An Excuse for History
Brian Wilder conveys an interesting and timely history lesson on slavery in Rhode Island, but he ends with a peculiar conclusion:
Today it is strange, and perhaps convenient, how little most of us know about the extent of Rhode Island’s involvement in slavery.
The least we can do is to dump a word that lost its innocence when Rhode Island and its despicable plantations became the hub of the equally despicable North American slave trade. We can’t honestly claim ownership of our state’s and nation’s past glories if we deny our past evils.
The peculiarity comes in the fact that Wilder spends most of his essay edifying the reader about not only Rhode Island’s participation, but its prominence in the slave trade — which he would not have had occasion to do had the word “plantations” not been included in the state’s name. In other words, “dumping” the word would make it that much easier to forget and thereby deny the very history that Wilder claims to be essential for civic honesty.
Seems to me, he should advocate for leaving the state’s full name as is, perpetuating the opportunity for historical exploration.