Black Lives Matter protests continue around the world — challenging systemic racism and demanding justice for Black lives lost in custody or at the hands of officials. But the movement against racism demands a more critical application to all industries and businesses, both small and large, and we’re beginning to see change take place as a result of corporations looking within themselves.
From an Australian hairdresser petitioning TAFE to include mandatory Afro and curly hair training, to a crowdfunding initiative to install a permanent Aboriginal flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, individuals and groups are working towards effecting positive and historic change for marginalised communities.
Now, another industry is looking within and reevaluating its own terminology: real estate. The word “master”, is used within property listings to differentiate the main and often largest bedroom in a home, but the word has upsetting roots in slavery.
“Words like ‘slave’ and’ master’ are so folded into our vocabulary and almost unconsciously speak to the history of racial slavery and racism in the US,” Elizabeth Pryor, an associate professor of history at Smith College, told CNN.
Pyror told CNN that language like this can alienate others and possess harmful undertones. “Language works best when it brings as many people into communication with each other,” she tells the publication. “If we know, by using certain language, we’re disinviting certain people from that conversation, language isn’t doing its job.”
Over in Texas, The Houston Association of Realtors (HAR) has announced it will no longer include the term “master” when describing bedrooms or bathrooms. Instead, they will use the word “primary”. It’s a change they’ve apparently debated making for years.
In Australia, the term ‘master’ is still the most common description for main or primary bedrooms on property listing sites. As far as we’re aware, there have been no announcements of agencies or real estate bodies moving to change this yet.
Real estate agents in the US aren’t the first to drop racially charged words from the lexicon.
In June, The Court of Master Sommeliers announced it would change the use of the term “master”, which has been previously used alone as a way to address the highest-ranking sommeliers. Now, students will address high-ranking sommeliers by their last names.
And most recently, the band The Dixie Chicks dropped “Dixie” from their name. From hereon, they will be known as The Chicks. “We want to meet this moment,” The Chicks said in a statement.