There are so many phrases that we use on a daily basis that has its roots in racism and oppression of minorities.
Racism is so deep-rooted that it pervades our lives in so many ways that we may not even be aware of it. Language is one of the mediums that perpetuates and enables systemic racism and it's important to recognize the same and root them out from our vocabulary. From racist phrases to words, many are still in common use with a majority unaware of their racist origins. While some may argue that certain phrases or words don't carry the meaning they once did, the origins of a word or phrase matter. It's in this corridor of uncertainty that racists thrive, being able to perpetuate racism while being afforded the plausibility of denial when questioned.
It's important to understand the origins behind these phrases and how hurtful they can be. Here are some of the popular phrases that are racist, still commonly used, and needs to be rooted out from our vocabulary:
It's a common term used in the real estate business to refer to the biggest bedroom in the house and is often accompanied by a private bathroom. To understand how prevalent the use is, it was found that 42% of current property listings on Zillow use the term "master" in reference to a bedroom or a bath, reported CNN. The word first appeared in the 1926 Sears catalog when it featured a $4,398 Dutch colonial home. While there is no explicit link-up between the term and American slavery, the term evokes the history of slavery with the big bedroom being reserved for the 'master' of the house. Many members of the real estate have dropped the term and replaced it with 'primary.'
It often refers to the cheapest seats in the theatre. While many assumed the term originated from the snack of choice from low-income patrons, its first documented usage was in a New Orleans Times-Picayune review in 1867. The line read, "... and put the darkies in the ‘peanut gallery’ fairly to the blush.” The review was referring to seats in the back or upper balcony levels that were mostly reserved for Black people in the segregated South, according to Stuart Berg Flexner, an expert on the origins of American phrases, reported ABC News. "Peanut gallery was in use in the 1880s, as a synonym for n***er gallery (1840s) or n***er heaven (1870s), the upper balcony where blacks sat, as in segregated theaters," he wrote in a book.
Did you know the phrase 'peanut gallery' has racist origins?— Nat'l Urban League (@NatUrbanLeague) February 13, 2018
It was the cheapest and worst part of the theater, and the only option for Black attendees. No one wanted to sit in the peanut gallery and today, no one wants to hear from the peanut gallery. #RewriteBHM #BHM pic.twitter.com/vwHHHWLeVP
Mumbo Jumbo might be a very commonly used term but its origin is rooted in racism. It was first used in the 1700s in West Africa by travel writer Francis Moore in his book Travels In The Interior Districts of Africa. He describes 'Mumbo Jumbo' as a masked dancer involved in religious ceremonies but many experts believe it was derived from 'Maamajomboo' from Mandinka people of West Africa.
It's one of the most popular nursery rhymes and as you may know it, the second line goes: If you grab a tiger by the toe, do you really think it’s the tiger who will be hollering? The original line from the Rudyard Kipling: In his Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides makes you realize that has the word tiger was nothing but a replacement for n***er, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.
No can do is yet another popular phrase but it was used by the Americans to mock Chinese immigrants. According to Oxford Dictionary, "What might seem like folksy, abbreviated version of I can’t do it is actually an imitation of Chinese Pidgin English. The phrase dates from the mid-19th to early-20th centuries, an era when Western attitudes towards the Chinese were markedly racist."
It was a phrase used to poke fun at Native Americans. It was used to mock a Native American greeting used after a prolonged separation. "The current earliest citation recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) comes from W.F. Drannan’s book Thirty-one Years on Plains (1901): ‘When we rode up to him [sc. an American Indian] he said: ‘Good mornin. Long time no see you’," noted Oxford Dictionary. It was an act of cultural genocide, which involves the systematic destruction of traditions, values, language.
In the world of computers, and even otherwise, it's common to refer to blocked email addresses, IP addresses, or URLs as being blacklisted while whitelist refers to things that are allowed. While there is no direct link to race, it reinforces the idea that black =good and white = good. Companies are starting to take action to stop such usage with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal agency that develops technology, metrics, and standards stated that it would stop using computer security terms with racist overtones.
People equate 'lynch mobs' to unjust attacks today and are frequently used on the internet to refer to online attacks. Lynch mobs originally referred to a large group of white men who tortured and killed Black people in a form of vigilante justice that was as racist as it can get. It's used lightly and trivialized. For example, former President Donald Trump called his impeachment inquiry a "lynching."
This is again an instance of the word 'Black' being used in a negative connotation. Blackmark is something that goes on your record or will be held against you. "Black has connoted evil and disgrace, while white has connoted decency and purity," wrote Douglas Longshore, a UCLA researcher who published a study in 1979 on color connotations and race, reported CNN. He added it may "may well reinforce social norms pertaining to those groups" of people.
Uppity is often used to describe someone as "pretentious" or "conceited," but in truth, the word was used to refer to enslaved people who showed a sense of autonomy or "didn't know their place." Those who considered uppity during the Jim Crow era were often punished with many Black men and women even being lynched by White mobs for being 'uppity.' "It was and remains an insulting way to describe a Black person because it suggests that they are 'too big for their britches' or are demonstrating a sense of dignity or autonomy they are not supposed to possess," said Krystal Smalls, an assistant professor of anthropology and linguistics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, reported PBS. It was also a word that was often used by conservatives to attack President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. They claimed to not know the word's racist origins. Right in the corridor of uncertainty.
MINORITIES MUST STAND UP TO ABUSE:— LJ Rochelle (@lj_rochelle) May 24, 2018
Kneeling to protest at games is tasteful yet effective. But white owners and racists think blacks are too uppity.
Word used by racist old white Southerners to refer to any black person who looks them in the eye." --URBAN DICTIONARY pic.twitter.com/CrRQJqTyTl