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  • Writer's pictureKaren L


Words do matter; human beings use the spoken word to communicate, accomplish, negotiate, plead, request, and comment. Words change person

al, political, and commercial relationships. We speak to infants and animals eventhough we are certain that hey comprehend our tone not the meaning. Evil actors use phrases to instill fear which often leads to physical violence. We convey love through words.

Specific vocabulary changes the meaning of a story, critical when a history is communicated to the younger generations. So the youth keep the memories of the past alive when we are gone. The words that constitute memory may not be 100% accurate, but they are impervious to water, fire, and decay. Within the words are the feelings which we carry. What was an acceptable term fifty years ago can be construed as negative now.

Each storyteller must choose words carefully. Words--Enslaved describes the millions of individuals who were considered subhuman by heinous masters, owners, politicians, professionals, businessmen, women, men, and children for at least 200 years in the Americas. Slave denotes the entire identity, but enslaved describes only one aspect of the talented, bright, feisty, brave, illiterate, evil, and wonderful people who were unfortunate to be captured or descended from the latter. Had sex with is rape when a man forces himself on a woman.

More words--Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. They did not die but were purposely killed because, like slaves, they were considered subhuman. Subhuman is lower than an animal. I told my daughter--like a nail, a chair, a scrap of paper. Unimaginable to

consider that a living, breathing human could be negated to thing, erased, like we toss garbage. This phenomenon of treating a human as inhuman is different from killing enemies or intruders. Though, I imagine soldiers erase the humaness from the enemy in war, due to exhaustion, fear, danger, brainwashing, and hunger. Jews and African Americans are not the only victims of dehumanization. They are merely two examples.

We use words to differentiate people into undesirable categories. Special Needs is a perfect example. Do not all people have needs? Often the needs are special or particular. Special being a euphemism for a person with mental illness, addiction, cognitive disability, and physical handicap. In this case, no one wants to be special.

People dismiss with words, "Get over it. Slavery is over. It happened years ago." Or, "Jews are rich. What do they have to complain about?" And the worst, "They (could be any victim) probably deserved_____." No, we cannot stop telling the stories. Narratives with carefully chosen words inform, especially those that describe discrimination, hatred, and ostracism. For as long as despots, dictators, and haters scare people into violence, we must retell the history to stop repetition.

Select words wisely; meaning conveys truth or fiction. Enslaved vs. slave; murdered instead of die. A quick Google search reveals many more derogatory adjectives still used with frequency--i.e. Eskimo, gyp, hip hip hooray, uppity.

About a year ago, Whoopi Goldberg stated that the Holocaust was an example of "man's inhumanity to man." The surface meaning seemed fine. But she subtly expressed a differention from "racism," thereby diminishing a horrendous period in history. Words matter and "no, we won't get over it."

Names are more important than words. These are names of former enslaved persons.

Note: a month ago I wrote a blog about woke culture which also distorts words. Individuals must decide what words seem accurate to them, excluding commonly accepted slurs.

©Karen Levi 2023

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