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10 common phrases that are actually racist AF

All language has a history.

10 common phrases that are actually racist AF




As much as we'd like to pretend every phrase we utter is a lone star suspended in the space of our own genius, all language has a history. Unfortunately, given humanity's aptitude for treating each other like shit, etymology is fraught with reminders of our very racist world.

Since I have faith that most of you reading want to navigate the world with intelligence and empathy, I figured it'd be useful to share some of the everyday phrases rooted in racist etymology.

Knowledge is power, and the way we use and contextualize our words can make a huge difference in the atmospheres we create.


1. Thug

According to Meriam-Webster's dictionary definition, a thug is "a violent criminal." Obviously, this definition leaves the word open to define people of all ethnicities.

However, given the frequent ways this word has been used to describe Black Lives Matter protesters, the 17-year-old murder victim Trayvon Martin, and sadly, almost every black victim of police brutality — there is an undeniable racial charge to the word.

When you consider the people who are called thugs — groups of black protesters, victims of racist violence, teenagers minding their own business, and flip the racial element, you'd be hard-pressed to find examples of white people being called thugs in earnest by the media (or really by anyone).

Several prominent activists and black writers have written about the phenomenon of thug replacing the n-word in modern culture. In a popular press conference back in 2014, the Seattle Seahawks player Richard Sherman explained his feelings about the word.

"The reason it bothers me is because it seems like it's an accepted way of calling somebody the N-word now. It's like everybody else said the N-word and then they say 'thug' and that's fine. It kind of takes me aback and it's kind of disappointing because they know," Sherman said.

If you're talking about an actual criminal, there are so many descriptive words to invoke besides "thug." Given its current use as a negative, racially-coded word, avoiding its use seems like an easy and obvious move.

2. Grandfather Clause

When most of us hear the term "grandfather clause" we just think of the generalized description: a person or entity that is allowed to continue operating over now expired rules. But the literal meaning reveals the "grandfather clause" was a racist post-Reconstruction political strategy.

This is the historical definition, according to Encyclopedia Britannica:

"Grandfather clause, statutory or constitutional device enacted by seven Southern states between 1895 and 1910 to deny suffrage to African Americans. It provided that those who had enjoyed the right to vote prior to 1866 or 1867, or their lineal descendants, would be exempt from educational, property, or tax requirements for voting. Because the former slaves had not been granted the franchise until the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, those clauses worked effectively to exclude black people from the vote but assured the franchise to many impoverished and illiterate whites."

In modern speak, this basically meant the Grandfather Clause let white people off the hook for new voting requirements because their ancestors were already registered voters. Meanwhile, black people were required to fill out impossible literacy tests and pay exorbitant poll taxes to vote. This in turn, meant many black people were unable to vote, while white people weren't held to the same standard.

3. Gypsy or "Gyp"

The word "Gypsy" was (and is) a racial slur referring to the Roma people. The Roma people are descendants of Northern India who, due to severe marginalization and threats of violence by others, lived a nomadic lifestyle of forced migration for centuries.

During a fraught history, Roma people were taken as slaves in Romania and were targeted for genocide by the Nazis.

The word "Gypsy" is a slang word perpetuating stereotypes of Roma people as "thieves, rowdies, dirty, immoral, con-men, asocials, and work-shy" according to the Council of Europe.

In a similar vein, the term "Gyp" or "getting gypped" means to cheat or get conned, and many connect this meaning as another racist extension of Gypsy.

4. No Can Do

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the very common phrase "no can do" was originally made popular as a way to make fun of Chinese immigrants.

"The widespread use of the phrase in English today has obscured its origin: 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."

5. Sold Down The River

Upon first hearing, many people associate the phrase "sold down the river" with the notion of being betrayed, lied to, or otherwise screwed over. While these definitions all technically apply to the origin, the root of this phrase is much more bleak.

According to a report from NPR, being "sold down the river" was a literal reference to slavery, and the families that were torn apart in the south.

"River" was a literal reference to the Mississippi or Ohio rivers. For much of the first half of the 19th century, Louisville, Ky., was one of the largest slave-trading marketplaces in the country. Slaves would be taken to Louisville to be "sold down the river" and transported to the cotton plantations in states further south.

This heavy connotation sadly makes sense, but also makes casual use of the phrase feel way more cringe-inducing.

6. Welfare Queen

The term "welfare queen" was first popularized by Ronald Reagan's 1976 presidential campaign in which he repeatedly painted a picture of a Cadillac-driving welfare queen.

This straw woman in Reagan's campaign served as a racially-charged exaggeration of one minor case of real welfare fraud used to pedal his platform for welfare reform.

Needless to say, the term has sadly lived on as a racially-charged vehicle used to undermine the importance of welfare programs, while peddling gross stereotypes about black women.

On top of all the other offenses, this stereotype is of course ignoring the fact that poor white Americans receive the most welfare out of any economically-disadvantaged demographic.

