On Slavery

Well, there’s a dirty word for you. Slavery — something that we would like to forget, or to deny, or to lock down in our history books and sanitize forever. We really don’t like to talk about it. At all.

But we need to talk about it. Because even though it was abolished in 1834, it reminds alive and well today. And if we think we’ve left it behind, we’ve got to think again.

Now let me make something clear. This is not going to be a diatribe about race and racism. We have been raised to think of slavery as something that has to do with black people — Jemimas and Toms — all working on a plantation for a master, subjected to his whims and fancies, never free to go anywhere without his leave or direction. Now this form of slavery did indeed exist, and was most insidious. The enslavement and the dehumanization of people based on physical appearance and geographical origin was probably the most disruptive method of slavery, and the most complete; whole societies were built upon the social and economic structure of the slave plantation, and the legacy of that error remains with us today, among the descendents of both the masters and the slaves. But what I am going to talk about today is something a lot less easy to categorize, and therefore much harder to fix.


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