Racist language removed from history column

We ran a Since You Asked item earlier this month noting that in our Mail Tribune 100 column of century-old newspaper articles we omit racial references that are now considered offensive. A reader wrote to us questioning why that apparently included the word “negro” after it was excised from a reprinted story.

That wasn’t our intent, but on checking we found out that a young staff member who handles the column removed the word because he thought it was problematic. Probably a sign of the times — the word “negro” has certainly fallen into disuse, but is more an anachronism than an offensive term. It won’t be removed from future columns.

We haven’t found use of the truly offensive n-word in the 100-year-old stories. But there are terms for people of Japanese and Chinese descent that are no longer acceptable in any sort of company — polite or otherwise.

By the way, while we’re on the topic, the headline on the SYA — “Mail Tribune 100 edited for political correctness” — raised the hackles on a few folks in the newsroom. We do not consider parenthetically replacing racist words to be a matter of political correctness. The headline with the online version of the column was changed to more correctly read “Mail Tribune 100 edited for offensive language.”

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