We are writing this because we believe that we all should change the way we speak about slavery. The main words we would like to change are “slave,” “slave owner” and “plantation.”
In the case of the word slave, we believe that by calling the enslaved people that, it dehumanizes them and labels them as a commodity, disrespecting those who suffered and putting them in a place where they are remembered as property, not people. By replacing the word slave with enslaved person, you are putting their humanity first, rather than their situation.
As for the term slave owner, we think it enforces the false idea that enslaved people were property to toil for others day and night to bring others wealth and that enslaved people were something to be owned, like an object. By replacing slave owner with enslaver, we don’t promote the ideology of owning other people.
When we think about plantations, we personally reminisce about picnics, skipping through the valley and a nice summer day. Knowing that plantations were not like that in the past and that they were actually places of great torture, we would prefer to call them forced labor camps.
It will be hard to change our vocabulary, but with a conscious effort, we think we can change the way we speak to better suit everybody. It will truly take practice, but that is only because those words are ignorantly embedded in our minds.
— O., Cameron and London
Editor’s note: This letter is one of three we received on this topic from students at a local K-8 school.