many words and phrases in the English language that are geared towards
maintaining inequality. However, despite the immature claims of
a minority of people who think that revising the way we verbally
communicate is ‘political correctness gone mad’, it
has become a necessary part of addressing the way in which we think.
Language is a key medium for conveying ideas about a society and
culture. If populist and relatively frivolous words such as ‘retrosexual’,
‘squeaky-bum time’ and ‘adultescent’ can
be integrated into modern day English dictionaries and language,
there is no reason why we can not address racially offensive terminology
with a view to revising and implementing positive and accurate changes.
african or "slave"?
eurocentric thinking argues that African people were legitimate
‘property’ according to British law and therefore
the use of the derogatory phrase 'slave' is wholly appropriate
despite its effective removal of any reference to the individuals
cultural heritage, identity or humanity. African academics
and activists refute this and maintain that the people they
are referring to were (free) Africans before capture and became
'enslaved Africans' after. The use of the word ‘enslaved’
indicates that historically, African people have always offered
resistance to enslavement and never capitulated to the role
of being simply 'slaves'. This also explains why the term
'freed slave' is not only offensive but grammatically inaccurate.
word '''Maafa''' translated into English language means ''The
Enslavement of (Mama) Africa''. It is derived from a Kiswahili
word meaning disaster, terrible occurrence, injustice or great
term was popularised in the Diaspora by the African American
academic, Marimba Ani, who used it to also signify that the
Maafa did not begin 500 years ago but covered a “1300-year-long
period (652 CE – Present) of African conquest, enslavement,
domination, oppression, exploitation and genocide at the hands
of Europeans and Arabs”.
capitalised The Maafa uniquely refers to the injustice of
the subjugation, contamination and loss of indigenous African
cultures, languages, spiritual beliefs primarily by invading
arabs and europeans.
also incorporates the historic and ongoing commercial exploitation
of Africa through enslavement, colonisation and neo-colonialism.
These foreign policies result in present day atrocities and
human rights violations in African and throughout the African
Diaspora that continue to occur as a result of foreign subjugation,
intrusion and exploitation of African people, land, resources
and culture. Its capitalised status is also a reflection of
the duration of the process and the unprecedented scale of
the inhuman treatment of African people.
use of the words ''Mama Africa'' in the English translation
has a special symbolic relevance as a direct reference to
Africa being the birth place of humanity and the cradle of
labour camps or "plantation"
use of the phrase “plantation” to describe the
place in which African people were forced to work is a transparent
attempt by europeans to mask and ‘civilise’ what
was the undeniably immoral and brutal practice of dehumanising
people. The use of this word in the retelling of history is
specifically used to undermine the atrocious nature of what
should be referred to as ‘forced labour camps’.
As has become commonplace, the phrase ‘plantation’
is often indicative of a eurocentric perspective whilst the
reality for African people is that they were not working by
consent nor were they treated in the dignified manner that
you would expect as a ‘legitimate’ employee. Many
women suffered miscarriages and stillbirths because of the
excessive and oppressive nature of their work and violent
and disfiguring beatings were common for African men and women.
Thus, from a more accurate perspective, we refer to “forced
or "plantation owner"/ "slave master"
of the term ‘plantation owner’ is a linguistic
means of distancing British slavers from the repellent nature
of their business which was the forced exploitation of African
people. The title bestows the slavers with an air of respectability
and legitimacy when describing their despicable profession.
vessels or "slave ships"
inappropriate term ‘slave ship’ asserts that the
naval vessels used to transport kidnapped African people were
merely humble cargo ships of ‘trade’. In reality,
the British, amongst others, designed slaving ships to particular
specifications which were designed to hold as many captive
Africans in as confined a space as possible purely as a means
of maximising what the slavers undoubtedly saw as potential
profit. Ultimately, the conditions of these ships were grotesquely
unhygienic and inhumane. Use of the term ‘slaving ship/vessel’
as opposed to ‘slave ship’ makes a clear distinction
between a vessel being promoted as a passive means of transporting
‘product’, as implied by the latter term whilst
the former description indicates a deliberate and aggressive
process in which the African people who were kidnapped and
trafficked were held in forced bondage.
Note: The term ‘slaver’ is sometimes confusingly
used to refer to slaving vessels as well as people. We do
not recommend this approach as it was initially part of a
strategy to prevent participants engaged in the process of
the enslavement of African people being personally and professionally
implicated by their immoral actions. These people preferred
the terms ‘slave master’ and ‘slave owner’
as means of asserting authority and status instead of the
more accurate phrase ‘slaver’.
Transatlantic Slave Trade' is a commonly used eurocentric
definition which attempts to turn the enslavement of African
people into one of commerce in an attempt to diminish and
avoid addressing the barbarism and immorality of the Maafa.
The word ‘trade’ implies a legitimate and consensual
transaction and belittles the magnitude and reality of the
atrocities committed against African people. Enslaved African
people did not believe they were born to be enslaved nor were
they bound by the pan-European laws that stated that it was
legal to forcibly capture African people for the purpose of
unpaid labour, rape and murder. Revisionist historians are
now using the term ‘slave trade’ to assert the
falsity that a number of 'uncivilised' African people were
wholly responsible for the Maafa because they sold their own
people into enslavement.
this may legally be considered a crime against humanity now,
at the time it was not recognised as such by the exploiters
of African people because whilst the perpetrators were acting
inhumanly they were still human and following the collective
will and immoral laws of their respective democratically formed
governments and religious leaders. The enslavement of Africa
has to be recognised as an unprovoked war, waged specifically
and deliberately against Africa by nations welding inhumane
practices, policies and a distorted sense of morality. It
remains an open injustice against Africa that must be addressed.
