Correcting Language

Some would call it political correctness or playing with words, but words also play with us – shaping our values, feelings and meaning. Here are a few words and phrases we’ve used in this booklet that would benefit from further explanation.

The Americas – the New World:
the whole geographical region from North to South America including USA, Central America and the Caribbean (aka the West Indies).

Amerindians, Native or indigenous Americans: the many cultures that exist throughout The Americas. They are called ‘native’ or ‘indigenous’ because these people already lived there when Columbus, Cabot and other European explorers claimed their land as European colonies.

Blackamore: a term used in medieval times for a Black person, or any dark-skinned people (especially North African).
Usually derogatory.

Black and White: used to refer to people of African and European descent respectively. We recognise that these are crude political terms which ignore the many different identities within their broad boundaries. Black is often capitalised because for some people it represents a real culture and political identity.

Diaspora: dispersed people who share a common homeland. Often used in referring to Africans outside of Africa.

Guinea: a general term for West Africa that –

‘extends along the coast.. in the whole, between three and four thousand miles. From the river Senegal, (seventeen degrees north of the Line) to Cape Sierra Leona, it contains seven hundred miles. Thence it runs Eastward about fifteen hundred miles, including the Grain-Coast, the Ivory-Coast, the Gold-Coast, and the Slave-Coast, with the large Kingdom of Benin. From thence it runs Southward, about twelve hundred miles, and contains the Kingdoms of Congo and Angola.’

Thoughts On Slavery, John Wesley, London 1774

Race: usually describes different ethnic groups. This division usually boils down to visible genetic differences between people, particularly skin colour. We use it even though we know that ‘race’ can be used in politically and scientifically dubious ways, subdividing humanity into boxes which determine people’s social, cultural or economic worth.

Slaves, slave trade, etc: Some people find these terms offensive as they refer to people’s ancestors as objects or property, so sometimes the word ‘enslaved’ is used instead. Jesse Jackson made this point when he came to Bristol in 2006:

‘My great, great grandmothers were not slaves to me. They were slaves to the oppressor. These were my fore-parents enslaved. They were not slaves. If I have a child in prison I don’t have a prisoner, I have a child in jail. They are a prisoner to the captor but it’s your child. So we must first connect ourselves to this lineage of our parents.’

Jesse Jackson ‘Equanomics’ talk at the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum, 2006