For reference, I'm old enough to have been a child in the casually, obliviously racist period in the United States -- many terms that are now considered "racist slurs" were in common usage, among otherwise decent adults as well as children, and to people of my generation they mean certain things that are largely independent of their racist label. While I agree that we should no longer use these terms without thought, I believe there are situations in which one of them gets the thought across more effectively and with far fewer words than beating around the bush.

For instance, in a recent question (now deleted, because it was apparently more of a Worldbuilding.SE question than about role playing), I said that my town has, among other threats that aren't there, no "injuns" -- with the term in quotes, just as here. The post was edited almost before I'd finished rechecking for typos, to "remove racist slur".

Now, to me, use of that term, in quotes as I did, is a case of referencing a specific past usage: the 1950s-1960s TV Western usage, as in "The only good injun is a dead injun." There was no indication in the question of an actual culture; what I was trying to say was that there is no culture subject to that sort of prejudice -- without writing an entire paragraph to do so.

This is in part a linquistic distinction: I haven't referred to Native Americans as "Indians" in decades, nor used the term "injuns" to reference a race in somewhat longer. None the less, I wouldn't go so far as to change Tom Sawyer by editing the character name of Injun Joe -- and it doesn't seem quite right to call referencing such a cultural artifact a "racist slur."

So, the question is, how should I go about including an old meaning, without having the entire idea deleted and potentially getting Code of Conduct strikes?

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    \$\begingroup\$ There's generally no good reason to include these outdated slurs on this site. A slur in quotes is still a slur. Including it didn't contribute any value to the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeQ
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 20:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MikeQ If that's an answer, make it an answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 21:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ok, mod hat on: When working on a sensitive topic it is especially important to keep our tone and addresses polite, respectful and productive. Consider how your words can be misinterpreted and remember all the pitfalls that comes with text only communication. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 22:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ More on topic: I personally had to google the term in question, so an argument for avoiding the term is maybe it not being understood (and certainly not with full connotations) by all readers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 22:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've been trying for about five minutes to figure out how to reply to that without sounding aggressive, offensive, or defensive. There's no way to do so. I will not limit my vocabulary simply because others may not have the grasp of English that I do. Clarification of unfamiliar terms is a Google or comment away at all times. Further, I accept no responsibility if someone takes offense due to failing to understand a word. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 22:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ I will apologize, however, for failing to make it clear that I used that word with the intent to denote, not an inferior group, but a group subject to hate and prejudice. In the context of the question, "Native American" would not have served. Clearly, I should have taken the time to write the hundred words that would have clearly explained what the one word was intended to mean. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 23:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ I did not intend that as something I told you to do, merely a consideration to make. When writing the primary objective is to make the ideas understood, and using archaic terms or heavily loaded terms can obfuscate that. If the core idea you want to refer to is "antagonized native people" doing so clearly is probably better than jumping through a antagonizing term. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 23:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ZeissIkon It isn't that people lack the same "grasp of English". It's a cultural term used in your local area of the English-speaking world. We all have our own culturally insensitive words we can't keep track of yours too. I'm sure there are plenty of words you wouldn't catch the meaning of either and, often, the weight behind those words isn't captured in a google search. Also, I'd argue that if people are having to search the colloquial terms in your question then you've not written a very good question for the worldwide audience that it'll reach. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 7:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ I’m electing to ignore the question in the recently added paragraph. If you really want it answered, I would suggest making a new post. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 12:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Removed, and I'll consider that -- if the rule is that we can't risk offending anyone, in any way, why wouldn't that apply to fantasy racism? \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 15:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just FYI, as far as I'm aware 'indians' is the preferred term amongst Native Americans from the USA (but I'm happy to corrected). Source, Source \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 21:57

2 Answers 2


Just explain what you mean. Slurs like that are lazy and harmful.

You've done a fine enough job explaining the idea you intended to communicate here in this question. Just give clear exposition on the idea without resorting to harmful words and phrases. It isn't hard to do this, as you have already demonstrated here.

