Saturday, June 27, 2009

Because Nothing Says "Slavery"...

Like "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations."

There's a movement to take the word "plantations" out of Rhode Island's name because slavery once occurred in Rhode Island's agricultural areas.

Yes, I'm serious.

Four reasons why this is idiotic:

1) Slavery once occurred all over Rhode Island, yet they're not thinking of changing the entire name;

2) Slavery was associated with agriculture, but no one suggests Rhode Islanders stop eating in penance (only a meaningless thing -- a name change -- is proposed);

3) Newport (Rhode Island) was a major slave port, yet no one considers the name "Newport" synonymous with slavery, or suggests changing its name; and

4) Slavery was practiced all over New England and didn't start in Rhode Island. (If the Massachusetts Bay Colony had taken a strong stand against it, American history would have unfolded very differently.)

Even discussing this perpetuates the absurd notion that slavery existed only on plantations. Plantations, of course, are largely associated with the American South.

It is understandable that New Englanders would be comfortable perpetuating the myth -- as this does -- that the South is the exclusive location in North America in which slavery was commonplace and legal, but if a geographical region can be blamed for a moral failing, on the question of slavery, New England has much to answer for.

If the people of Rhode Island want to change their name because they probably are all forced to learn the long version in elementary school, never to usefully use the information again, I certainly can understand their thinking. But to do it as a moral stand is idiocy.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 7:53 AM

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