Government workers in the city of Seattle have been advised that the terms “citizen” and “brown bag” are potentially offensive and may no longer be used in official documents and discussions.
KOMO-TV reports that the city’s Office of Civil Rights instructed city workers in a recent internal memo to avoid using the words because some may find them offensive.
“Luckily, we’ve got options,” Elliott Bronstein of the Office for Civil Rights wrote in the memo obtained by the station. “For ‘citizens,’ how about ‘residents?'”
In an interview with Seattle’s KIRO Radio, Bronstein said the term “brown bag” has been used historically as a way to judge skin color.
“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,” Bronstein said.
According to the memo, city employees should use the terms “lunch-and-learn” or “sack lunch” instead of “brown bag.”
Bronstein told KIRO Radio the word “citizen” should be avoided because many people who live in Seattle are residents, not citizens.