I am of Native American descent, and to be transparent, I was the one who made the edit. Using the word "injun" to communicate the concept of a group of barbaric people who harass civilized people serves to perpetuate the idea that Native Americans are somehow less civilized than others and denigrates the important cultural traditions they maintain today.

I read the post. It was a good world building question. If you've got the mind to organize everything else in that post, you've got the mind to do it without using derogatory phrases.

Context for 10k+ users.

  • 18
    \$\begingroup\$ This answer has a very good approach by assuming the best intent of both the initial question and a good and honest reaction that is very kindly worded. The last bit, if Iwe follow the same tone, is simply saying that if they have the desire to do it, they can. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 23:16

You don't use racial slurs

Thomas Markov's answer is excellent and worth a checkmark.

Racial and ethnic slurs have a singular purpose and that's to denigrate an entire group of people by painting them with a single brush. More often than not, these are negative. Even when they're not, they're intellectually lazy because again they are promoting the notion that it's ok to make broad assumptions about communities of people and cultures.

Furthermore, the reason they are slurs is because historically we've absolutely used these words to create a social structure that permits real harm to those communities. We don't work to undo that harm by deciding those words are ok again, especially when those communities are still suffering.

Sticks and stones may break someone's bones, but words are what make breaking those bones legal.

As an aside, I support you asking the question at all as opposed to just stewing on things alone. In doing so, you've created the chance for yourself to hear others and begin to learn how to combat your own internalized biases which are inherent in all of us whether we like it or not.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm a little confused by the sentence "We don't work to undo that harm by deciding those words are ok again" when words can be reclaimed. Though perhaps " We" refers to " People outside the affected group"? Though even reclamation and reappropriation aren't unanimously supported by the affected groups, perhaps that a bit complicated then for this (or any) answer \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 13, 2020 at 20:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 When writing that portion, I had given thought to the manner in which the Irish in the US today aren't really subjected to the sort of racism they suffered 100 years ago. I don't know any Irish slurs that were used back then, but I'm pretty sure whatever they are still aren't appropriate, reclaimed or not. Also, there's still plenty of anti-Irish beliefs prevalent in the UK. I'm not an expert on this, but it's all hard and requires us to try our best. I always feel it's contrary to the goal of 'trying our best' when we start mental gymnastics to let certain things slide. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 13, 2020 at 20:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ In an effort to toss in a bit of reducto ad absurdum for you to chew on: have you chosen to never again type the word cracker on RPGSE? I like where I think that you intended to go with your answer, but you may have taken an absolutist position that was not necessary to address the problem. Anyway, food for thought, may or may not be useful enough to revise your answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 16:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast given that crackers are delicious, I'm going to say no. But I'll also point out that in context, it's pretty hard to confuse when somebody's discussing delicious salty wafers that convey peanut butter to my face versus a slur for white people. Furthermore, as a society in the US, we haven't had a compelling need to adopt alternate language for saltines because a group co-opted a previously used term to legally denigrate a group of people. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 16:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ I suppose if someone read something I wrote that included the word 'cracker' in context and was confused on the matter, I would feel comfortable knowing that there are ample alternative methods of saying the same thing without needing to resort to a term that someone views as extremely offensive. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 16:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't get your comment on "legally denigrating a group of people" but that's not important. As I said, this is a bit of a 'reducto ad absurdum' and some crackers are not salted. 😎 (Water crackers and unsalted tops saltines are a regular feature in our cupboard). I was just tossin' that out there, no worries. (And I guess my 'food for thought' pun was a failure. Darnit). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 16:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical " we haven't had a compelling need to adopt alternate language for saltines because a group co-opted a previously used term to legally denigrate a group of people." Or perhaps the group referenced by "cracker" has never successfully been oppressed, and that's the only difference? \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Oct 16, 2020 at 14:58

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