Note: This is very much a work in progress. I hope to update it from time to time.
Eurocentricisms are words that centre Western experience, that make white people seem “normal” and good and everyone else strange, exotic or screwed up. Such words get in the way of clear thinking.
In general, avoid:
- Dichotomous thinking: words that split the world in two, especially into a good half and a bad half. The world is a coat of many colours with no centre, no Chosen People.
- Prejudiced thinking: words that see people of an out-group as all the same or screwed up.
- Exoticization: words that would not be applied to white people under the same circumstances.
- Loaded words: words that assume the West is best.
- The centre with no name: use “Western”, “white”, “Christian”, “European”, “American”, etc, instead of assuming them.
backward – a loaded word that makes the West the measure of all.
canoe – use “boat” unless you are talking about particular kinds of boats.
chief – use “king”, “ruler”, “leader” or the person’s title. Avoid “chief” since it is rarely applied to whites. Even Vikings did not have “chiefs”.
civilization – Loaded word. Use “culture”, “society” or “the West” instead.
contribution – use “invention” or “discovery”. Western inventions are just inventions, never “contributions” to China or elsewhere.
developed – puts Western industrialized society at the top of human development. Say “Westernized” or “industrialized” or at least “rich”.
elders – use their title. No one calls American senators “elders”.
ethnic – everyone is ethnic.
everyone – use “white people”, “Americans”, etc.
exotic – Everyone is exotic and no one is exotic.
hut – use “house” unless you are talking about styles of housing.
Indian – sees the thousands of native cultures of the Americas as being pretty much the same. Say what you mean: “Navajo”, “Iroquois”, etc.
medicine man – use “doctor” where possible. The trouble is that “doctor”, like “hat”, “science” and “soldier”, has been Eurocentricized to mean the Western sort.
Middle East – use “Muslim world” or “Arab world” instead, depending what you mean. “Middle East” is a Eurocentric term (East of where? In the Middle of what?) from American and British foreign policy. It is not a cultural region.
minority – on a world scale everyone is a minority. Even in America, whites are already a minority in places like California and metropolitan New York.
modern – use “Western” or “Westernized”.
no accent – everyone speaks with an accent.
our – talk about your society, country, race, ethnic group, etc, in the third person.
progress – use “Westernization”.
slurs – avoid unless your aim is to be a racist jerk.
stereotypes – mostly projections of white insecurity. If whites are individuals, so is everyone else.
sub-Saharan Africa – racist geography that tries to sound “objective”.
terrorist – One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter is another man’s nutcase. Thomas Jefferson and Winston Churchill were both “terrorists”.
tribal lands – use “country”.
tribe – use “nation” or “ethnic group”, which is what their white counterparts are called.
universal – use “Western”.
village – use “town”, the term for white settlements of the same size.
warrior – use “soldier” or at least “fighter”.
world – use “Western world”.
- style guide:
- dichotomous thinking
- tips and notes