Seattle city gov’t bans use of ‘citizen,’ ‘brown bag’ from official use

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, August 3, 2013

Seattle government workers are no longer allowed to use the words “citizen” or “brown bag” in official documents or discussions because they may be considered offensive.

The new regulations were introduced through an internal memo recently released by the city’s Office for Civil Rights and obtained by KOMO-TV. 

“Luckily, we’ve got options,” Elliott Bronstein of the Office for Civil Rights wrote in the memo. “For ‘citizens,’ how about ‘residents?’”

The memo also suggests that government workers should use the terms ”lunch-and-learn” or “sack lunch” when discussing a “brown bag lunch.”

Bronstein further explained the regulations on KIRO Radio‘s “The Dori Monson Show” Thursday, explaining that “brown bag” was once upon a time a derogatory term against African-Americans.

“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,” he said.

Bronstein added that using “citizen” was banned because not everyone who lives in the Emerald City is technically a U.S. citizen.

“A lot of people who live in Seattle aren’t citizens, but they are residents,” he continued. “They are legal residents of the United States and they are residents of Seattle. They pay taxes and if we use a term like citizens in common use, then it doesn’t include a lot of folks.”

Earlier this year the state banned the use of several terms including “penmanship,” “freshman” and “fisherman,” as they were deemed to be sexist. In March 2012, the New York City government also told its employees to avoid references to words like “dinosaurs,” “birthdays” and “Halloween” on city-issued tests because they could evoke “unpleasant emotions” among the students, according to Fox News.


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