‘Jungle Gym’ Called Racist Term

I have heard jungle gyms called by many other names. I have heard them called “play sets,” “swing sets” or even “playground equipment.” Monday, for the first time, I also heard them called “racist.”

A good friend of mine, Chris Bradley, said he was watching CNN when some woman they interviewed took umbrage at the use of the word “jungle gym” because she said that was a racist phrase. The woman said the preferred term for this piece of equipment is “Outdoor Activity Play Set.” I would like to not mince words and say that this woman is an absolute, no-doubt-about-it moron racist.

Which word in the phrase “jungle gym” is the racist one? Is it “jungle” or “gym?” If it is “jungle,” then how am I ever going to discuss the Amazonian rain forest again? Do I have to say, “You know that place with lots of water and vegetation, and really big bugs and animals?” That seems cumbersome and inefficient.

Can I no longer use the phrase, “It was a jungle out there?” Is that a racist comment as well? Am I supposed to say, “It was a hot, steamy, and hard-to-walk-through-without-a-machete place out there?” That is quite a mouthful.

If it is the word “gym,” then how will I ever say where the basketball game took place? Will I say, “The Panthers won the game in the large room with the court and the hoops at either end this evening?” Can I not say, “I am going to work out in the gym any more?” Do I have to say, “I am going to work out in the place with the row machines, stair climbers and sweaty people this evening?”

Chris Bradley said, “Most of us grew up playing on ‘Jungle Gyms.’ I never once thought anything racist. I only thought of monkeys, gorillas, lemurs, etc… playing in the trees. I never once, until today, thought it could ever remotely be considered a race thing.”

I am assuming this lady thought the word “jungle” was the problem. Let us analyze her statement to see what is going on in her closed and underdeveloped mind.

The only way it could be a “race thing” is if you are already a racist. In her mind, I believe this CNN interviewee associated the jungle with these animals, perhaps mainly thinking of monkeys and gorillas. She then extrapolated that to black people. In other words, she is equating monkeys and gorillas with black people. I am going to call a spade a spade when I see one, and say that the racist person here is the lady who made such a ridiculously outlandish comment (oh, I better watch out, the word “spade” might be considered racist!).

This blatantly racist woman was interviewed by CNN for a story about the Kennedy-Dodd bill authorizing President Obama’s new healthcare plan. The bill includes money for cities to improve infrastructure that will encourage people to exercise.

“The Kennedy-Dodd bill will pave sidewalks, build jungle gyms and open grocery stores, but it won’t bring down health care costs or make quality coverage more affordable,” U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) said. “In a time of record debt and deficits, how can Democrats justify the wasteful spending in this bill?” (http://enzi.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=NewsRoom.NewsReleases&ContentRecord_id=d1547d1a-802a-23ad-40ec-93ef483a62bc)

This part of the bill jibes with Obama’s call to “Build More Livable and Sustainable Communities” by reforming federal transportation grants so cities receive more money to “create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks.”  (http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/jilliansphar/CJHG

The main thought the female CNN interviewee had about this bill and plan was that she was offended by Enzi’s use of the phrase, “jungle gyms.” She went off on her tirade against a phrase that she believes should readily be perceived by all human beings as racially insensitive and demeaning.

We live in strange times. Four-year-olds are sued for sexual harassment; people steal your identity and wash your checks. And, now, jungle gyms are racist pieces of playground equipment.

That’s all for now. It’s time for me to go play on my Outdoor Activity Play Set Center with the Monkey Bars (aw, dang, I cannot avoid the racism). Type at you later.

John VanPelt

edited by Bre Bivens — Thanks to you for your assistance and support!


