Words have power. They can change the course of history, but they can also serve as an agent of suppression and enslavement.
A group of Texas educators has proposed to the Texas State Board of Education a new term for slavery: “Involuntary relocation.” As a friend of mine used to say: “That’s some bullshit.” ‘Involuntary relocation’ refers to the transport of African Americans on slave ships, with the deadly stacking of human bodies in the cargo holds.
But the bigger question is this: what they will call the actual working in the fields, flanked by overseers with guns and whips, working from sunup to sundown, and for no pay. (I can see the ‘Involuntary relocation workers’ opening up their paycheck and seeing 0.00, and saying WTF).
I wonder what their label is for the forced labor: involuntary field hands? In my mind, the word slavery pretty much nails it.
“This summer, the board will consider updates to social studies instruction a year after lawmakers passed a law to keep topics that make students “feel discomfort” out of Texas classrooms.” Brain Lopez, Texas Tribune.
Okay, I guess Texas won’t be interested in history any longer, probably will wipe it from the curriculum—I mean, how important could it be, and God forbid they make anyone uncomfortable. History will be written and performed by the Hallmark channel, a happy ending guaranteed for all. I’m guessing the AIDS plague won’t be addressed; the Civil Rights Movement won’t be touched; the origins of structural racism won’t be discussed; that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery but was all about state rights; that the South won the Civil War because there was some kind of fraud; slavery was a benign arrangement between happy Negros and their slave owners, a win-win; and of course, Donald Trump really won the 2020 election.
If the Texas Board of Education has its way, a generation of ignorant, uninformed, reactive students who lack basic thinking skills will grow up easily manipulated by politicians who offer up the red meat of scapegoats, racism, homophobia, misogamy, etc., etc., in order to get elected. The students will be devoid of critical thinking, a necessary ingredient for a demigod’s assent.
Why are they so afraid of these words: slavery, slaves, critical race theory, gay, etc.? They are simply words; they don’t bite. You’re not allowed to say gay in Florida schools now.
Words have power.
Okay, it does bear repeating: “Involuntary relocation” is the term the Texas Board of Education wants to call slavery…
“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” ―George Orwell, 1984
George Orwell, in his prophetic book, 1984, documented the evolution and mechanisms of fascism. The Texas Board’s statement about slavery jump starts America down a slippery slope, a descent Orwell warned us about—insertion of fascism into our Democracy.
“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” ― George Orwell
There has been a four-hundred-year-old plot to entomb African American history. And it’s not just African American history: Harold Zinn’s groundbreaking treatise, People’s History of the United States, has been banned and vilified.
History is simply truth, and truth is the salve that can heal a nation. And truth is the weapon that can bridge the artificial racial divide that is choking our country.
But truth, in America, is under seize.
There has been a concerted, intentional effort to bury our history, with the purpose of hiding crimes and acts of horror, brutality, and torture. It’s unfortunate, because embedded in the tales of violence and repression, there resides stories of triumph, persistence, courage, and love. American stories. Inspirational stories, stories that celebrate the American character, the American soul. They are stories about Americans striving to achieve a more perfect union. These are stories that can inspire future generations of children, celebrating our nations’ glory.
A nation is healthy to the degree that the truth of its history is known by its citizens. Truthful history provides nourishment to the soul of a nation, a culture, and acts as a cleansing agent for a nation’s buried crimes. In South Africa, they had Truth and Reconciliation Hearings which helped the country evolve from Apartheid, providing a forum, a platform for grace, redemption, and forgiveness.
The Texas board isn’t the only one to chisel away at Democracy’s infrastructure. It is happening all across the country, the slow erosion of our Democracy. And it’s subtle, step by step, county by county, state by state by state. And it starts with words.
In Tennessee, Paster Locke ignited a book-burning party last spring. Every day, more and more books are banned, including Pulitzer Prize winners Toni Morrison. Here’s a partial list of banned books:
- The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
- The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger.
- The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck.
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.
- The Color Purple, by Alice Walker.
- Ulysses, by James Joyce.
- Beloved, by Toni Morrison.
- The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding.
Can’t help but think of this quote from 1984:
“Ignorance is strength.” ― George Orwell, 1984
Nikole Hannah-Jones recently published a tome entitled 1619 Project, excavating history that has been buried. Almost immediately, the book was banned in numerous counties throughout the United States, in addition to her being vilified.
The 1919 Project is a scrupulously documented treatise that simply tells our history, U.S. history.
Republicans are banning abortions, banning books, banning trans rights, gay rights, banning voter’s rights, all the while seeking to ban gay marriage, interracial marriage. There is a proposed law in Virginia that would prohibit a woman from divorcing her husband while pregnant.
I kid you not.
Republicans don’t seem to stand for anything, except banning.
“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims… but accomplices.” ― George Orwell
During his four years in office, Donald Trump told over 30,000 lies. There is a special Orwellian quote for such a herculean milestone:
“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth.” ― George Orwell, 1984
Trump did his best in trumpeting his Big Lie, trying to embed it into our history.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” ― Joseph Goebbels
The use of disinformation, outright lying, has been elevated to an art form by the Republican Party, spearheaded by the former President. Disinformation and lying are the main ingredients of fascism. Democracy has the weapons of truth and is flexing its muscles through the January 6th committee. The January 6th hearings has become America’s truth and reconciliation hearings, laying bare the cesspool of the last administration, given life by the band of enablers.
Shakespeare prophetically wrote about Trump in his play, Richard III, and not only did it not end well for Richard, but his band of enablers met a gruesome fate, as will Trump’s minions: Bannon, Rudy, Powell, Eastman, the Pillow Guy, etc.
The Republican Party has known the power of words, as well as the power of dog whistles. They use words to bury the truth, distort the truth, manipulate the truth. They embody Orwellian principles, as well as Joseph Goebbels’ playbook.
Lee Atwater, the famous Republican strategist, who had a special talent in the utility of words, was captured on tape laying out the true intentions of the Republican party. McGhee, The Sum of Us.
“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you, backfires so you say stuff like uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites…’We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’”
There you have it, the fascist Republican blueprint said out loud.
Orwell is shaking in his grave right now.
“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” — George Orwell
Curt Strickland is one of the principal owners of Great American Art, an art and design company located outside Boston. Founded almost 40 years ago, Great American Art designs, manufactures and installs art throughout the country. Curt is also one of the principle photographers for Great American, specializing in landscape and cityscape images. His philosophy as an artist is embraced in GAPCO’s mission:
“Art should serve to heal, inspire, provoke, challenge and to offer hope – but most of all to connect… to remind us of our common humanity.”