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Are English Dictionaries racist?

Updated on November 20, 2019
Sunil Rajpal profile image

I don't write to write. I write on and for causes that matter.

It is extremely painful.

Upon flipping through an English Dictionary, I came across the word Black. 'dark, depressive, threatening, hopeless, oppressive,gloomy,ominous, diabolical,menacing,hostile - these are the words which the English Dictionaries tell us mean the same as ‘black’.

Right now under the definition of ‘black’ English dictionaries give the following examples:

  • "a ship that was declared black by the union"
  • ‘"my soul is steeped in the blackest sin"’;
  • ‘I was looking on the black side and thought I would get a sentence of five years’;
  • ‘Robert's character could surely not be as black as Dawn had painted’;
  • 'got a black mark for being late'
  • "a black deed"

These examples portray the colour black in negative light. How can one associate a colour with so much of negativity and particularly when a community of the same colour and only because of the colour of their skin has been suffering since times immemorial?

Black Vs White

English Dictionaries don't stop here; they call Black "the opposite of white" and according to dictionaries white mean same as "virtuous, moral, ethical, good, righteous, angelic, saintly, pious, honourable, reputable,clean, honest, upright, upstanding, exemplary, above reproach, beyond reproach, irreproachable, innocent
decent, worthy, noble, blameless, guiltless, sinless, stainless, spotless, immaculate, impeccable, unsullied, unblemished, unspoiled, unaffected, uncorrupted, untainted, undefiled"

This is astonishing to see such discrimination by reputable sources like University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Merriam-Webster for they have great influence in setting norms around English language. These racist definitions have become widespread because online search engines license the use of dictionaries from these sources for their definitions.

This can influence the way black people are spoken about. So, we must take a serious step towards reducing the harm English language is causing Black community, and this starts with the dictionary.

Should institutions like University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Merriam-Webster portray black this way? What message do they send across to black kids about their identity and expectations for the future? If we want to create an equal society, we need language that is completely free of discrimination.

Let's fight this discrimination

I have filed a petition with change. org asking University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Merriam-Webster to:

Eliminate all phrases and definitions that discriminate against and patronise black and/or connote white’s superiority over black; Together, we can succeed in removing the offensive and damaging definition of black from the dictionary.

I hope you support me and join my campaign! Please sign this petition and take the first steps towards a fairer and a less discriminating world.

Thank you!

Black is Bright too. #BIB2 #BlackIsAsGoodAsWhite

Black is Bright too

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