Banning The Word ‘Lie’ Was A Part Of This Jim Crow Etiquette

black mom holding her child
Zain Murdock
May 17, 2023

Respecting elders has roots in African cultures pre-slavery. We value family. But there's another tradition: Black parents raising their children to follow orders and bite their tongues. And that's tied to "racial etiquette" during Jim Crow. 

Starting with the word "lie."

Many of our parents were raised and raised us never to say the word "lie" as children, especially not to elders. Alternatives like "telling a story" or "fib" were household staples instead. 

And that was a key way to practice surviving in Jim Crow, using these etiquette rules.

Don't curse at white people. Don't imply you're smarter than white people. Don't eat with white people. Don't show PDA in front of white people. Don't forget to call white people Sir, Ma'am, Mister, or Miss. 

And under no circumstances were you to call a white person a liar, or even imply that they were.

Meanwhile, whites constantly assumed Black people to be liars, shackling our identity to criminality, laziness, and cowardice. But their "superiority" over us was the biggest lie of all.

We need to understand the history and purpose behind the traditions we carry on today. Because in our liberated future, Black parents teach their children respect without having to fear anti-Black violence. 

Think back. How do you think your childhood would have been different?

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