These Words Are Racist and Need to Be Removed From English Lexicon

Rosalyn Morris
2 min readFeb 15, 2022
Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

Language is powerful. There’s meaning behind words that goes beyond the dictionary definition — the connotative and denotative. The origin of words and phrases, or etymology, is also important. English has the problem that some language that has been acceptable for decades and centuries is racist, particularly anti-Black. These words and phrases need to exit the English lexicon for once and for all.

As I read Nikole Hannah-Jone’s The 1619 Project, the authors take care to use socially acceptable words in place of racist wording from the past. Here are some examples.

Enslaved is used instead of slave. Slave is a noun — a person place or thing. No human is born a slave. It’s a condition. So, the acceptable word is enslaved (person). Enslaved is a verb that describes the action and state forced upon a person by an enslaver.

Enslaver is used instead of master or owner. I could go the rest of my life without ever hearing an enslaver referred to as a master. A person can not be the master of another. Even though humans were sold and enslaved, the word owner denotes a power dynamic that needs to be carefully and systematically broken down through language.

Forced labor camp is used instead of plantation. Plantations are unfortunately seen as nice relics of the past — Antebellum Southern days that are now gone with the wind. They’re now called forced labor camps. This centers the enslaved, as it was their forced labor that was the foundation of these places. These places should not be thought or spoken of without imagining the brutality that was forced upon the enslaved.

Founding Fathers are framers. This term for the 12 white men who framed the United States government embodies white paternalism. Framers is a more acceptable term.

Planters are the men who enslaved and ran forced labor camps including ten of the first twelve presidents of the United States.

Here are other words and phrases that should be put to rest.

Master bedroom — the bedroom in the house that was the largest and reserved for the “master” is now called the primary bedroom.

Minority — a word used to describe nonwhites. From the French minorité; state or condition of being smaller (1530s) or a group of people separated from the rest of the community by race, religion, language etc. (1919 Eastern European context). This word needs to no longer be used to describe people because nonwhites are not the global “majority” nor will they be in America by 2045. There are also the connotations of minor meaning lesser in importance, seriousness, or significance.

Any word or phrase that negatively uses black including: blackballed, blacklisted, black magic, blackmail, black out, black hole, and black face.