Did you know there are several everyday words and phrases that have insensitive or racist origins? As we continue navigating the fight for inclusion and diversity, it’s important to also take the time to revamp your everyday communication to be more inclusive.
Eenie Meenie Miney Mo
This children’s rhyme is thought to have been sung by slave owners to describe what they would do if they caught a runaway.
This term comes from the word “Gypsy,” the derogatory name for the Roma people.
This term comes from the “grandfather clause,” which was a law passed by several states after the 15th Amendment was passed, giving Black American men the right to vote. The law stated that if you were a direct descendant of a voter, you were not required to pay poll taxes or take literacy tests in order to vote – making it more difficult for Black people to vote.
Hip Hip Hooray!
This term is thought to have been derived from the anti-Semitic chant, “Hep hep,” which was a rally cry of the German Confederacy in 1819.
Long Time, No See
There are two theories about where this phrase originated. One believes it originated from British and American Navies mocking Chinese people speaking pidgin English. The other believes it mocks Native Americans speaking English, as chronicled in Western novels.
No Can Do
Like “Long time, no see,” this phrase comes from mimicking Chinese immigrant’s pidgin English in the 19th century.
Lame, dumb, crazy, spastic, OCD
These words perpetuate ableist language and harmful misconceptions about individuals who have disabilities.
Off The Reservation
Coming from the 1800s, when Native Americans were forcibly moved to designated reservations, this phrase was used in government correspondence to report whether Native Americans were complying with orders to stay in place.
While not directly racist, this phrase originated from the name of the cheapest and worst section of seats in Vaudeville theaters, which were typically made up of Black people. This section was known to throw peanuts at unpopular performers.
Sold Down The River
This phrase references the sale of “misbehaving” slaves that took place down the Mississippi River, which led to plantations that had much harsher conditions.
This term originates from the belief that some Native American tribes have spirits that guide and protect them, and is commonly used as a form of cultural appropriation without knowledge of its spiritual and traditional origins.
Originating from the old South, this term was used by white people to describe Black people who were not deferential enough and “did not know their place.”