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Avoid—racist language




We would recommend adding a content warning when speaking about this term. Please read the guidance on how and when to warn people before using this term in any context.

colloquially, to permit to continue under expired rules; racist origins of Grandfather Clause


In the United States, ‘Grandfather Clause’ originally referred to provisions adopted by seven Southern states after the Civil War in an effort to disenfranchise Black voters by requiring voters to pass literacy tests or meet other significant qualifications, while exempting from such requirements those who were descendants of men who were eligible to vote before 1867. This type of law ensured that illiterate white Americans were able to vote while preventing Black Americans from voting. This practice of grandfather clauses did not officially end until 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was implemented.


The modern use of the phrases of "grandfathering" and "grandfathered in" ignores their racist roots and normalises a term that further enfranchised white Americans and restricted Black Americans from voting. Refraining to use this term is an acknowledgement of its history and a dedication to inclusivity by avoiding inciting images of racism out of context.

Usage Tip

When possible, be more specific about the circumstances. Usually, we can acknowledge a specific timeframe or what benefits a group is receiving during which timelines.

Acknowledging legal reasons (contracts, updated terms of service) for differences can give helpful context.

Substitute "grandfathered in" for more active language. "We allowed X people Y benefits since they were long-time customers (more than 10 years)."

The concept of 'grandfathering' should be considered. Why are you providing benefits and/or exceptions to this group? Are you perpetuating the inequitable concepts that this word carries as a result? Removing just the word will not remove these inequities.

Alt Words

  • legacy
  • historical

Further Reading

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