Recently in our class, we have discussed many aspects of Slavery and how it has affected our society ever since. We have gotten mixed opinions in class on what wrongs we should make right by what steps we should take to make things more equal for everyone. This includes our opinions on Affirmative Action in the work place and education. What we haven’t really touched on are the everyday things that surround us and if they are insensitive to African-Americans and other minorities in the United States, at least, not yet. Tomorrow, however, an issue goes on the ballot in the State of Rhode Island for voters in the state to decide whether or not to change the state’s name. The formal name is “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” The vote would change the name to a simple “State of Rhode Island.” Now some of you reading this may notice the issue right away with the original name. I certainly did. The reason for the name change is the use of the word “Plantations.” When the state was founded, the meaning didn’t have a negative connotation. It referred to the farming settlements of the state. However, some years later Rhode Island was a state that thrived on the Slave Trade. Those for the change seem to feel that the states responsibility in the Slave Trade should be acknowledged and the words “Providence Plantations” should be dropped because it is insensitive to African-Americans. Those on the other side of the issue claim the name was not created in those times and therefore should not be changed as it would somehow change the history of their state.
In light of all this I had to ask myself “What’s in a name?” From my own view as a human being a name can be everything. A name can define you and tell others from whom and what you come. Certainly, if my name were Rockefeller, I would probably be associated with great wealth. In fact my birth name is Terranova, meaning New Earth or that I am of Italian decent it all depends on how you view it and what it’s importance, if at all, means to you. With this being said, what does the word “Plantation” mean to people? I can see how it would be offensive to many. It bears pain, struggle and history. A history that should be acknowledged. It will not change the past. It will not heal any wounds. What it will do is say that the part of history that left so many scars is not just a name, it should have never happened and it is offensive. It would hurt no one to change it. However, to not change it speaks volumes to members of our society that still struggle for equality.