Our Peculiar Institution
Slavery nestled deep in the psyche of the United States. It is as much a part of the fabric of the country as is the Declaration of Independence. Slavery and the belief that “all men are created equal” are in direct opposition to each other. Because of that, slavery remains such a controversial part of the history of the United States that it glossed over regularly. It is so ignored by the mainstream that a euphemism was created to discuss the impact of slavery, especially its economy, that the word slavery was substituted with our peculiar institution.
Because our peculiar institution, especially in the southern United States, has become so pervasive, many U.S. citizens routinely underplay the part slavery played in the history of the U.S., especially in México-U.S. geopolitics. This has created a narrative that slavery was a historical footnote in the greatness of the United States which had little to nothing to do with U.S foreign policy and foreign interventions.
I’ve had numerous debates about slavery and plantations and their part in different invasions of México by the United States. For me, slavery was a significant factor while for those that argued against it seem to believe that slavery was but an indirect part of the larger issue. I’ve even had people argue that the issue of slavery in the country is being exaggerated for money. As if one slave really cared if he/she were the only slave in the U.S.
Politically, slavery remains a taboo topic in U.S. politics with everyone pretending that it is much ado about nothing.
I didn’t really grasp how much U.S. citizens underplay slavery as part of the history of their country until I understood that slavery was such a controversial topic that a more palatable phrase was created to have a proper discussion about it. Our peculiar institution is slavery but it is much more palatable in public policy discussions.
The need to gloss over the slavery factor in U.S. politics has allowed notions such as entitlements, the exceptionalism of the United States, and on up to today’s continued demonizing of México leading the narrative about national and local public policy.
It is difficult to argue policy with facts when the facts are distorted with euphemisms such as our peculiar institution.
Facts, though, remain, even if people try to bury them deep behind façades of politically correct language.
It’s time to call our peculiar institution for what it is – slavery!