Today, the band Slaves posted a note about their name and why they feel it’s both positive and relevant, and how frustrated they are when people criticize it.
Since it appears they don’t seem to understand the reasons why their name is problematic, I’ve written them back in an attempt to provide some perspective on the matter.
Our band is called Slaves. We were working tedious 9-5 jobs when we started playing together, stacking shelves and mopping floors.
Actual slaves do tedious work. That much is true. But “tedious work” doesn’t even begin to describe the brutality of slavery. Slaves were kidnapped, beaten, tortured, mutilated, raped, and ultimately killed. They died violent, horrifying deaths. This is not a metaphor. This is history. This is reality.
Slavery, as a matter of fact, is still alive and well today. This account states that “public perception of modern slavery is often confused with reports of workers in low-wage jobs or inhumane working conditions.” Sound familiar? Comparing the horrors of human suffering to your “tedious 9-to-5 job” is exactly the kind of conflation that quote refers to. But you lived it, right? That time you tried to take a bathroom break and your supervisor shot you? Or when you tried to leave after your shift and you got beaten to within an inch of your life and were forced to continue working without medical treatment for your cuts and broken bones? Or when payday came around and your paycheck was another beating and no food for three days?
The music we make is aggressive, motivational music. Cease Fire and Wishing Well are the first two tracks we ever wrote. They address people addicted to smoking and the struggle of the day to day rat race. “It doesn’t matter if they’re taken because they’ll take you”.
Being addicted to smoking (or anything else) is not slavery. The “rat race” isn’t slavery. And there’s no connection between slavery and your music.
Slavery is tangible oppression. Not the oppression of having to go to work when you don’t want to. Not the oppression of having a political party in power that you don’t like. The physical oppression of turning a person into property and dehumanizing them by any means necessary. Slavery is an oppression that you have not been subject to and therefore could not possibly understand.
Our band name relates to people not being in control of their day to day lives. Slaves was our way of getting off the paths we didn’t want to walk down anymore.
That’s not what you mean at all, is it? Because you’re saying a choice—that you made with the nearly infinite amount of freedom at your disposal—is equivalent to the institution of slavery. That someone working a crummy job is the same as someone else being kidnapped and shipped halfway across the world, to have their family, their life, and their soul stolen and maimed and crushed to death.
The band name has become more and more relevant as our band has evolved and we have gained traction. Our dreams have unfolded in front of our eyes and we know now that anything is possible. It puts us in a fortunate position in which to show other people that their aspirations are reachable too.
You’re unironically claiming that your band name, Slaves, is somehow becoming more relevant as you succeed and is, in fact, inspiring to others. This is the complete antithesis of slavery. You know that, right?
Slaves — real slaves — have no chance of achieving their dreams. They can’t even HAVE dreams. Dreams are beaten out of them.
‘Are you satisfied?’ comes out on June 1st and from beginning to end, with the title and artwork, it is aimed at everyday people. Personal politics. Are you happy? If you’re not, why not change it? Pick up a guitar, do a drawing, anything you want. Take control. Inspiring people is our goal.
Then you’re doing it wrong. Slaves — I mean actual, real, historical slaves here, in case there’s any confusion — by definition, by the very nature of their situation, do not have the ability to produce any kind of change. They sure as hell aren’t winning their freedom by picking up a guitar or drawing something. (I’d like to ask you how you think those things create change, and also what the phrase “personal politics” is supposed to mean, but I don’t want to wade through another glob of middlebrow positivity and poor logic.)
Slaves has been an extremely positive chapter of our lives
How the fuck can you even TYPE that?
but we have also been struck by negative comments towards our name
Like this one?
On this point we would like to highlight the Oxford dictionary definition
“(Especially in the past) a person who is the legal property of another and forced to obey them.” As you can see, there is no mention of race.
Great job! The one sentence you found in a book (we’ll talk about the racism of dictionaries another time) surely contradicts the mountains of academic research that describe, in exhaustive detail, how racism was used both as a justification for slavery and as a tool to maintain the systematic oppression of the institution as a whole.
All different slave trades could be discussed now, but it would be futile.
It certainly would be if you were the ones leading the discussion. There’s hundreds of books that explain how racism and slavery are directly linked. This is a good one. It’s easy to read, and the descriptions of slavery are horrifying.
Our name and music is aimed at being a slave to day to day life and routine, it is a metaphorical use of the word.
Oh. So why did you just spend so long explaining how your band name directly relates to slavery?
In conclusion, we are all slaves in this modern age, whether it be to our jobs, corporations, social media or society in general, we are all in this together.
No. No, we’re not. We’re not any of this. The only people who are slaves to their job are slaves. The only people who are slaves to corporations are slaves. Nobody is a slave to social media. That’s just fucking stupid. And the only people who are slaves to society in general (what does that even mean?) are—you guessed it—slaves.
And this “we are all in this together” bullshit? Who do you consider to be in this together with you? The black people of the United States who were literally enslaved for 250 years? The black people who have always been second-class citizens in this country? The black people who are killed indiscriminately by police? The black people who are branded as thugs and left without any recourse, with no way to mourn those they have lost?
You’re talking shit, and your message, whatever it might be, is not getting through. Find a better way to say it. Change your name, or don’t change it, I don’t care. But don’t claim that you’re entitled to it, and don’t claim that it’s justified, because it’s not.
[Image via Shutterstock]