No person should ever use the terms 'slave trade' without
qualifying them in this wider historical context.
phrase Transatlantic Slave Trade is often erroneously used
when attempting to translate the word Maafa into a european
language. However many African people take offence at the
way this eurocentric terminology portrays the Maafa as a commercial
dilemma as opposed to a moral issue about the violation and
subjugation of African human rights.
first difference which strikes us is that of color…
And is this difference of no importance? Is it not the foundation
of a greater or less share of beauty in the two races? Are
not the fine mixtures of red and white, the expressions
of every passion by greater or less suffusions of color
in the one, preferable to that eternal monotony, which reigns
in the countenances, that immovable veil of black which
covers the emotions of the other race?”
Thomas Jefferson, ‘father’ of the American
is disrespectful and disempowering to label the cultural identity
of any person by use of a single homogenous colour particularly
if this label is historically connected with negative, social
and cultural connotations. Whilst it has been accepted that
it is offensive to call Chinese people ‘yellow’
or Amerindians ‘red’ it is still permitted to
use ‘black’ to describe African people.
the colour coding system of ethnicity maintains a offensive
hierarchical system of a perceived cultural supremacy and
dominance. Because of its cultural, spiritual and social connotation
‘white’ overrules and commands ‘black’.
‘White’ = good, ‘black’ = evil. ‘White’
= correct, truth, ‘black’ = wrong, falsehood.
These labels have become a normalised and integrated part
of the world psyche and the so-called ‘whites’,
or europeans as they are most appropriately known, who benefit
most from this social organisation continue to resist the
change needed to rectify this social and cultural injustice.
The seemingly innocuous phrase 'black person of African descent'
has been used to convince African people that they are 'black'
and were maybe African a long time ago. This is untrue. Almost
all so called 'black' people are Africans. Some have Caribbean
heritage, others South American but regardless of current
nationality, all are African. The word ‘black’
is connected to the words negro, negre, nigra and the highly
offensive n-word. All these derogatory terms have been used
throughout history in official european documents justifying
the enslavement and colonisation of African people. Critically,
the term also disinherits African people from their culture
word 'African' specifically relates to the indigenous people
of the African Continent and their descendants in the Diaspora
(Caribbean, Americas, Pacific Islands etc). The ethnicity-nationality
model such as that currently employed by African Americans,
African Brazilian and African Caribbean communities more accurately
describes our identities connected by a common and unifying
link whilst fully articulating the diverse historical and
geo-political reality of African people worldwide.
miscellaneous use of the label ‘Black’ reflects
its contemporary use as a means to denote a specific socio-cultural
and political context. It is recognised as a colloquial term
that was fashioned as a reactionary concept to derogatory
racial epithets in the 1960’s. However, just as coloured
and negro were acceptable terms of reference in their time,
'black' must also be recognised for the socially loaded term
that it is. It is offensive when used as a racial classification
code word to denote African people. Other such denigratory
terminology that remains offensive when made in reference
to African culture, heritage or identity are ‘Tribe’,
‘Sub-Saharan Africa’, ‘Negroid’ or
term abolitionist in the context of enslavement referred to
those who attempted to use parliamentary procedure to abolish
a process sanctioned by their own governments. Yet whilst
many abolitionists were often an unwilling part of the enslavement
process the majority did not favour the immediate cessation
of slavery and instead promoted the notion of gradual abolition
in order to have time to protect their own financial interests.
a consequence infamous abolitionists such as William Wilberforce
campaigned for the trafficking in enslaved Africans to be
abolished and not the entire dehumanising practice itself.
These influential abolitionists were vehemously opposed to
the African freedom fighters that fought for the total abolition
of slavery. Wilberforce was one of many who supported military
action to re-enslave the self determining Africans who as
in Haiti, 1804 fought against enslavement and succeeded in
establishing a revolution. It was another sixteen years after
the passing of the 1807 Act to abolish the so called ‘slave
trade’ that in 1823 the Society for the Mitigation and
Gradual Abolition of Slavery was formed. Unsurprisingly, it
was not initiated by Wilberforce but Thomas Fowell Buxton.
Wilberforce retired from the House of Commons in 1825 and,
contrary to british mythology, did not play a significant
part in persuading Parliament to bring an end to slavery.
abolitionists were devout Christians who were not motivated
by the welfare of enslaved African people, but instead agonised
about retribution from God and the wrath that would be revisited
upon the souls of europeans responsible for subjugating African
people. As such, following the 1833 Act for the abolishment
of slavery, the abolitionists saw no contradiction or moral
impropriety in paying reparations to themselves and then proceeding
to colonise Africa using brutal force under the new banner
of spreading christianity, civilisation and commerce.
word 'Enslavement' is used to make a definitive ideological
distinction between 'slavery' by the oppressors and the 'enslavement'
of African people. It remains immoral and inappropriate to
commemorate 'slavery' which relates to the actions of the
oppressor. British slavery is not the same as African enslavement.
The only respectful commemorative process is that of a remembrance
or memorial focused on reversing the injustices committed
whilst restoring the history and legacy of the African people
and culture lost through the process of enslavement. Slavery
memorial is not the same as African remembrance.