The words and phrases permeate nearly every aspect of our society.
"Master bedrooms" in our homes. "Blacklists" and "whitelists" in computing. The idiom "sold down the river" in our everyday speech.
Many are so entrenched that Americans don't think twice about using them. But some of these terms are directly rooted in the nation's history with chattel slavery. Others now evoke racist notions about Black people.
"Words like 'slave' and' master' are so folded into our vocabulary and almost unconsciously speak to the history of racial slavery and racism in the US," says Elizabeth Pryor, an associate professor of history at Smith College.
But America's reckoning with systemic racism is now forcing a more critical look at the language we use. And while the offensive nature of many of these words and phrases has long been documented, some institutions are only now beginning to drop them from the lexicon.
In real estate
Master bedrooms/bathrooms: A master bedroom typically refers to the largest bedroom in the house, often accompanied by a private bathroom.
Nationally, 42% of current property listings on Zillow use the term "master" in reference to a bedroom or a bath. The phrase "master bedroom" first appeared in the 1926 Sears catalog, according to the real estate blog Trelora. It was a feature of a $4,398 Dutch colonial home, the most expensive in the catalog, referring to a large second floor bedroom with a private bathroom.
In computer technology
Master/slave: Tech engineers use these terms to describe components of software and hardware in which one process or device controls another.
The terms have been around for decades, and they've long raised concerns.
In 2014, the programming language Drupal replaced "master/slave" terminology with "primary/replica." Django opted to use "leader/follower." Python, one of the most popular programming languages in the world, eliminated the terms in 2018.
Blacklist/whitelist: In tech, a blacklist refers to a directory of specific elements, such as email addresses, IP addresses or URLs, that are blocked. A whitelist, by contrast, is made up of elements that are allowed.
The Masters Tournament: It's one of the four major tournaments on the PGA tour and is usually called simply, "the Masters." The history of the name goes back to 1934, when the tournament was first held at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. Clifford Roberts, one of the co-founders, wanted to call the event the "Masters Tournament," according to the tournament's website. But co-founder Bobby Jones rejected the idea over concerns that it was too "presumptuous."
In the arts Peanut gallery: The phrase typically refers to the cheapest seats in a theater, and is informally used to describe critics or hecklers. When someone says "no comments from the peanut gallery," it implies that a certain group of commentators is rowdy or uninformed.
In law Grandfathered in: This legal term broadly refers to the "grandfather clause" adopted by seven Southern states during the Reconstruction Era.
Cakewalk: It's what we call an easy victory, or something that's easily accomplished. The cakewalk originated as a dance performed by enslaved Black people on plantations before the Civil War. It was intended to be a mockery of the way White people danced, though plantation owners often interpreted slaves' movements as unskillful attempts to be like them.
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