What are you doing for others today? Start by unlearning racist language. It may seem innocent to you, but these words and phrases have deeper implications.
Terms like “Black sheep” and “Blacklist” are examples of how deeply engrained racism is in our language.
“Everyday language reminds African Americans in matter-of-fact ways that our color is related to extortion (blackmail), disrepute (black mark), rejection (blackball), banishment (blacklist), impurity (not the driven snow), illicitness (black market), and death. Casting aspersions on black or darkness while praising white or light isn’t universal, and regardless of the intentions of the user of these expressions, such usage colludes with racism.” -- Therapist Dee Watts-Jones, 2004
“Eenie meenie miney mo” may seem like the opening line to a harmless nursery rhyme, followed by “catch a tiger by the toe,” but the lyrics have evolved over time. In an earlier version of the song, used as recently as the ‘90s in Australia, the N-word was used instead of “tiger.”
In reality, the nursery rhyme is tied to the slave trade, describing what a white enslaver would do after catching a self-emancipated Black person: “Catch a n***** by his toe / If he hollers make him pay / Twenty dollars every day.”
“Peanut gallery,” when used is usually referring to the uninformed and unintelligent armchair critics who always seem to have an opinion about everything, usually negative.
The origin of the phrase refers to the cheap seats of Vaudeville theaters where blacks used to sit, during Jim Crow and segregation. If the audience in this area didn’t like a performance, instead of throwing tomatoes, they’d toss peanuts. “Hecklers” is a neutral alternative.
“You’re so articulate”--a phrase Black people have probably heard from an impressed white person. It’s meant as a compliment typically reserved for a Black person who uses excellent grammar and soothing cadences when speaking.
This is often felt to be an insult because it’s so patronizing, as few people would commend a white person for speaking grammatically correctly.
If someone says you’ve “Sold them down the river,” they mean you’ve screwed them over or you’ve treated them like a misbehaving slave.
If you were enslaved in 19th-century America, it had even more impact with literal meanings. This was the process of enslavers sending their problematic enslaved captives down the Mississippi River. They were then sold to the enslavers that were even more cruel to Black humans, not only treating them as property but making their lives hell.
Although the word is now used to insult people of any race, it’s often still reserved for Black people that exhibit “uppity-ism”.
Originally in 1880, “uppity” was used by blacks to describe other blacks felt to be too self-assertive.
This term was quickly adopted in the old South, as white people used this word to describe Black people who didn’t know their supposed place, socioeconomically. The word “uppity” usually would have been followed by the N-word.
Stay educated and kind--take these words and phrases out of your vocabulary.