ICYMI: My Weekly Newsletter
Stop Using Blacklist Please! why it is important to use more inclusive language

I was shocked and disappointed when I heard the Australian Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, refer to a ‘blacklist’ on ABC TV recently.

tweeted a question about why the Treasurer felt it was OK to use the expression “blacklist” on our national broadcaster. I was disappointed, but not at all surprised that I did not receive a single response to my tweet, with the exception of a couple of trolls who were promptly dispatched to the report/block/delete pile. 

I wasn’t surprised because I’m still not seeing enough conversations about deeply embedded racism in Australia that all too regularly manifests itself in the language and behaviours of our society. The same lazy and unforgivable language and behaviours cause terrible ongoing harm to First Nations people and People of Colour in Australia, and across the world.    

Blacklist Is Just a Word!

Irrespective of my commentary on the Treasurer’s language and the current governments overall performance, this language is an issue. Why?  Because continuing use of this language in society is playing into and perpetuating racial stereotypes. Example:

Black = bad

White = good

I know some people might say but it’s just a word!  And I know that some people reading this, and others who never will,  might think that this is a silly, unnecessary issue. But I can guarantee that this is a real issue because words do hurt.  

Every single one of us has been hurt by words at some point in our life. Think of the worst thing someone has said to you and how bad it made you feel. Now try and imagine hearing that same insult or derogatory term in reference to your identity, every single day.  Try my Walk a Mile activity to get a sense of how people from a different demographic to you are impacted by harmful language.

“Business as usual amounts to racism”

Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services), University of Sydney

Anyway, if it’s just a word, then lets change it (them), because retaining the status quo is quite simply racist. 

Better Words to Use Than Blacklist (or Whitelist)

Some big companies have started to take steps to remove terms like blacklist, whitelist, master and slave. There is also movement, albeit slow but gradual, to remove and replace these terms in coding.  I reckon humans can address their own ‘coding’ too by committing to learning and using more inclusive language. For example: 

Blacklist is now Blocklist

Whitelist is now Safelist

If you’re like me, and what to unlearn some of the language that we’ve grown up with and then relearn more inclusive language, then tap into the resources I have discovered below. And do let me know if you find any others, or have any suggestions about making the world a more inclusive place where all humans can reach their full potential.  And finally, a quote that I really like:

“Communication is not what you say, but how it’s heard.”

Niel de la Rouviere

Resources for More Inclusive Language

Inclusive Language Guide: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Inclusive Language Guide: Culturally and Linguistically Diverse People

Inclusive Language Guide: LGBTIQA+

Inclusive Language Guide: Disability

An Incomplete Guide to Inclusive Language for Start-ups and Tech

Inclusive Language Support for Slack

How Slack can help you “call-in” non-inclusive language

About Me

Everything I do is grounded in my personal mission and purpose to contribute to creating a gender-equal world in both sport and business. I want my son and daughter, my nieces and nephews to inhabit a world where women and girls are valued and respected and equal. I want them to inhabit a world where men and boys can rid themselves of the shackles of toxic masculinity. I want them to live in a world where every human, no matter how they identify, can reach their full potential.

About Advancing Women

We are an Australian based, globally focussed, research, consulting and advisory firm. Assisting clients in both sport and industry to move workplace gender equality, diversity and inclusion goals from conversation to action. Contact us for a confidential conversation about how to do this in your organisation.