Friday, November 12, 2010

Don't Get Me &(*$W%^(* Started, or The Power of Words

Was studying with kid #4 for his social studies test last night. (This was prior to the technicolor vomit sprinkler incident that negated the need to study).

He's studying the original American colonies, in particular the Triangle Trade. You remember the old Triangle Trade, don't you? The way we learned it was Sugar, Slaves, Rum. Yeah, there was more to it, but that's what stuck out. Well, according the Pearson Publishing Scott Foresman Louisiana edition of "Social Studies: the United States of America" there were no slaves. Really.

There was something called "captive Africans."  Now, you could argue that captive Africans = slaves. But you would then be an idiot. The words "slave" has ingrained connotations. It brings up very specific images, especially to someone of my generation who was a kid when Roots came out as a miniseries. What was practiced at the time was slavery. The people were slaves. They were yanked from their families and treated like livestock, well, worse than livestock. They were degraded, beaten, raped, tortured, killed, forced to live their lives at the whims of others. "Captive" implies being held against your will, whilst slave means so, so much more. Prisoners of war are captives. Criminals are captives. Slaves are slaves.

(They did use the phrase "enslaved," perhaps because "encaptivated" implied that they were particularly taken with a piece of classical music. But nowhere in the chapter do they use the word "slave.")

We all know about the textbook wars, where conservative Republicans are rewriting history, but this was my first personal experience. The S/O was not shocked by this, partly because he's a white Southerner and partly because he's a Republican. He reflexively chalked it up to "liberal PC," at which point had I been drinking something I would have done quite a magnificent spit-take.

Anyone paying attention the last two years realizes that we are not anywhere near the "post-racial" society decent people wish to exist in. If anything, the demeanor of the old white right has ripped the mask off and shown us what's really wriggling underneath. Republicans, especially that bastion that exists in the modern South, have tried valiantly to -- pardon the pun -- whitewash our history. In their world, "slavery" didn't exist. Or if it did, it really benefited the "captive Africans" in the long run. It was a matter of commerce, not cruelty. It was "state's rights" not torture and genocide. The Confederate Flag is a symbol of pride, not a tired, ragged emblem of people's bigotry and evil.  Well, I call bullshit. Further, I say fuck you. Fuck all y'all.

We know the power of words, and you can't take it from us. You can't prettify history, you can't make it go away. I told my kids last night that when he took his test he should use the word "slave" when it was called for. Scratch out "captive African" and put "slave." We understand the power of words, and in the dustbin of history, when our brief flame here has flickered out, what we leave behind is our words. They are enduring and you can't fucking have them.

No comments:

Post a Comment