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  • Writer's pictureNathan

Simple guide to oppressive language

Updated: Jan 6, 2020

The common euphemism is on top

A more honest phrase is on bottom.

Non-consensual sex


Right-to-work laws

Anti-union laws.

Independent contractor

An employee who is forced to work without standard employment benefits, such as healthcare, vacation time, and legal protection for mandatory work activities.

Just-in-time scheduling

Employees are given their work schedules much too late to safely plan any other part of their life.


People who have been fired.


Almost enough money for food, medicine, and shelter.



White collar crime

A few wealthy people rob thousands or millions of poor people. Lightly punished, or not punished. A 'Reverse Robinhood', if you will.

Law and order

Killing, threatening, and jailing Black people.

Tough on crime

Killing, threatening, and jailing Black people.

Strong borders

Killing, threatening, and jailing people who "seem Mexican".

War on drugs

Jailing poor U.S. citizens and Black U.S. citizens. Interfering in American countries' elections, and overthrowing their governments. Catalyzing American civil wars.

War on terror

Invading African and Asian countries.

Foreign intervention

Illegally violating another country's internal politics. Often leads to the collapse of that country's organic self-government.

Regime change

Murdering or jailing another country's government to change its internal politics.

Collateral damage

Lots of accidental murders while trying to murder someone else on purpose.

Enhanced interrogation


Alternative facts

Weird, blatant lies.

Dog whistle

Publicly saying bigoted things in obvious ways.

Racially charged


Racially tinged


Racially motivated



You may notice not all of these phrases are commonly used by the oppressor, but rather to describe the oppressor. For instance, 'dog whistles' tend to be spoken of by critics of the oppressor, not by oppressors themselves. Yet, the term 'dog whistle' serves regardless to abstract the intuitive concept of 'obvious public bigotry' away from the phrase that holds it. The same goes for euphemisms for 'racist'. In all these cases, the euphemistic phrase itself distracts from the concept we wish to illuminate.

If we stop using these phrases, our words will hold more power. Our language will more clearly describe oppression and oppressors, rather than being itself subverted by those who oppress. In all times, subverting the language of the oppressed is, itself, part of the language of the oppressor. And that is my simple guide to oppressive language.

Let's do our best to understand where common phrases are coming from, and why we can hear them at all.


I plan to update this piece as I remember more oppressive phrases, or come across new ones.

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