7. Shuck And Jive

The term shuck and jive is both common and very obviously rooted in the language of slavery.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the phrase shuck and jive refers to:

"The fact that black slaves sang and shouted gleefully during corn-shucking season, and this behavior, along with lying and teasing, became a part of the protective and evasive behavior normally adopted towards white people in ' traditional' race relations."

Likewise, the modern usage of this phrase refers to pandering, selling out, or instances in which black people go along with racist white people's wishes. Again, not a phrase to be thrown around lightly.

8. Long Time No See

The very commonly used greeting "long time no see" first became popular as a way to make fun of Native Americans. The phrase was used as a way to mock a traditional greeting exchanged between Native Americans.

This is the official definition, according to the Oxford Dictionary:

"Long Time No See was originally meant as a humorous interpretation of 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’."

The act of committing genocide is not limited to human lives, but also translates to a normalized cultural violence. Deconstructing, mocking, and erasing someone's language contributes to this pattern of colonialism.

9. The Peanut Gallery

Most modern uses of the term "the peanut gallery" is in reference to a group of people who needlessly criticize or mocking another person. However, the historical roots of this term are much more racist and painful.

Originally, this term referred to the balconies in segregated theaters where black people were forced to sit. The nickname "peanut" was given due to the fact that peanuts were introduced to America at the same time as the slave trade. Because of this, there was a connection drawn between black people and peanuts.

10. Uppity

As of now, the word "uppity" is often used as a synonym for "stuck up" or "pretentious" or "conceited." But the roots of the word are far more specific and racist.

The word Uppity was first used by Southerners to refer to slaves who did not fall into line, or acted as if they "didn't know their place."

So, basically, any black person who overtly stood up to racism. Given the heaviness of this origin, it seems best to leave this word at home when looking to describe a pretentious acquaintance.

Sadly, given our ugly history, there are many more words and phrases I could add to this list. In the meantime, hopefully this list is helpful for navigating the racism innate in our language.

The article was originally published by our partners at someecards and was written by Bronwyn Isacc.


This article originally appeared on 02.04.19

Representative image from Canva

Because who can keep up with which laundry settings is for which item, anyway?

Once upon a time, our only option for getting clothes clean was to get out a bucket of soapy water and start scrubbing. Nowadays, we use fancy machines that not only do the labor for us, but give us free reign to choose between endless water temperature, wash duration, and spin speed combinations.

Of course, here’s where the paradox of choice comes in. Suddenly you’re second guessing whether that lace item needs to use the “delicates” cycle, or the “hand wash” one, or what exactly merits a “permanent press” cycle. And now, you’re wishing for that bygone bucket just to take away the mental rigamarole.

Well, you’re in luck. Turns out there’s only one setting you actually need. At least according to one laundry expert.
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Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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How often do you change your sheets?

If you were to ask a random group of people, "How often do you wash your sheets?" you'd likely get drastically different answers. There are the "Every single Sunday without fail" folks, the "Who on Earth washes their sheets weekly?!?" people and everyone in between.

According to a survey of 1,000 Americans conducted by Mattress Advisor, the average time between sheet changings or washings in the U.S. is 24 days—or every 3 1/2 weeks, approximately. The same survey revealed that 35 days is the average interval at which unwashed sheets are "gross."

Some of you are cringing at those stats while others are thinking, "That sounds about right." But how often should you wash your sheets, according to experts?

Hint: It's a lot more frequent than 24 days.

While there is no definitive number of days or weeks, most experts recommend swapping out used sheets for clean ones every week or two.

Dermatologist Alok Vij, MD told Cleveland Clinic that people should wash their sheets at least every two weeks, but probably more often if you have pets, live in a hot climate, sweat a lot, are recovering from illness, have allergies or asthma or if you sleep naked.

We shed dead skin all the time, and friction helps those dead skin cells slough off, so imagine what's happening every time you roll over and your skin rubs on the sheets. It's normal to sweat in your sleep, too, so that's also getting on your sheets. And then there's dander and dust mites and dirt that we carry around on us just from living in the world, all combining to make for pretty dirty sheets in a fairly short period of time, even if they look "clean."

Maybe if you shower before bed and always wear clean pajamas you could get by with a two-week sheet swap cycle, but weekly sheet cleaning seems to be the general consensus among the experts. The New York Times consulted five books about laundry and cleaning habits, and once a week was what they all recommend.

Sorry, once-a-monthers. You may want to step up your sheet game a bit.

What about the rest of your bedding? Blankets and comforters and whatnot?

Sleep.com recommends washing your duvet cover once a week, but this depends on whether you use a top sheet. Somewhere between the Gen X and Millennial eras, young folks stopped being about the top sheet life, just using their duvet with no top sheet. If that's you, wash that baby once a week. If you do use a top sheet, you can go a couple weeks longer on the duvet cover.

For blankets and comforters and duvet inserts, Sleep.com says every 3 months. And for decorative blankets and quilts that you don't really use, once a year washing will suffice.

What about pillows? Pillowcases should go in with the weekly sheet washing, but pillows themselves should be washed every 3 to 6 months. Washing pillows can be a pain, and if you don't do it right, you can end up with a lumpy pillow, but it's a good idea because between your sweat, saliva and skin cells, pillows can start harboring bacteria.

