The SDMB needs to have a banned words list

In a thread in IMHO about the new Martin Luther King statue in Boston I used the word “uppity.” @puzzlegal put in a mod note saying:

  1. I had NO idea that this word had racist baggage associated with it. NONE AT ALL. If you want to say I am stupid…fine. I really did not know. I use the word so rarely I cannot remember ever using it before.

  2. Context. Context, context, context. There is no reading of what I wrote that is racist. Instead, the mod saw “a word that is naughty” and pounced with no regard for its use. The word was meant to mean “snobbish” which is its primary definition in the dictionary and how it was used. Context matters I think.

  3. My posting history should count for something. 20+ years of posting. I have made many mistakes. I am willing to bet the mods have a file of my transgressions. But whatever they are, racism is not one. Being accused of it is offensive to me.

What worries me is a seeming “bad word list” that will get people in trouble. My use of “uppity” was clearly not racist but people saw the word and that was the end of it. They did not read it as snobbish as was clear in context…they saw a “bad word” and pounced.

Certainly some words are too fraught to be used (like the “n-word”) but “uppity” is a bridge too far?

If I (and everyone) are to be held accountable for “bad words” then the SDMB should post a list of words that cannot be used. I literally had no idea I was using a “bad word” but, here I am.

Well given that most folks are very aware that the ‘n-word’ follows uppity like a conjoined twin…

How? Where?

I am not kidding I was unaware until this.

You’ve never heard the phrase ‘uppity nigger’?

Sure. But lots of adjectives can come before the n-word. I didn’t see that as unique. Are we to ban any word that has come before the n-word?


You just said “uppity nigger.” Should we ignore the context and just jump on you for using the n-word? Or, should we consider the…wait for it…context?

(I was expecting a ‘Hey I wasn’t calling them uppity, I was saying they were accusing me of being uppity!’ as if that would not be worse. Instead we get both that you’ve never heard the phrase and you’re aware of it…)

I’m aware of it now.

The harsh mod note was appropriate imo - its tone was determined by how well known it is that this word has strong racist baggage. You cannot reasonably expect the strength of the reaction to be conditioned by your inexplicable state of ignorance about that (you’re American, right?). And it was just a note, not a warning.

A slight injustice to you was that if you read the exchange carefully, it appears that you are evoking a hypothetical other person calling you uppity for saying that the statue doesn’t look like MLK and Coretta. So I suppose that’s a fraction less bad than directly calling someone else uppity. But that’s a minor point - the issue was how jarring it was to see the word used in any way in the context of that thread.

Reading what I wrote did you see any racist tone? How did you parse what I wrote? What was “uppity” in reference to?

Also, if “uppity” is a “bad word” that is not allowed on the SDMB then shouldn’t we have a “bad word” list?

I think I understood exactly what you meant. There was nothing racist in the underlying commentary itself.

You were saying that it was not publicized as an abstract conceptual piece, it was publicized as statue OF King & Coretta (and taken from a famous photo of them), and that it was therefore a bit strange for @ShadowFacts to suggest that someone (like you) who commented that it didn’t look in any recognizable way like King & Coretta was being in any way [perverse or unreasonable].

Except that you (inexplicably to me when I read it) put a very jarring word with racist baggage in there instead.

Thanks…and fair comment.

So, should the SDMB have a list of jarring words that will get someone who uses them in trouble? (I am not kidding when I say this was a surprise to me.)

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of this moderation either. I feel the angrily worded mod note undermined what I was trying to do. I specifically wanted to avoid confrontation and the defensiveness that is so often an obstacle to fighting ignorance on these topics.

It’s not that huge a deal, as the OP seems to have taken it well. But I would have preferred that we had a chance for this to be dealt with without moderator intervention. Or at least if the mod intervention had just been restricted to confirming that the term had racist baggage and ask that it not be used.

As for your question, @Whack-a-Mole: I don’t think we need a list. Creating bright lines isn’t great for this sort of thing. But perhaps a thread about words best to avoid due to this kind of baggage could work. Most of the people who would hijack such a thread don’t seem to post much anymore.

I appreciate what you wrote and will certainly take it to heart.

If I could up-vote I would (@Riemann too).

I find that totally astonishing. It was incredibly jarring to read your post.

Where did i accuse you of racism? Right, i didn’t. I accused you of using a word dripping with racist baggage. A word that i don’t think I’ve ever seen used in a context that doesn’t involve racism. And…you used that word. In a thread about a statue honoring Dr Martin Luther King and Loretta Scott King. That’s context. And…you used that word in that context.

I did not accuse you of racism. I did not issue a warning. The mods keep a file of warnings. We don’t keep a file of mod notes.

Quite honestly, on a board that allowed users to edit things they shouldn’t have said, i wouldn’t have moderated publicly. (I moderate a board like that, too.) I would have sent you a strongly worded DM to change your language and apologize, and if you’d done that reasonably quickly, i would have just deleted the comments about your use of the word and moved on. But since that wasn’t an option, i felt i had to address the matter publicly.

And i mentioned my astonishment as a way of indicating that i had not expected something like that from you.

I can’t think of a decade or a context when uppity wasn’t overloaded with racism or at least racial overtones. Any time in the last hundred years? Certainly more than 50.

Any time the word “uppity” is used in any kind of context that includes MLK, it’s going to seem intentionally provocative to almost anyone. Pleading (inexplicable) ignorance is the only possible excuse.

As a non native English speaker I would appretiate clarity in the criteria applied, it must not necessarily be a list. Advantages of a list: it is clear cut, a word is included or not. Words could be discussed. Disadvantages of a list: it will never be complete and will have to evolve with time and common usage. Who sets it up? How is it amended? Where can it be consulted? In case of no list: what is the alternative? What are the rules now, apart from “don’t be a jerk”?
I knew the word “uppity” but would not have assotiated it with USA and racism, it sounds like British upper class snobbery to me. My ignorance, fought. I recently got a mod-note for a wrong link I reported myself (not a warning). Wouldn’t it have been preferable to remove the link without a note? Possibly. Is it a big deal? Not to me, so forget it. I think Whack-a-Mole is right when asking for context and history to be taken into account in moderation. Now how to set that into rules to be accepted and applied uniformly – that is a problem that can only be resolved in good will and good faith. Good luck!

I am also a bit confused. I have seen posts on the board – without moderation – where “uppity” was used for women trying to leave their patriarchal-assigned space. I know the word has associations with racism, but assumed that is because it is mostly used by a privileged group (i.e bigots) for everyone who is trying to break out of a place with lower-power or privileges. Can anyone clarify?

This is news to me, too. I have never associated the word with racism.

Do I have to now research the etymology and usage of every word before using it?

I also sometimes reminisce on the old days, when posting here didn’t require walking on eggshells.

Agreed. I didn’t read the original thread, but as for the word … never in my life have I known that it carried racist baggage.