34 responses to “‘Jungle Gym’ Called Racist Term

  1. In its reference to a gym in the jungle or:
    What the black people in the hood use for exercise.
    Thats the origin of the word.
    Playground is the proper, non-racist term

  2. Dont you love it when people blow things out of proportion? wow….i agree mr.VanPelt….this woman is the true racist. I would not EVER have even thought of the term to be racist….never! Mr.VP you mentioned how when you think of jungle gyms you think of monkeys and jungle creatures….however, i think of kids playing on the equipment itself. And dont we call those very kids “monkeys” sometimes? i know ive heard it. so by calling our children “monkeys” whether caucasian,african american, asian or otherwise, technically wouldnt that be racist? But no one thinks about that do they? Ah, i dont know…some people just drive me crazy and i agree with Anye…..she needs to be slapped.

    • VanPelt's Vantage


      I truly had not thought of that. I am always calling saying to my sons, “you are a silly goose” or “sillly monkeys.” One of my son’s favorite songs is “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed.” I had not thought of that.

      I don’t think she needs to be slapped, however. She needs to learn.

      Thank you so much for expressing your opiniion.


  3. Hey Mr. VanPelt,
    im pretty sure my mouth was dropped throughout this whole blog.
    i agree.
    the only people who take common, everyday words and blow them waaayyyyy out of proportion are the already existing raciest people.
    its really despairing that we have to be cautious about middling words that we say.

    Thanks for the Opinion Mr. VanPelt.
    you crack me up.

    –>tayci brii.

    • VanPelt's Vantage


      Right off the bat, I must applaud you for your outstanding word choices. That was great. Next, thanks for your wonderful comments. With you being such an intelligent and well-spoken young lady (who definitely has very strong opinions of her own!), it really means a lot! Take care and check back in for the next one!


  4. Being a black man myself I have been called monkey, gorilla, and so on. So when I read this for a second I could see how that could be remotely racist then I thought about it for a second way back in the day when I was little kid there was probably no more then 5 other black kids out of about 20 to 30 other kids playing on the jungle gym, and its probably like this in many schools around America, you cant really consider that a jungle that makes this lady a complete idiot and she should be slapped

    • Anye,

      I completely agree and empathize with you about the misuse of the terms “monkey” and “ape” to describe black people. I have never in the past, nor will I in the future, condone the use of these words to refer to a human being.

      My point was, and I think you get it, that the woman had to be equating monkeys and apes to black people in her head in order to think the word “jungle” is racist. I was saying that she is the real racist here, not all of us who have played or still do play on “jungle gyms!”

      The word “jungle” is harmless if used properly. If I am talking about jungle gyms, that is innocuous. Now, if I start using the word “jungle” in a pejorative way, then the word is no longer harmless. The woman took offense where no offense was intended.

      Take care, Anye. You really expressed yourself well! I’m proud of you!

      John VP

    • Thank you for replying Anye. I’ve called it a Jungle Gym in the past and as a white male I would hate to be considered a racist for calling some playground apparatus a “jungle gym”, since I’ve been calling it that since a young boy.

      I believe it’s the intent of words and not the words themselves, with few a few exceptions of course, that are at fault. How we frame the words give them power. Someone calling you a gorilla would be wrong. Having someone discuss primates is an appropriate discussion. I hate to have to come up with a new word for every word that was used in an insensitive way.

      It’s appropriateness we should be measuring, and any coherent human being knows intent when they see it.

  5. hey, okay omg i can not believe that, thats not racist at all, and i do believe that she is the one who is racist, considering she is comparing black people to gorillas && monkeys. Now thats cold! Like i live in pecualir small community and there is a school close by called peculiar elementary school, and they have a flag pole that was donated by the kkk, now thats racist! but the flag pole was redonated and thats understandable cause there are african americans in this town and could be affended by it. But seriously?! “Jungle Gym” thats not racist at all, that term has been around for ages!!! way before i was even born! Like i think she might getting the racist part from the word jungle forsure, cause i have heard a racist comment to call black woman, which is “jungle bunny” and thats been around for ages, cause my grandma told me that one. i have noticed that africans are getting more and more affended by terms used these days, but thats okay, they do have there rights, but us whites also have our rights! And for that woman to say that, then she is saying that every human being that has said that is racist, i know plenty of people who said disagree with this, but i really agree with you, that this woman has to be racist, to consider this a racist term, cause this is just insannne! I checked out the definition for jungle gym and no where in the sentence does it have any rasict commets! so irdk kno where she is getting at with it being rascit! I follow you Mr. Vanpelt,

    Chelsea Oxley

    P.s definiton jungle gym—n. A structure of poles and bars for children to climb and play on.

    • Thank you Chelsea for your candid comments. I do not want to type all of the same things again, but you hit the nail on the head.

      If I am using the word, “jungle,” with the intention of insulting someone (such as the term you quoted, which I have also heard before and taken offense to), then jungle does become racist because it is being used with that intention. If I am just talking about my children playing on a “jungle gym,” the intention to cause harm or insult someone is simply not there.

      It is all about context. Perhaps that is this CNN interviewee’s problem — she does not understand context. Take care now and thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. You and Anye really made me think!


      John VP

      • Lol, I didn’t even read your reply when I made mine. We seem to be in agreement on context.

        • VanPelt's Vantage

          Yes, I also saw that later and thought we were operating out of the same playbook. These two bright young people made me realize I should have discussed context in my article!


          • Well you can’t possible come at things from every angle, that’s why comments and discussions are born. They understood the gist of what you were saying and were adding to your essential point.

  6. bobby rabinowitz

    ya lets hunt her down hey on tuesday at 7 or 8 cant remember go watch the cleaner on A&E i think youll like it alot

    • That would be the wrong thing, fighting hate with hate. I was just hoping she would do the honors of walking off a cliff for us. Even if she survives, I’d rather have a vegetable than a fruit basket gibbering things at us.

      • Bobby, I concur with Tim. My goal is not to fight hate with hate. I believe you were being facetious, just as I believe he was joking about the vegetables and fruit baskets (although, I have to say Tim, that one showed the power of your wit).

        I just hope someday this woman realizes the error of her ways, just like I am constantly discovering new ways to make mistakes! It is all a process. I cannot honestly say I have never said anything stupid. That would either be a lie or just plain old unrealistic. Take care, all.

        John VP

        • I don’t personally know the lady and would hate to see her get hurt. It’s more her senseless words that I want to see fall into a deep chasm and be buried.

          You are correct, we make mistakes and we learn. I’ve said senseless things before, and hopefully i grew past them, and I endeavor to do so with future mistakes I will no doubt make.

          I think what has people up in arms about her is not only were words ignorant, they were arrogant too. She attempted to make maxim out of her words and if we don’t agree, we don’t measure up.

  7. Considering the entire human race regardless of color came from the same ancestors, we technically all should be offended according to her. We are committing racism on ourselves. Hogwash.

    People give power to words. The lady propping up that word as insensitive, now has made it insensitive to her and the clones like her, where there was no problem before.

    You don’t need to be educated to know her words lack any coherent thought. It’s of my opinion that the world has gotten too big. You knew you neighbors in the past and nothing really went beyond your community. Now with our transitory existence, wanting to be known has become a greater need. You will only see this nonsense increase. I’d love to trap the lady making an insensitive remark and then call CNN up for a re-interview.

  8. Brilliant analysis and response. We should all write CNN demanding they have this racist publicly apologize.

    Meanwhile, I need to go find some, um… I don’t know what to call those things John mentioned at the end. Not only is the M word racist, but the B word promotes alcohol use, especially targeted at children in this context!

    • VanPelt's Vantage

      Miles, thank you so much. I appreciate your comments and agree that the woman (I wish I had seen it so I knew her name!) should apologize. But, oh well, if all the idiots of the world apologized, that’s all we’d ever hear. LOL.

      I literally laughed out loud at your “B word promotes alcohol use…” comment. Extremely funny. