As “one tiny first step” to support the Black Lives Matter movement and “bring justice to our world,” the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA) announced that derogatory language would be removed from the game’s official word list.
“I have felt for a long time that there are some words in our lexicon that we hang onto in the mistaken belief that our spelling them with tiles on a board strips them of their power to cause harm,” said John Chew, CEO of NASPA, in a statement.
NASPA’s word list is used in competitive tournaments. Still some people use Merriam-Webster Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, which is different.
NASPA represents about 10,000 players, NPR reported. Over the past few weeks there were discussions and an online poll to discuss this issue. There was “about a 50-50 split” over whether to remove the slurs from its official word list, according to NPR.
“When we play a slur, we are declaring that our desire to score points in a word game is of more value to us than the slur’s broader function as a way to oppress a group of people,” Chew said. “I don’t think that this is the time for us to be contributing divisively to the world’s problems.”
During the discussions on Facebook, the move was compared to “tearing down statues of Confederate figures,” according to the statement, and “it imposes a responsibility on players to use respectful language even on the board.”
Plus, one person pointed out, when the game was invented “slurs were not printed in dictionaries, nor were any form of offensive language. They were added to the game in the 1960s and 1970s.”
NASPA’s advisory board ultimately voted to remove 236 words from the list, which will go into effect Sept. 1.
Still, NPR reported, words that might be offensive but are not slurs, such as body parts, will remain.
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