Code Words

“I felt threatened” and “he resisted” and “she did not comply” and “he matched the description” and “I was afraid for my life” are modern-day code words that give white supremacy a secure, reliable foothold in this generation, free of all accountability and justice. Tweet by Jen Hatmaker on May 26, 2020

Some code words are used for propaganda (e.g. “Anti-Racist is code for Anti-White” has been used by White Supremacist groups.)  Politicians use code words all the time:

  • Inner City” means Black Impoverished Desperation (and is used to scare/warn White People)
  • Urban Renewal” was used in the mid-20th Century by developers concerned about White Flight to the suburbs.  The purported reasoning was that “urban blight” was being destroyed to bring in new development.  The actual reasoning was to displace even prosperous African American neighbors to accomodate the dominant culture.  (See Brooklyn Village, Charlotte.)

Words not only help us plainly communicate to each other.  They also reveal our own biases – even if we do not realize it.  All of us use code words – Black, Brown, White, Old, Young, Straight, Gay.

Karen” has become a code word for clueless White Woman.  (And I suspect that “Amy Cooper” will become the clueless White Woman who calls 911.)

Serena” has been used meaning  Black female shopper in at least one high end store.

Pro-Life” and “Pro-Choice” are code words used to counter each other, as if being “Pro-Life” and “Pro-Choice” are mutually exclusive.  Being “Pro-Life” – as we have seen politically over the past few years – can mean “Anti-Abortion” without regard for the lives of immigrants, refugees, and the poor.

Evangelical” has long been a code word for something Jesus would not recognize.  The politicization of that word surely makes Jesus weep.

Becoming aware of the words we use is not about political corrrectness.  It’s about how we share misinformation and racial bias.  Speaking words that convey what’s authentic and true is a spiritual practice that I need to work on.  Maybe we all do.

Image of a high frequency dog whistle.

2 responses to “Code Words

  1. Rev. Gavin D. Meek

    I appreciate this blog and this particular addition! Thank you Jan.

    Liked by 1 person


    Thanks, Jan!


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