Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Seattle Bans ‘Brown Bag’ Lunches and ‘Citizens’

Seattle’s “word police” are keeping busy by banning the words “brown bag” and “citizen” from official use. The Office of Civil Rights in Seattle, Washington, has alerted city government officials that those words are potentially offensive and may no longer be used, spoken or written, in any official capacity, except we guess to tell people not to use them.

In the memo by Elliott Bronstein of the Office for Civil Rights “citizen” is being banned because many Seattle residents are not citizens, and the office apparently finds no good reason for anyone in the local government’s ever distinguishing between the two.

Of the phrase “brown bag,” Bronstien wrote, “For a lot of particularly African-American community members, the phrase brown bag does bring up associations with the past when a brown bag was actually used, I understand, to determine if people’s skin color was light enough to allow admission to an event or to come into a party that was being held in a private home.”

According to both Wikipedia.com and UrbanDictionary.com the precise term was “brown paper bag test,” and it was used along with the “ruler test” by affluent, light-skinned, black society to determine if a person’s skin color was light enough, or in the case of the “ruler test” their hair straight enough, to warrant entry to the social circle.

So from now on everyone in Seattle will have to have “sack lunches” and “lunch-and-learns,” though use of the word “ruler” has not yet been outlawed.

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