From pantyhose to crayons, the word “nude” is often used to describe a hue synonymous with “flesh-colored.” But people of color have long lamented that that flesh most closely resembles a white person’s skin. Thanks to a sophomore at Ithaca College who identifies himself as simply Luis, nude now carries a more inclusive definition.
Last month, he launched the #NudeAwakening campaign on DoSomething.org, which called for dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster to update their definition of nude, which read, in part: “having the color of a white person’s skin.”
He talked to Mic about his motivation:
This is something small that most white people, myself included, take for granted. I started doing research around Band-Aids, which led to nude fashion, which led to me discovering the Merriam-Webster definition of nude. It blew my mind that an academic source was perpetuating this same racism.
People often do not realize the smaller acts of racism lead to internalized hate and racism within communities of color and within white communities. Looking up the definition of nude and seeing that even academic sources perpetuate the idea that white skin is more relevant … or just simply important, is detrimental to the psyche of people of color. Language is how we all communicate, and when words are designed and defined to be exclusive, it can be hurtful and harmful.
So on National Nude Day, July 14, 2015, he took to the Internet to change it, rallying more than 800 people to lobby the publisher via social media to update the definition.
It’s #NationalNudeDay! Tell @merriamwebster how YOU define nude. http://t.co/krRRnnTUIO #NudeAwakening pic.twitter.com/ZXxrf025Jj
— DoSomething.org (@dosomething) July 14, 2015
These are the definitions of the word nude, according to @MerriamWebster -one isn’t like the others! #NudeAwakening pic.twitter.com/BF3iu9VX6D
— jelani (@HashtagJelani) July 18, 2015
“Nude” is a state of being–NOT a skin color. Please remove the racist definition #NudeAwakening pic.twitter.com/YwcYmoqL1t
— Marcely ‘Martineez (@MarceeM96) July 16, 2015
This month, the website rolled out a new definition of the word: