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What's In a Name? What's In a History?

Slavery Vs. “Involuntary Relocation”

By Sascha Butler, Office Director

When it comes to education, and learning history, one thing that needs objective focus is the TRUTH of history. History, real and true history provides us with more than just important historical context, it also helps guide our moral compass. It teaches us important lessons individually and collectively as a society, that can help lead to the betterment of society.

Teaching factual, historical lessons of days gone by can help us discuss important social concepts and can help lead us towards a better understanding of cultures, communities and the relationships we have with the world around us.

Teaching watered down, whitewashed or revised history so people can feel good about their history only leads to one thing…a repeat of the many things that plague our societies and cause irreparable harm to our humanity.

One of the many misperceptions around historical truth today is centered on the idea of Critical Race Theory. Critical Race Theory only purports to do one thing…teach true history from the perspective of victor and victim. In other words, teach factual history.

And history itself is taught in context. One argument about teaching CRT is that it will be taught to younger grades. That is not true.

The proposed Critical Race Theory that is being talked about in the media today is a university level field of study, requires critical thinking skills and is based on the theory that racism is embedded in legal systems, healthcare, education, and not just limited to individuals, which leads to different outcomes. That’s not a 5th grade history lesson!

So where do we find ourselves today in teaching true history? In 2015, the State of Texas approved social studies textbook to allow slaves to be referred to as “workers.”

Workers? Think about your rights as ‘workers” today? Think about the rights of people incarcerated today? Those “workers” have a different reality than those incarcerated. Why? Well, those incarcerated have very few rights, are told when to sleep, eat and have time for even going outside.

Slaves in America had no rights. And to call them “workers” is a fabrication of history. Slaves were chattel and property. Any freedom one had or didn’t have, was dictated by the “Masters.” And slave masters, well they were called “Property Owners.” They were called “masters and overseers.” Regardless of how you may try to water down what people were called - slaves suffered brutality at the hands of others who saw them as chattel - as slaves.

In the 2021 legislative session, the State of Texas introduced a bill, Senate Bill 3, which mandated the language and instruction in Texas law how slavery and race issues are to be taught in schools. …the advent of slavery in the territory that is now the United States constituted the true founding of the United States; or [§28.0022(a)(4)(A)(vii) [§28.002(h-3)(4)(B)(ix)](a)(4)(A)(viii)… with respect to their relationship to American values, slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality; [§28.0022(a)(4)(A)(viii)]

Slavery and racism...are anything other than a mere blimp on the screen - a mere deviation from living up to the founding principles. That was a two-hundred-year deviation. No one considered in two-hundred years this moral failure to live up to the authentic founding principles of the United States, of liberty and equality. That's a real moral failure. But the even greater moral failure is to not want to acknowledge it to be anything other than a deviation from....

The Texas Education Act also goes on to redefine what slavery should be called. Involuntary Relocation - meaning I chained you up, put you in a cargo hole, raped, brutalized and in some cases maimed you - but I want to make sure people understand that it was involuntary relocation and not actually slavery.

The new goal in Texas is to discontinue the word slavery in classes and replace it with “involuntary relocation.” The term slavery has been around for hundreds of years, so why is it now being taken out of our educational vocabulary. To make people feel better about their own truth and their own history. But you cannot change history. You can only repeat history.

Calling something exactly what it is in all honesty, is naming its evil. Calling it involuntary relocation simply allows our children to believe we were, and are okay with man's inhumanity to man, and evil. That's the real moral failure, betrayal and deviation from acknowledging the liberty and equality that is due to every man, woman and child on our planet and in our great nation.

When we start taking the truth out of our history, not only does education suffer, but our humanity also suffers. Speaking the truth, and teaching the truth is the best way to keep history from repeating itself.

Once we start changing the truth in what is being taught in schools, sugarcoating our past and the reality of what occurred in our country, we start to devalue the struggles that the slaves faced and everything they overcame.

In the 2021 legislative session, the State of Texas bill, denied the strength that has been earned by generations of African Americans. So regardless of whether the reality and the truth are taught in schools, like most other cultures the oral histories and the stories will be preserved and will only help us add to the reality of how evil and destructive false histories can be.

Today, we need to ask ourselves, “why don’t I want the word “slavery” used?”

Maybe it’s because we know that the actions behind the word are horrific. Maybe you know deep down it was wrong and feel like you should have to answer for what your ancestors may have done.

However, we need to keep history’s vocabulary the same. We can't erase the words or the actions of the past, but we can learn from it.

We absolutely must learn from it. Learning from history is the most important lesson that we as a society can learn.

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