Seattle: Please Don't Call It a 'Brown Bag'

That phrase and 'citizens' are deemed offensive

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 3, 2013 1:04 PM CDT

(Newser) – They may look like citizens carrying their lunches in brown bags, but Seattle's Office of Civil Rights would prefer you restate that as "residents" carrying their "sack lunches." The office sent out a memo to city workers declaring that the words "citizens" and "brown bag" were offensive, reports KOMONews. We'll let memo writer Elliott Bronstein explain the rationale, via MyNorthwest.com:

  • Citizen: "A lot of people who live in Seattle aren't citizens, but they are residents. 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."
  • Brown bag: "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."
As for those ubiquitous brown-bag forums, Elliott suggests "lunch-and-learns" instead. And, yes, the memo is taking a ribbing.

  (Shutterstock)
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