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Racism and Marketing: Look with new eyes at what you are communicating

As we see a new awareness towards systemic racism in the US, new standards have come up around communication. Racist, sexist, and offensive terms and phrases have embedded themselves in the American lexicon. In terms of communication, this means it is time to take a look at your websites, newsletters, ads and social media. The public now expects organizations to have a sense of social responsibility, and act with a certain level of awareness.


Plenty of other everyday words and phrases have had their racist origins from long ago. As long as we’re reevaluating the racist barrier, our communication deserves special scrutiny. Kendi writes that the antiracist is “one who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.” Now is the time….

Terms mired in slavery:


Racist brands are ending from Uncle Ben’s to Aunt Jemina. But terms and phrases mired in slavery still persist, such as master bedrooms in houses and blacklists or whitelists in e-mail. These terms are hurtful, and should be replaced. Saying "sold down the river" is a painful reference to slavery in America, for example, and avoiding it is not cancelling - but being sensitive that some terms are not needed.


We know not to say lynch mob, but what about the use of cakewalk - as its roots is a forced dance performed by enslaved Black people on plantations pre-Civil War for the entertainment of white people.


As for grandfather in, the origin is a grandfather clause common in Southern states during Reconstruction to suppress black people from voting.


I still wince when a white person says that of a Black person, They are so articulate as if they are surprised — and that is a pretty awful concept.


And then we have the peanut gallery that refers to Black people — who were forced to sit in the "cheap" seats in the segregated Vaudeville era. And, even the term” food coma" can recall a hateful stereotype of laziness associated with African Americans.



Hateful phrases:


Obviously avoid Indian summer, but Hip hip hooray? Not so innocent, as some say the saying comes from to anti-Semitic demonstrations in Germany in the 19th century. Germans cheered "hep hep," a German herding call, as Jews were forced out of their homes

Gyp is a shortened term for "gypsy" — the Romani — and wrongly implies that they are all thieves.


Eskimo comes from a Danish word taken from Algonquin, another example of a non-Natives cultural appropriation, And, that's why the brand Eskimo Pie is no more.


The same is true of spirit animal. For some Indigenous people, though, the phrase refers to spirits who “help guide or protect a person on a journey and whose characteristics that person shares or embodies,” so casual usage of the term by non-Natives cultural appropriation. And drop off the reservation for obvious reasons along with circling the wagons.


And, hopeful mocking Confucius jokes are long gone, as should be. And, no can do came up in the 19th century to mock Chinese immigrants’ speech patterns - just like long time no see. Best just not to use it.



Ibram X. Kendi wrote that “a racist idea is any idea that suggests one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group in any way. Racist ideas argue that the inferiorities and superiorities of racial groups explain racial inequities in society.”


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