There’s a New Code Word for ‘Black’



In an essay at the Washington Post, Damon Young recounts the many, many examples of “coded language” and euphemisms that have emerged over the years to refer to Black people like himself. Think “urban,” inner city,” “marginalized,” and on and on. A newer entry in his view is CRT, short for Critical Race Theory. “You have Black teachers, Black administrators or Black school board members? That’s CRT,” he writes. “Black authors in your curriculum? CRT.” His essay, however, focuses on a different modern entry: “woke.” Young traces how the word has morphed from the 1990s, through the Obama administration, and into our present vernacular.

“Today, ‘woke’ is mostly used by the right to signify the presence of Black people (or women) where they didn’t expect them to be,” writes Young. “To them, the world is one big birthday cake, with a surprise crouched inside of it, ready to burst, and they’re expecting Kenny Chesney but they get Pusha T.” Surely, “woke” will be replaced soon by another, and Young is curious about what it will be. He notes some words, such as “ghetto,” end up being retired from duty. And he floats a provocative suggestion from “the source material, where racists don’t have to twist themselves into bigoted little knots. Just say n—-r with your chest.” Think that’s too offensive? “Whatever. Who’s the snowflake now?” Read the full essay. (Read more language stories.)

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