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Mike’s Musings: Culturally insensitive – these words, phrases are banned

I recently obtained a list of words that a certain company is demanding their employees cannot use, or they will be subject to dismissal. The list was passed on to me after the confidential informant attended a diversity training seminar she was told she must attend.
One of the targets of these diversity training programs is the “old white man.” In their view we are ignorant and racist. We are the reason minorities have not excelled as they should in America. To them we are evil and should be banished from power and authority.
AS AN ASIDE it is amazes me that these diversity experts condemn the old white man, but their preferred political candidate for president is an octogenarian that embodies everything they preach against. Are we preaching out of both sides of our mouth?
Anyway, here’s the words this corporation will not allow their employees to say:
BLESSED- Religious language should only be used as it relates to your personal experience and AVOIDED in general statements.
CAKEWALK- Cakewalks originated with enslavers on plantations.
CRAZY, NUTS, INSANE, PSYCHO- These are offensive to those with mental illnesses.
DOING THE LORD’S WORK- We cannot assume that those we converse with are Christian, therefore such phrase may be offensive to Muslims, Jews etc..
DRINKING THE KOOL-AID- This phrase comes from the Jonestown massacre where hundreds of cult followers drank spiked Kool-Aid and died. Because of that this term is derogatory towards those that survived.
DUMMY- This term originated for those that couldn’t speak and therefore is derogatory towards the speech impaired.
HANDICAP- A handicap is a barrier thus makes success difficult to achieve. The proper term is disability which is the result of a medically definable condition that limits a person’s movement. AS AN ASIDE- can you imagine the cost to change all handicap signs?
HE/SHE- Avoid specific pronouns because they might not reflect the person’s true gender identity.
HOLD DOWN THE FORT- Originated from settlers who protected their fort against Native Americans, therefore derogatory to Native Americans.
HOOLIGAN- Considered an ethnic slur back in Victorian England days against the Irish.
INDIAN GIVER- Depicts Native Americans as deceitful. Also refers to settler times, when Indians gave their land to settlers, when it was actually stolen and now want it back.
LONG TIME NO SEE- This phrase originated in the late 1800’s to mock the speech of minorities.
LOW MAN ON THE TOTEM POLE- Culturally demeaning to indigenous sacred art and culture.
MASTER BEDROOM- This is an oppressive metaphor that is unwelcoming and harmful language due to its slavery connotation.
NITTY GRITTY- Origins are from European slave trade days.
NO CAN DO- This phrase became popular in the 18th Century as a way to ridicule Chinese immigrants and the way they spoke.
PRAY FOR RAIN OR SNOW- Religious statements should be avoided in personal statements.
TRIBE- This word is often used in the outdoor industry as a group of people, or a team, but it is culturally in appropriate.
TRIGGERED- Using this word trivializes mental illness.
This is only a portion of the words and phrases this particular company will not allow their employees to speak. Is it right? I hardly think so. The meanings of particular words or phrases that were used a hundred years ago have changed over time. What NO CAN DO, a phrase I use a lot, means now is nothing like its meaning 150 years ago.
Needless to say, I would flunk this seminar. Probably the first words out of my mouth would get me fired. I guess I am that culturally insensitive “old white man.” Shame on me.

11 Replies to “Mike’s Musings: Culturally insensitive – these words, phrases are banned

  1. Funny how these things can never be verified. When you actually have something real to bitch about get back to me. Otherwise keep your “confidential informants” to yourself.

      1. Is that the best you can do? A page from something explaining racism (you might want to read that) and another that says nothing about banning words or phrases. You are a sad family. Laughable but sad.

        1. Hello Mr. Ball,

          You can call the screenshots whatever you want, but this is what was sent to us, and this is what his column was based on. I also only sent you two screenshots of the nine we have. One that I omitted was the cover page, which explains that the words listed in the document are banned from our informant’s workplace. I would’ve sent you that, but it had the company logo on it, and we promised her not to reveal such information.

          Now, if you want to argue that the whole document is insignificant or uninteresting, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion. However, we, and it looks like all of the other commenters, think that it’s outrageous to ban such commonly used words from our everyday lives – especially for such frivolous reasons as their loose association with racially indicative language or their antiquated slang meanings.

          1. Jordan – You posted a picture of a portion of a page that explained racism. Informative but nothing other than that and, truthfully, if people already didn’t know it they’re probably racist. The second was a list of phrases that I presume you highlighted. Nowhere does anything lead to losing your job if you said them. Nameless sources have no credibility. Having spent 35 years in management it would appear to me to be a diversity training course that every major corporation has their employees go through as well as sexual harassment training. In no way does it support anything resembling your dad’s claims of “here’s the words this corporation will not allow their employees to say”. So please enlighten me as to where the “threats” to employees is. I do agree that many of the phrases may be hurtful to others but evidently that’s not a priority for you.

  2. If more people spent time living and relating in third world countries, there might be a greater awareness here that our society is becoming a nation of oversensitive narcissists. There are many more significant issues to focus on than the constant re-defining of words. The genuine cruelties and injustices in our world are oblivious to pronoun arguments and whether one person or another is offended by a term that is used to communicate a thought which is unrelated to a possible unkind origin. We can be too distracted by looking for monsters in closets, and inventing them where they don’t exist, as a way to justify fear and suspicion.
    Rodney King shared some wisdom when he said, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

  3. When you know better, you do better. So, even though some phrases and words might have been “acceptable” when we were growing up and “felt” like euphamisms ( I have six decades to speak from and some parents and grandparents who used some inappropriate/racist language that even as a child, I cringed when I heard it). I guess I prefer “used without understanding the origin” versus “what used to be “acceptable”- acceptable by whom?, people who had power and control and all the freedom? We need a little more education, and empathy. I don’t come from the perspective that MIke does most days,. But I read his columns. This one on the words banned at the company, I am thankful he printed it. I will be more mindful about words that flow from me. I shared the article with friends and family. “No can do”, seemed inocuous enough I may have even said it a time or two, but thanks to the article I know more. Just because people say it doesn’t mean it’s right or kind. We EVOLVE as a species, so hopefully we get smarter as we age and more culturally aware and sensitive. I am not Chinese, Black, mentally ill, or Native American, but I honor their experiences and their histories and I commit to not using the phrases in the article. Thank you Mike.

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