Finally, how about the mattress itself? Home influencers on TikTok can often be seen stripping their beds, sprinkling their mattress with baking soda, brushing it into the mattress fibers and then vacuuming it all out. Architectural Digest says the longer you leave baking soda on the mattress, the better—at least a few hours, but preferably overnight. Some people add a few drops of essential oil to the baking soda for some extra yummy smell.

If that all sounds like way too much work, maybe just start with the sheets. Pick a day of the week and make it your sheet washing day. You might find that climbing into a clean, fresh set of sheets more often is a nice way to feel pampered without a whole lot of effort.

Parents are debating over whether to give children "adult" or "baby" names.

The names we choose to give our children can significantly impact their lives. Multiple studies from across the globe have found that a person’s name can influence their employment, social and economic outcomes.

Unfortunately, humans make snap judgments about one another, and having an unusual name can lead people to make unflattering assumptions. “We’re hardwired to try to figure out in a heartbeat whether or not we want to trust somebody, whether we want to run from somebody,” Northwestern University researcher David Figlio said, according to Live Science.

However, an increasing number of parents are giving their children non-traditional names to help them stand out. “Parents are trying to be original, almost branding their kids in an era where names are viewed on the same level as Twitter handles or a website URL,” writer Sabrina Rogers-Anderson said.

Ruby, a mother on TikTok, took a hard stance on parents giving their children names that sound childish in a post that’s received over 11 million views. Ruby says she named her kids as “adults, not babies” hoping they would never “outgrow” their names.

@rubyyvillarreal

TikTok · R U B Y V I L L A R R E A L

“The whole concept when I was trying to look for a name and choose a name for her is I did not want her to outgrow her name,” she said in the viral video. “I wanted the name to fit her as a baby, as a toddler, as a child, and into adulthood. So, it's like I really am happy with what I ended up with naming her and it just fits her so well.”

She captioned the video, “love having nicknames as they are younger and it doesn’t mean they will prefer it over their name as they get older. Just gives them options.”

People in the comments responded with modern names they think that kids will outgrow.

"My name is Koazy and I’m here for a job interview," Stalker joked. "Hello sir, I am Bluey Mason Garrison! I was called in for a job interview last Tuesday," Pastel Purr added.

"I can’t imagine knowing [a] 30-year-old named Emma or Posie," Mikey wrote.

However, a lot of people commented that names that seem like they’ll be outgrown will sound fine in the future when those names are popular with the new generation. “Kids grow up with their generation having their own names on trend. They will be normal adult names when they are grown,” Kerry wrote.

“Names grow with the generation,” Lauren added. “The name Dennis sounded like a baby name once too. Names grow up just like generations.”

@rubyyvillarreal

Replying to @19eighty_5 my kids name and the process 😬 #babynames #nicknames #babytok #adultnames #momsoftiktok #momlife #momtok #pregnancytiktok #toddlersoftiktok #babyname #babyfever

In a follow-up video, Ruby shared the names she gave her children. Her girl is named Karla Esmerelda and her boy is called Deluca.

“I just really liked how simple, how bold, and strong that the name by itself just really kind of is. Doing some research names with the letter K tend to be like very bold and powerful names, so I really wanted it with a K and not with a C,” she said.

She named her son Deluca, after a doctor on “Grey’s Anatomy.” She said she chose the name because there was nothing to connect it to, and it sounded “nice.”


This article originally appeared on 4.26.23

via @5kids5catssomedogstoo/TikTok

Lynalice Bandy shares what her home looks like after working six 10-hour days and getting no help from her husband.

A viral TikTok video highlights an extreme version of inequality that many wives and mothers in heterosexual relationships face. However, the mom in this story hit her limit and won’t deal with it anymore.

Lynalice Bandy, who goes by @5kids5catssomedogstoo on TikTok, posted a video that showed her home looking like a disaster after she worked six 10-hour days straight while her husband did nothing to help.

Her time-lapse video shows every room in the house completely trashed, with toys, food and laundry scattered everywhere. "Shampoo on the carpets in the girls' room, nail polish all over Nugget covers, hair, and carpet. Scissors were used to cut hair, the down comforter, the mattress cover, and two Nugget covers," wrote the mom.

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Gen Zer's teary video after going around town with a stack of resumes gets wave of support

Gen Z often gets a bad rap in the workforce. But job hunting is difficult right now, regardless of your age.

Canva

People couldn't help but feel for a young woman who broke down in tears after going around town with a stack of resumes.

It can be easy to write-off younger generations as entitled, lazy and unwilling to work hard, without taking into account the very real challenges being faced.

Just like their “whiny millennial” predecessors, Gen Zers often find themselves in this predicament—unable to land a job, much less one that reflects their personal values, all while being labeled as“difficult” for wanting something better.

But the truth is, even hard-working people are struggling right now. That goes for people who are employed (many of whom are living paycheck-to-paycheck, despite having well-paying jobs) and those looking for employment.
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