Published On: Mon, Nov 30th, 2020

‘Woke folk’ strike again? Eyerolls after UK uni students call for banning the word ‘black’ as a negative adjective

Undergraduates at the University of Manchester have suggested that restrictions be placed on the word ‘black’ after a report published by the institution said that some minority students complained about “divisive” language.

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The university recently carried out a review of issues specific to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff and faculty. One section of the report, citing feedback from “some black students,” said that there were “linguistic concerns about Black being associated with negative expressions” such as “blackmail” and “black sheep.” The document described the terms as “divisive and not inclusive.”

According to the Telegraph, the university’s students’ union recommended that such terms and “any other use of the word ‘black’ as an adjective to express negative connotations” should be prohibited in research papers, lecture slides, and books published by professors. The student group claims that there is a “colonial history” attached to using black as an adjective, and that the practice should be done away with, especially following the ascendance of the global Black Lives Matter movement. 

As the British paper points out, the allegedly racist roots of the word are disputed by experts. 

Lexicographer Jonathon Green told the outlet that “identity politics” has warped the true etymology of ‘black’ as an adjective that “simply wasn’t there at the moment of coinage.”

Armchair observers on social media also expressed near-unanimous disapproval of the alleged proposed prohibition. Several replies to the article mourned for the future. 

“There is no hope for this or the coming generations,” lamented one Twitter user. Another comment scorned the “woke folk” behind the ban as “painful.”

Although most of the online disgust was directed at the university’s students, some argued that young people had been indoctrinated by teachers, resulting in such extreme language policing.

The University of Manchester is far from the only UK educational institution to mull such radical reforms. In September, Bristol University vowed to crack down on “diet culture and fatphobia” language in sports after its students’ union warned that certain phrases promoted “thin privilege” and caused eating disorders.

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