Slave and Slavery vs. The Enslavement and Enslaved Person — Emancipating Semantics

Dr. Cynthia Alease Smith
Momentum
Published in
9 min readSep 13, 2023

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…it is about time the United States emancipated the semantics of these terms and stopped playing racially linguistic games designed to dumb down, put to sleep, and gaslight the nation.

When people try to justify American slavery or enslavement, whether for academic research or casual conversation, they often rely on the argument that slavery has existed for thousands of years. However, this argument can make slavery seem less significant in history. Additionally, there are references and stories about white people being held as slaves throughout history, which can also diminish the impact of American slavery on African people who were forcibly brought to these shores many generations ago.

It should be evident that slavery was a significant issue in American history, especially considering its role in causing the Civil War. However, some liberal white Americans tend to shy away from discussing the cruelty of slave owners, even if they acknowledge the link between slavery and the war. Conversely, more Americans than commonly believed argue that the war was about states’ rights, and they may choose to keep their opinions to themselves or express them openly. In an article in the Washington Post called, “Lots of Americans don’t think slavery caused the Civil War,”[1] John Sides discussed views held by most average Americans on the subject of slavery in the United States. In the article, he quoted John Kelly, chief of staff to former president Donald Trump who stated in an interview:

“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man. He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”[1]

This statement and others like it are immediate in glorifying the humanity of individuals responsible for enslavement and the War without discussing the inhumanity of those same people to the people in bondage, of whom there is no mention. The audacity in the statement, “lack of ability to compromise led to

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Dr. Cynthia Alease Smith
Momentum

Anti-Racism Essayist & Educator offering discussions about Race, Racism, White Supremacy and the language used, from perspectives not ordinarily considered.