One of the dangers of being in academe is that one ends up saying the same thing multiple ways. I really really don’t want to do that. So, I’m wondering how to avoid academic narcissism and really get at the issue of historic debt, as well as the way education and the historic narrative conspire to obscure it.
Let’s talk about race . . . or not. Tuesday, Aug 13 2013
Edgar C and I disagree about a fundamental issue; whether mustaches (unattached to a beard of some sort, of course) are aesthetically pleasing or not. He votes yes, I vote very much no. There is one issue he and I do agree on. White Americans, by and large, suck at talking about race.
Feel free to click the clicky. Also, I fully expect that if this does for some reason garner any comments, half of them will be TL;DR.
“Slaves” versus “Enslaved Africans” Saturday, Jul 3 2010
In The Partly Cloudy Patriot Sarah Vowell describes a tour she took of Salem, MA. Walking past one farm’s slave quarters she notes that her tour guide, a teenager with an upward canting voice that “puts every sentence into the interrogative,” gestures to them calling them “where the enslaved Africans lived.”
Vowell is taken aback. Thinking it’s an overly PC term she asks why they’re not just termed “slaves.” The tour guide responds “we’re trying to point out that it’s not all they were. Vowell opines that she “gets it” but is critical of the neologism. After all, when one is a slave, the point is that “that’s all you are.” Moreover changes in terminology such as “enslaved Africans” can have the unfortunate consequence of downplaying the sheer horror of the situation in favor of the comfort of modern sensibilities.
I mention Vowell’s account because, when touring the Royall house, the docent referred to “enslaved Africans” rather than slaves. It was the first time I’d heard it in person and I began wondering is this a New England slavery thing? Or perhaps it’s unique to the farm? There was only one way to find out.