The time has come to bury this arch
I never thought much about the word “master”.
In fact, I found it funny a few years ago when my podcast sister, writer Leslie Baldacci, suggested doing a section called “Who’s Masters in MasterCard”?
But I’m not laughing now.
All hell broke out when a white Minneapolis policeman killed the black man George Floyd by placing his knee on the back of his neck.
The aftermath of this cold-hearted act left more than broken glass and ransacked shops.
Just as the coronavirus changed everyday life, the Floyd killing (which reminded many of a public lynching) changed the way many of us see our racial history.
This change is now spreading across America:
From boardrooms – where corporate leaders decided to retire popular long-time brands like “Aunt Jemima” and “Uncle Ben” – to sports teams like the former “Washington Redskins” who recently ditched their offensive mascot people change their racist attitudes.
These changes didn’t come overnight.
Native Americans have campaigned against cultural embezzlement by college and professional sports teams for decades.
Tragically, it took a gruesome act of racial oppression for decision-makers to listen.
Now we are not only in the middle of facing our racist roots, but we are trying to dig them up, which brings me back to the “master”.
Due to this race count, so to speak, the once socially accepted term used to describe a person’s dominance has come under scrutiny.
In Houston, one of America’s fastest growing cities, real estate agents will no longer use the term, according to a recent report from CBS News.
“… More members viewed the terms (master bedroom, master bathroom) as sexist than racist, although some viewed them as racist,” CBS News reported in a statement from the Houston Association of Realtors.
Chicago-based real estate company @properties has also dropped the term “master”.
However, the National Association of Realtors told the Houston Chronicle that the US Housing and Urban Development Agency recommended the phrase “master bedroom is non-discriminatory and its use does not violate fair housing laws.”
“Master” is defined primarily in the New Oxford American Dictionary as “a man who has people to work for him, especially servants or slaves”.
What was once considered harmless to describe a person’s dominance is now denounced as racist.
In all honesty, I would pull out my “MasterCard” credit card without ever making the connection that “Master” is as ingrained in our slavery lexicon as “Mama”.
The fact that people in the real estate industry are discussing this topic shows the depth to which Americans of all races scrutinize racial prejudice.
Perhaps African American leaders, artists, musicians, and influencers will now launch a serious campaign to stop the use of the N-word.
The NAACP tried unsuccessfully to bury the word more than a decade ago.
But black teens in particular, as Malcolm X would say, have been led to believe that a word rooted in open hatred of black skin could ever be used to describe a black person – no matter who uses it.
It pains me to hear this word echoing on car radios and the lips of black comedians as if they didn’t know where the word came from.
Like so many others of my generation, I am proud of the activism young people continue to show in the field of criminal law reform.
You are right to work hard to fix our broken and unjust system, including the police in the black and brown neighborhoods.
But we have a lot of internal work to do.
It is easy to request that statues of historical slave owners be taken down and hidden from the public.
We should replace these monuments with statues of American heroes that people of all races can be proud of.
But there is no pride in the continued widespread use of a word racists used to denigrate blacks.
It was a racist slander then.
It is still a racial slur even today.