code words




Sunday Review section

The New York Times

November 26, 2017

pg. 6


Friends Academy

Locust Valley, Long Island, NY

Quaker, Co-Educational, Independent Day School

For ages 3 through twelfth grade.



Open House

Please join us for this special event.


Friends Academy is hosting an Educators of Color Open House for educators of color interested in teaching at our school and learning more about independent schools.

Bring your resume!



In the now distant past, our Polish nanny had completed several years of employment with my wife and me. She wanted to continue working in the US as a nanny. To help her, we offered to place and pay for an employment wanted advertisement in the New York Times classifieds section.

I wrote the ad, which said something like “Experienced European nanny seeking a position in Manhattan. References provided.”

The Times classified section contacted me by telephone and said that the ad was not acceptable as worded. Not only ethnicity but also country of origin could not be specified in such an ad, the rationale for this stipulation being that any hint of ethnicity or race was prohibited. (European might be an indirect way of saying “white.”) This was a newly implemented policy at the time. I understood this and found it reasonable. I removed the word “European” from the ad.

I don’t like the term “people of color.” It is too vague a term for me. It’s an invented word functioning as a sort of code word, meaning that there are more commonly used words available. I might ask, “What color?” And, with reference to this ad, does this mean that white people are not invited to this open house (since white is a color)? I am being facetious. It is clear that they are not.

A question. This sort of thing has often occurred to me. What if I were responsible for recruitment of teachers at a fancy prep school where I was an administrator? What if I wrote an advertisement saying something like, “An open house for White Anglo Saxon Protestant educators interested in teaching at our school will be held on _______.” Do you think that The New York Times would print it, and should such an advertisement be published,  do you think anyone might object?


— Roger W. Smith

   November 2017

Leave a Reply