What Is Whepeating? There’s A New Term For What Happens When White People “Hepeat” People Of Color
If there is one thing Twitter collectively loves just much as trolling politicians, it's finding and creating new words (did you already forget about "covfefe?"). Most recently, Twitter users have been gaga over the new, feminist-y term “hepeated" (a clever portmanteau of he plus repeated). Nicole Gugliucci, a professor and social advocate, first shared the term on Twitter only a couple days ago, but her tweet already has over 200,000 likes. Gugliucci defines “hepeated” as “when a woman suggests an idea and it's ignored, but then a guy says same thing and everyone loves it.” Since the word’s inception, women across the internet have been sharing their own experiences of being hepeated, with hilarious and all-too-relatable results.
But some people are saying that this doesn't just happen with men and women — white people do this to people of color all the time. Guilaine Kinouani, a feminist and psychologist, responded to Gugliucci’s OG tweet, saying “Can I coin #whepeated for when white folks do this?” So there you have it — whepeating is when a person of color suggests an idea that is overlooked or ignored, but the very same idea is repeated by a white person and praised. Racism and sexism are both systems of oppression that often intersect, so it’s no surprise terminology is often exchanged or applied to both isms.
So, why is whepeated an important term to not just add to your vocabulary, but to actively use? The answer is simple: white people have often taken ideas and cultural traditions from people of color, and it’s time to recognize that pattern in your workplace. Throughout history, Black figures have been whitewashed, or their achievements have been completely erased. (Had you read about Katherine Johnson in a textbook before seeing Hidden Figures?). Civil rights advocates have long fought this erasure; Black History Month was even created in part to ensure people of color received recognition for their achievements. So it's really important to stop whepeating in its tracks, and make sure people of color are getting the credit they deserve.
Whepeating is almost like a workplace version of “Columbusing,” a term used to describe “when [white folks] ‘discover’ something that's existed forever [...] outside your own culture, nationality, race or even, say, your neighborhood.” Though the words differ a bit, they both encapsulate the ways white people contribute to erasing contributions from people of color.
Additionally, using the term could help draw attention to the disparities some people of color face in the workplace. According to a Pew Research Center survey from 2016, 64 percent of Black people reported feeling as if they were treated unequally in their workplace, compared to only 22 percent white people who believed people of color are treated unfairly. Also, Black people are severely underrepresented in leadership positions; only 2 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have a Black executive, none of whom are Black women. These obvious disparities precisely why you need terms like whepeating that challenge racial discrimination in your office. No matter how small the issue or idea may seem, the practice of calling out whepeating is an important step in dismantling systematic racism as a whole.
You can stop whepeating in your workplace by applying similar tactics used to stop hepeating from happening in its tracks. Notably, a great go-to technique to handle whepeating could be amplification, a strategy used by Barack Obama’s female White House staffers. Amplification is an especially important tactic you can use to uplift Women of Color, many of whom face workplace discrimination for both their race and gender (aka, this is why we need intersectional feminism!).
If you have white privilege, utilize it by amplifying the voices and ideas of people of color in your office. Recognize whepeating in action, and reflect on times you may have done this yourself (even if it was unintentional, impact matters). Language can be empowering, so let's put a word to this behavior so we can shut it down.