It’s Black History Month. A time to reflect on your own actions and level of privilege. Part creating a more inclusive society means intentional communication. Our words hold power, so use them appropriately! Here are six words and phrases you may have not known are historically racist.

1. The Itis

More commonly known as “food coma”, the itis is used to describe the lethargic feeling you get after eating a big meal. The word originated directly from the word “n—–itis”, alluding to the stereotype that Black people are lazy and unhealthy.

2. Uppity

Racist Southerners used ” Uppity” during Segregation for describing Black people who “didn’t know their place”. According to The Atlantic, the word was often followed by n—–. In 2011, radio announcer Rush Limbaugh said Michelle Obama was booed at an event because she showed “uppity-ism”.

3. Peanut Gallery

“Peanut gallery” was a phrase used in late 19th century France to describe the section of a theatre’s cheapest – and worst – seats, typically filled by Black people. But why peanut? Peanuts were brought over to America during the slave trade, thus being associated with Black people.

4. Eeenie-Meenie-Miney-Moe

It may seem like an innocent nursery rhyme, but its origins aren’t. As shown in Rudyard Kipling’s 1935 book, Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides, the original line had tiger replaced with n—–.

5. Fuzzy Wuzzy

The term was first used in the 1800s by British colonists as a derogatory reference to an East African tribe. Cedric Burrows, author of Rhetorical Crossover: The Black Rhetorical Presence in White Culture, explained to ABC News that it later became a racist way to refer to the natural texture of non-white hair.

6. Sold Down the River

The “river” is a reference to Mississippi and Ohio rivers. As NPR reports, for the first half of the 19th century, Louisville, Kentucky was home to one of the largest slave-trading markets. Slaves would be taken to Louisville and literally “sold down the river” to cotton plantations, which in most cases served as a death sentence.


Filed under: Black History Month