“Blacklisting” the word blacklist


I came across the Antiracist Word Finder. It’s a useful, crowdsourced list. One can quibble with one or two of the suggestions, but it’s pretty solid. The attempt is “to surface how racism is embedded in everyday English-speaking life.

One of the words on the AVOID list is blacklist. The definition is “a list of people or things that are regarded as unacceptable or untrustworthy and should be excluded or avoided.” When I was growing up, it was a word that vaguely gave me discomfort.

But it wasn’t until the prevalence of whitelist in this more technological period that it really started to bug me. Whitelisting is a term for the “practice of explicitly allowing some identified entities access to a particular privilege, service, mobility, access or recognition.” Ha! “Privilege” right there in the definition!

The Word Finder suggests Blocklist / Allowlist for data security. Wikipedia mentions ‘allow list’ and ‘deny list’. “While the term ‘black’ is race-neutral, it is linked to European duality of evil vs good (or dark vs light). Google and other tech companies plan to phase them out.”

As a term for trade barrier, Word Finder chooses Exclude / Include over Blacklist / Whitelist. “In some cases, ‘embargo’ is appropriate. For a list, a business or country that is offsides with humanitarian issues might be better excluded from a roster of reputable groups.”

Synonyms for blackmail

The Word Finder also excises blackmail. It prefers coercion or extortion. I’m not that fond of the term coercion in this context, as there are lots of ways to coerce, such as a physical threat. Blackmail is a specific subset of extortion, I suppose, less precise but also less problematic.

Exaction? “The action of demanding and obtaining something from someone, especially a payment or service.” But it lacks the part about the potential embarrassment.

I’ll tell you the truth. As a black male, I have disliked the homophone blackmail for a very long time. So maybe we need a new term. Do you have one?

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