It isn’t just about the protests you see happening, the policy changes being implemented or the new diversity boards being created. It takes each one of us to do the individual work to do better and be better.
At AHLOT, we believe we can also do better -- Offer more representation and support for our Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) community members, be active voices for - diversity, anti-racism and LGBTQ2+ inclusion and truly be leaders of equality in this industry. We want to challenge our followers, partners, our CCC team and our AHLOT Team to always dig further and push for “A Higher Level of Thought”.
This terminology blog is to help educate all of us on everyday words and phrases that have racist connotations. It will highlight and explain terms that should not be used in the cannabis industry and beyond, with suggested alternatives so we can all continue to grow in this space together.
“Education is the fundamental element of change - if we want to see a brighter tomorrow for our BIPOC community - it must start with the hard work today….for all of us” - Kween
1. Black Market
Some say the term "black market" came from the deep era of illegal slave auctions in South Carolina in the 1800's. It literally, in its most simple terms, was a way to describe a market at which Black people were kidnapped, purchased, sold and traded for low value to white owners.
There is other evidence that points to an era during the Medieval Times within Britain, subjective to knights and jousting matches. While not race based, it was still used negatively as a space to sell back the loser his armour. After 400+ years of racism, discrimination and systemic oppression, the term has only grown in negativity. It’s used as a way to speak on an illegal industry bound by colonial structure and disproportionate incarceration of the BIPOC community, especially our Black men.
The overuse of this term, even in 2020, despite its racist histories, shows the socially unconscious space of the cannabis industry. Many doing the work, both BIPOC and allies inclusive, have advocated for this term to be scratched from our cannabis vocabulary.
Alternatives: Illicit market, legacy market, illegal market
2. Marijuana or “Marihauna”
It’s a long-standing debate in the cannabis world - but there really is only one winner. We have to check ourselves for some of the most commonly used terms in the cannabis space. "Marijuana", by far, has to be the most misused word we see in the 420 terminology world. Despite all the years of education already out there on this word, many people aren’t aware of the history of the term "marijuana". Did you know that this word was linked to campaigns in the U.S. in the 1930s to demonize the plant by associating it with Mexican immigrants? Thus leading to the War on Drugs which significantly contributed to racial inequity, lynchings and police brutality. Not to mention that cannabis arrests have disproportionately affected minorities since then.
Alternatives: Cannabis, weed, use the strain name or product name
3. Long Time, No See
Much like "no can do" which was originally made popular as a way to make fun of Chinese immigrants, “Long Time, No See” is also a big NO! While it may be tempting to greet the co-worker you haven’t seen for months over lock down with this phrase, "Long Time No See'' was originally seen as a humorous interpretation of a Native American greeting, used after a prolonged separation. Truly not humorous at all. Coined from both the British and the Americans, who came and stole from their land, took their women and children, this term was, and is still, used to mock individuals in communities where English is not the first language.
Alternatives: It has been so long! I have missed you. Haven't seen you in forever!
“Thug” is a race-code word that fuels anti-Black racism. Sadly, our own Mayor John Tory once called young African-Canadian men “thugs and sewer rats”. Words such as “thug”, “gangster” or the commonly used “n***a” are only words directed at Black people as a way to demean them for white public views, to justify mass incarcerations, and as recently seen, the excuse of police murder of Black bodies. Modern day activists have spoken to the word “thug”, calling it the new n-word of our day. These words are used to destroy the BIPOC community in almost every space, from music to cannabis, and associates BIPOC communities with crime. Which is far from correct. Black does not equal struggle.
Alternatives: criminal, accused
5. The "Itis"
After a Christmas Dinner, or Easter Lunch - we have all experienced it when we eat too much, especially if the eating was induced by some heavy munchies. More commonly known as a food coma - the “itis” is a phrase that directly suggests the stereotype of laziness. This stereotype has been associated with the African community, then Caribbean, Indigenous, and Latinex. This term actually stems from a longer, highly more offensive word “n****ritis”. Not only is this a slur but it's violent, dehumanizing and anti-black.
Alternatives: Full, stuffed, over-ate
Not that long ago, in 2011, Michelle Obama was called just that - “uppity”. It’s not that uncommon for a white person to use the term “uppity” to describe their Black counterpart. In fact, during Segregation, white, racist Southerners used "uppity" to describe Black people "who didn't know their place,". Although this term originated within the Black community, the white Southerners quickly stole this word to describe those they believed violated the white expectation.
Alternatives: Arrogant, conceited, pretentious
7. Master Bedroom
We all love this room in the house, perfect for a sesh with friends - everyone wants the master bedroom, master bathroom, master CLOSET! Typically this refers to the largest bedroom in the house, and is often accompanied by a private bathroom. First appearing in a Sears’ catalog in 1926 to feature a Colonial home, master bedrooms became implemented into the majority of current buildings. Now, nearly 40% of properties include this space within the home. While it is unclear whether the term is rooted in American slavery, we can see it invokes the master versus slave mentality of the 1920’s.
Alternatives: Primary, main
8. Spirit Animal
You probably have taken a BuzzFeed quiz to find out what spirit animal you are. We all have. A way to find out what animal you strongly identify with. But it is not ours to claim. Using “spirit animal” to refer to something you love or identify with is a form of cultural appropriation. Some Native American tribes believe in “spirit animals” or “totems,” which are spirits that guide and protect. The popularity of appropriation of the Indigenous culture, such as dreamcatchers, has reached a high point - we see more and more people who know nothing about the spiritual tradition beyond an online quiz. While we're here, describing your group of gals as a “tribe” and having mini “pow-wows” is also a no-no. Lastly, we should re-consider referring to our leaders of the police force as “Chief” - as it's an honourable title reserved for leaders of Indigenous communities.
Alternatives: Patronus (from Harry Potter), inner guide
9. Peanut Gallery
While it sounds like a delicious place to see peanut butter art, it is far from that. We hear our friends during a smoke and debate, or maybe even over a family holiday dinner, use it; “Becky - Tom - that’s enough from the Peanut Gallery”. However, this phrase actually intends to cause harm. While it references unsolicited opinions or gossipy behaviour, in reality, the "peanut gallery" phrase refers to a lower level section in theaters (usually the cheapest and worst) where many Black people sat during the era of Vaudeville. An era in itself that is so blatantly wrapped in racism we would need a whole separate blog. Because we were not in the days of food allergies, peanuts were often sold at shows and thrown at unpopular acts as a way to oppress the caricaturization of Black people - see term “black face” (another DO NOT USE word).
Alternatives: Commentator, critic
10. Black Sheep, Black List, Black Book, Black Mail, Black Spot, Black Magic etc etc etc …..
All of it is awful. Look at it this way - everyday English language reminds the BIPOC community that our colour is related directly to negative connotations. Extortion (blackmail), disrepute (black mark), rejection (blackball), banishment (blacklist), blocked (blacklist) and so on. These notions on black or “darkness” while praising whiteness or “lightness” just shows how intentional the English language has been to degrade our BIPOC communities.
These words are just starting points to the long list of inappropriate words we use day to day in the English language. Not just racist, but sexist, biased and just plain ignorant. It is time to stay accountable to ourselves to watch the words we use. Understanding the terminology, etymology, phrases, micro-aggressions and, let's be honest, the colonial systems that be, are so valuable for use to move forward in unity.
Oh and don’t forget - watch what you say.