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Avoid—Racist Term

peanut gallery



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.

a group of people who are giving unsolicited (and unvalued) advice. Before microphones and opera glasses were common, balcony seats were the least desireable in Vaudeville theaters and were typically where Black people sat. The term "peanut gallery" became a nickname for these seats, in part due to the peanuts being served at the theatre that were rumored to be thrown at the performers on stage to convey patrons' disapproval.


The term perpetuates and reinforces the historic silencing of Black voices and speaking of them in a pejorative nature. Phrases such as "no comments from the peanut gallery" or "quiet in the peanut gallery" are extensions of the name.


The phrase implies that the opinions expressed by those from the gallery were unsolicited, unwarranted and unhelpful, which then perpetrates that Black people's critiques are irrelevant or insignificant. This is particularly problematic when they are critiquing oppressive systems and their oppressors. Using such terms perpetuate the imbalance of power and the delegitimisation of their critiques.

By continuing the use of the term, rooted in its subordination to white power structures, regardless of whether we intend to carry its racist origins or not, we are contributing to the perpetuating of harm against Black people and their voices. Seemingly small actions like this contribute to the normalisation of the harm.

Denying the etymology or power of the word as irrelevant is denying the history of its strength: "Peanut gallery" has been used to dehumanise Black people and their voices, which leads to justify oppressing them or denying their rights.

Usage Tip

Consider context and the power you possess in an interaction. The term becomes even worse if you are using it in reference to a group of Black people and you are non-Black. You are carrying the historical power you have in your usage.

Alt Words

  • disrupters
  • hecklers

Further Reading

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