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The "Blackboard/Chalkboard" thing

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PDR
1341862.  Mon Feb 03, 2020 6:29 am Reply with quote

This thread drift* in the Megangate thread on the matter of appr9opriated words generated some lively and then interesting discussion on whether a ban on the words "blackboard" and "whiteboard" was reasonable.

I've started this thread to extract this specific element of that discussion. I'm particularly interested in where people think we got to - as far as I can see we ended up feeling that provided there was no racial intent (direct or indirectly by negative connotation) in either the original meaning of a word or the way it was currently used then it was perfectly acceptable to keep using it. This was supported by an inability to discover any cases OTHER than those in the title where such words were deemed offensive or insesitive.

That would suggest that a move to ban the words Blackboard and whiteboard was itself unreasonable. Is that the consensus?

PDR

* "Drift" in the same sense that 617sqn caused "a leak" in the Mohne dam

 
dr.bob
1341865.  Mon Feb 03, 2020 6:51 am Reply with quote

The conclusions I've drawn from the discussion are these:

Where a use of the word "black" or "white" is purely descriptive, it seems (to me) hard to argue against their usage. Examples of these include the black ball in snooker, a black cat, or a blackberry.

(One corollary to this statement is that, if someone does claim that they have a problem with one of these terms, their grievances should be listened to. In the article I linked to above by David Olusoga, he talks about the word "gollywog." He states that he's been assured in recent years that this word is, in fact, innocent and harmless. His answer to this is simple: "It is difficult to regard a word as benign when it has been scrawled on to a note, wrapped around a brick and thrown through oneís living-room window in the dead of night, as happened to my family when I was 14.")

Where a use of the word "black" is used to define something bad, I think there's a conversation to be had about an undercurrent of systemic racism. Even if terms pre-date the use of the word "black" to describe certain ethnicities, the fact that people are now being described using the same adjective which is often used to describe something bad could lead to an altering of perceptions and a proliferation of unconscious bias. Examples include referring to the Wall Street Crash of 1929 as "Black Tuesday", or naming a stretch of road that's particularly prone to accidents as an "accident black spot."

Finally, just to confuse the discussion a little, I still have a (very slight) problem with the word "blackboard". Not that I view it as racist: merely inaccurate. As we've already discussed, not all "blackboards" are black. One suggestion was to use the word "blackboard" for the ones that are black, and call the ones that have a green tinge "greenboards", but this seems needlessly complicated. Given that someone has suggested a term ("chalkboard") which elegantly describes both types, it seems much easier and more efficient to me to just use that one word to describe both things.

I have less of a problem with "whiteboard" since, as far as I'm aware, they're all white. Though I will be happy to be proved wrong on this.

 
PDR
1341867.  Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:29 am Reply with quote

I think I agree with all of that.

Now that I really think about it (it was at least 40 years ago) and I have to say that I think in our case it was usually just refered to as "the board".

PDR

 
barbados
1341871.  Mon Feb 03, 2020 10:13 am Reply with quote

You can get different coloured whiteboards, they are used as a learning tool in schools to assist others dyslexia learning.
Iím not sure of the science behind it, but the letter jumbling that is a result of dyslexia is reduced by differing contrasts.
The boards are still referred to as whiteboards - mainly for inclusion purposes.

 
crissdee
1341874.  Mon Feb 03, 2020 12:18 pm Reply with quote

Sort of agreeing with both PDR and dr.bob, just call it a chalkboard/marker board in general discussion or, if a teacher talking to a class "the board". Covers all eventualities afaics.

 
suze
1341877.  Mon Feb 03, 2020 12:43 pm Reply with quote

dr.bob wrote:
Where a use of the word "black" or "white" is purely descriptive, it seems (to me) hard to argue against their usage. Examples of these include the black ball in snooker, a black cat, or a blackberry.


Does the last of those really fit there, given that blackberries are neither black nor berries?


PDR wrote:
I think I agree with all of that.

Now that I really think about it (it was at least 40 years ago) and I have to say that I think in our case it was usually just refered to as "the board".


It wasn't quite so many years ago, but so it was when I was at school.

But is that simply because the usually-white object upon which one writes with a marker pen wasn't a thing yet, and so we had no need to make the distinction? I first encountered flip charts - big pieces of paper upon which one wrote with a marker pen, and made a teeth-on-edge noise while doing so - when I went to university. I think I was probably a postgrad before I ever saw a wipeable plastic board. Guessing a bit here, but early 90s?

 
Alexander Howard
1341887.  Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:08 pm Reply with quote

It would be instructive to find out whoever first suggested that there are racial implications in a plain, descriptive word, and who first believed them. This is a psychological issue, or a psychiatric one.

I believe it is likely (in the absence of evidence) that it started with someone trying to gain power over the speech of others, or just enjoying the fear they could engender by a wild accusation of racism.

 
cornixt
1341915.  Tue Feb 04, 2020 11:06 am Reply with quote

I think it is more likely that someone took their racial sensitivity training a bit too far and decided that just using the word "black" could be offensive. No malice, just misguided. It's the usual source of anything that gets described as "PC gone mad".

 
PDR
1341917.  Tue Feb 04, 2020 12:05 pm Reply with quote

I rather tend to that view myself. In my non-representative poll several of the participants said they were getting fed up at the way lots of other people kept telling them about things which should offend them.

PDR

 
dr.bob
1342026.  Thu Feb 06, 2020 10:11 am Reply with quote

It's up to the individual whether or not to be offended by something. However, society does need to have a meaningful discussion about what effect the constant association of the word "black" with both people with dark brown skin and things that are generally bad is having on the unconscious biases in society.

Studies have found that, when shown grainy CCTV footage of individuals and being asked to choose which of two photos shows the person involved, people tend to pick people with darker skin if they're told the person in the footage has done something bad, and people with lighter skin if they're told the person has done something good.

 
PDR
1342027.  Thu Feb 06, 2020 10:15 am Reply with quote

dr.bob wrote:
It's up to the individual whether or not to be offended by something. However, society does need to have a meaningful discussion about what effect the constant association of the word "black" with both people with dark brown skin and things that are generally bad is having on the unconscious biases in society.


I can understand the point of view, but I'm not sure that blackboard/whiteboard come into that category - the black/white bits of those words have no intended good/bad connotations do they? They don't imply bad things are witten onthe blackboard while good things are written on the whiteboard!

PDR

 
dr.bob
1342031.  Thu Feb 06, 2020 10:18 am Reply with quote

No, that's a fair point. I was considering terms more like "Black Tuesday" and "accident black spot".

 
cornixt
1342037.  Thu Feb 06, 2020 11:12 am Reply with quote

"black" always had negative connotations due to darkness, probably related to night time and unseen dangers.

 
Awitt
1342067.  Thu Feb 06, 2020 8:13 pm Reply with quote

And also, black and white are not technically colours.....more shades, I believe from what I've seen in some arty books.

 
barbados
1342069.  Fri Feb 07, 2020 1:58 am Reply with quote

To me an accident blackspot suggests a place where accidents occur, and the cause of those accidents is poor visibility.

 

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