Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Perhaps, in the future…

August 25, 2009 · No Comments

“Slavery, The Scale of Freedom” by Owen. “These scales show how hard it was and can be to achieve liberty and justice when fighting for freedom” reads the sign. The scale, the representation of inequality frightens me.

An introductory passage in the museum describes the need for us to restrain from using historical terms such as “Negro” and “Mulatto” which were derogatory terms during slavery. I think back to the time when in I resided in Azerbaijan, my college-educated parents and friends would refer to anyone who is of  a mixed ethnicity as a “mulatto” which now I know is originated from the word “mule.” And when African American men in United States refer to each other as “Negros” in a “joking” manner. Or when the abolition of slavery in East Indies occurred, the government found a new source of cheap labor in India resulting with 1,500,000 Indians being subjected to the system. Reading novels such as Saalam:Brick Lane, West Indian and South Asian communities are still feeling the effects of abuse put upon them by those who were in a place of power.

Upon visiting the atlantic transatlantic slavery exhibition questions arose: Is freedom truly achieved in England and around the world? Are the facts presented at Docklands Museum part of the past or present (as in certain actions by those in power limit actions of those who have less power)? If my liberal, educated family used a derogatory term “Mullato” and did not even realize how much hurt it held behind it, how do we further educate on the topic of slavery and how much more there is behind it?

With the mixed reviews posted by the museum visitors at the end of the exhibition, I couldn’t help but question the British education system. With the comments ranging from acceptance and understanding to guilt and criticism, I wonder how comfortable the British are with their history and how much they discuss in their secondary school regarding the British participation in transatlantic slavery.

It frightens me that without education, dialogue, and willingness to change and accept the cycle will continue and a new group and culture will suffer from injustice. Words such as “Mullato” and “Negro” will be spoken and “Scales of Freedom” will never reach a balance.



Categories: Jeyla · Museums
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