pronunciation | drap-et-O-mAn-E-a
note | Drapetomania first appeared in a pseudoscientific article by an American physician in 1851 as a “mental illness” that caused black slaves to try to flee captivity. It supposedly occurred as a result of a master treating their slaves like equals. But though the first usage of the word is deeply rooted in racism, it derives simply from the Greek δραπετης drapetos, meaning “runaway (slave)”, and μανια mania, meaning “frenzy”. I post this word with the knowledge that it has been used as a tool of racism, and I’m choosing to consciously separate it from that origin. I know that words can’t be redefined on whim—but I do think they can sometimes be redeemed.
I think you are whitewashing history by inventing a new definition for this word and trying to cover up ideologies that promoted slavery and racism. If people knew about the origin of the word stigma, the history of slavery, the ideology of George Fitzhugh, etc. then they would be less likely to believe in racism, neo-confederate movements, Steve King, Fox News, etc.
You see, I’m not inventing a new definition. I’m going back to the original one. As it stems from Greek, there is no connotation of racism. Slavery in Greece, if we’re going to talk history, was fundamentally different from American black slavery. I don’t think the word drapetos carried any racial meaning at all.
You bring up the word stigma, which comes from a word describing a practice of branding slaves or criminals. But that’s actually an excellent example of what I mean—words change. Now, a stigma is “a mark of disgrace”. Words change, and they will always change, and sometimes—in the interest of destroying a concept that we know to be wrong—it’s worth it to encourage that.