It’s time to stop being ‘slaves’ once and for all

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THE LATE reggae star Junior Delgado in his blistering top ten blues, hollered: “Are we not the sons of slaves?” A rhetorical question. The answer he knew, and we know is ‘NO’. Yet, even in the hit TV show Game of Thrones we are either slaves or unsullied.

If you want a sign of the weakness and ineffectiveness of the black community then look no further than the fact that our ancestors are still being referred to as ‘slaves’ by journalists who relish in asserting that we are beneath them and by the very media that we support with our hard-earned money.

Our ancestors were never slaves. Yes, they were African and, yes, they were warriors and kings and queens and merchants and seamen and fishermen and women and mothers and fathers and children and uncles and aunts and grandparents. But they were never slaves. They were ENSLAVED.

In a climate in which same sex people have managed to change the narrative by leaning on the media to describe them as ‘gay’ rather than ‘homosexual’ we are left hanging wondering how they did it. When you read a newspaper that talks about ‘homosexuals’ you almost denounce it as being homophobic. ‘Gay’ is the word – a happy word, a word of joy and fun and laughter. Whereas homosexual is something very different. No hint of joy.

Well, why can’t we be ‘gay’ too? Why cannot we be the sons and daughters and descendants of people who laughed and cried and sighed and tried to keep their loved ones safe and happy? Why has it always got to be lies and subterfuge and misery about our ancestry? Why cannot the media allow us that one iota of civility to ensure that no one mistakes us for people who were born slaves because our fathers were slaves as were their fathers’ fathers’ fathers also.

Once a slave always a slave surely. Whereas freedom is the prerogative of those who were ENSLAVED.

Look, we know and we understand why it is uncomfortable for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and the daily newspapers – The Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Mail, The Express, The Mirror and Uncle Tom’s wobbly and all to describe our forefathers with dignity.

It is because if they were to talk of them as ENSLAVED the question on every schoolboy’s lips would be who enslaved them? And that’s a question that these media outlets are too afraid to address. They think they are being cunning but actually in all their usage of the word they are being deceitful, depraved and immoral.

Of course we can do something about it. If we can be bothered. And it is so easy. Because that licence fee that we pay to the BBC is our guarantor of our right to shape the narrative. For example, have you wondered how groups are tagged militant or terrorist by the BBC?

There was a time when they described the IRA as terrorist. But that didn’t please the tens of thousands of nationalist licence payers in the six counties of Northern Ireland who had sympathies with the Republican cause. Eventually, subtly and without fanfare, the ‘terrorists’ was dropped and the IRA started being described as ‘Republicans’, ‘nationalists’, ‘paramilitaries’ and, yes, ‘militants’, ‘extremists’ and so on.

The same thing today with the likes of al-Qaeda and Islamic State. You don’t hear BBC journalists refer to them as terrorists at all. They are described as ‘Islamists’, ‘extremists’, ‘jihadists’ and, yes, ‘militants’. But never as terrorists. Even when they are blowing up innocent people or beheading them.

You see, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighters. The founders of the state of Israel were described as ‘terrorists’ by the British in 1948. No longer though. Who would talk of the PLO, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation as terrorists anymore? Not even Israel which once considered Yasser Arafat, the PLO’s late erstwhile leader as the world’s number one terrorist.

So we know the narrative can be changed. And it wouldn’t take that many of us to affect this change at the BBC. An edict would go through all its departments to: “Stop using the term slaves to describe Africans who were enslaved by us the British from the 15th century to the 19th century, the blight of which continues today”.

That edict would come from the very top and before you can say, ‘Jack Robinson’ you would never hear the term ‘slaves’ referred to our ancestors again. They would be revered for the survivors that they were and our children would be hailed for coming from a proud stock, not one that was born into slavery.

I guarantee you that within weeks of this edict the other media would stop using the term ‘slaves’ to describe our people. They would look as archaic as the media that talks of ‘homosexuals’ to describe gay people if they did. And once that result was achieved our children would not have to hang their heads in shame as they face the slings and arrows of disparagement.

So who is with me on this one? This is an easy battle. One that should be led by this very paper with a commitment from the editor that the term ‘slaves’ in reference to those of African ancestry who were enslaved will never appear in these pages again. Ever.

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