plantations ⇒ slave labor camps (“plantation” evokes a pleasant pastoral image)
  • slave owners ⇒ enslavers (you can’t own a person. even if the law says otherwise.)
  • Union Troops ⇒ United States troops (It was an insurrection, not a fight between two nations)
  • Compromise of 1850 ⇒ Appeasement of 1850 (enslavers made demands, the north gave in, then enslavers made more demands, and initiated the bloodiest war in history)
Some of this is clunky, so maybe there are better options, but it’s a good start for adjusting our language to avoid implicitly legitimating a horror that is literally beyond the comprehension of nearly everybody alive today.

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