Whitewash: Definition

The word “whitewash” has many meanings, which can be summarized as:

  • Literal: a liquid composition for whitening a surface; to apply calcium carbonate ground into fine powder, washed, and used especially as a pigment
  • Figurative: an act or instance of glossing over or of exonerating OR a defeat in a contest in which the loser fails to score
  • Recent usage as racist language: to alter (something) in a way that favors, features, or caters to white people

Until quite recently, despite a not uncommon misunderstanding, this word did not have any racist connotations. To whitewash a story was to cover up the truth (to “clean the dirt”).

Now, in some cases, the word is, unfortunately, used to perpetuate the racist mythology that the human race can be broken down into sub-races. Many (if not most) people think they can tell if a person is “white” or “colored” but these categories are completely subjective, and have no scientific basis.

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