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News Analysis Nov 30, 2021 11:39 AM EST

CBC gives list of 'problematic' language people should censor from their speech

Ghetto, blackmail, gypped, powwow, crippled, blind spot, first-world problem, lame, spirit animal, and several other words were broken down by anti-racism activists in a new CBC article.

CBC gives list of 'problematic' language people should censor from their speech
Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal, QC

A new list of words compiled by CBC Ottawa was broken down by "anti-racism and language experts" in an article released on Tuesday, with many of the terms being rather innocuous.

Experts noted that using these words "doesn't automatically make you a bad person," as the racist etymologies are not obvious in most cases.

"It's not so much about political correctness, I think it is about the empirical accuracy and ... if somebody really calls us out on a particular word, we need to stop and say, 'It's not about me,'" said Ottawa-based consultant Jas Kalra.

Anti-racism trainer Joseph Smith said that the terms are not all negative, but some terms like "blackmail" and "blacklist" use black in a negative way that lowers the status of black people. "[It] connotes evil, distrust, lack of intelligence, ignorance, a lack beauty — the absence of white."

The CBC lists several words in their article, including: Ghetto, blackmail gypped, powwow, crippled, blind spot, first-world problem, lame, spirit animal, grandfathered in, tone deaf, blindsided, black sheep, tribe, spooky, savage, brainstorm, and to sell someone down the river.

Terms like "ghetto" and "inner city" have clear historical negative connotations, said Smith, saying that "Ghettos and inner cities were typically seen to be places where less refined people lived — the people who weren't up to date culturally, development-wise" while suburbs were seen as the safer counter-part to inner cities.

The term spooky, apparently, also has negative connotations related to race, as the term "spook" was used during World War II to refer to black soldiers.

The term "grandfathered in" meanwhile should not be used due to its connection to a 19th century policy which "indirectly stopped Black Americans from voting by limiting eligibility to only those whose ancestors could vote." The phrase also re-enforces the patriarchy.

"A patriarchic family having supreme power over how things operate and manifest, and them possessing all the power and autonomy to make decisions and dictate the course of the future," said Smith.

"It's re-inscribing the idea of a male-dominated society or world."

Terms like "lowest on the totem pole" and "savage," as well as "spirit animal," "powwow," and "tribe," should all also be blacklisted from everyday use. "Savage" was even called the Indigenous "N-word" by educator Douglas Stewart.

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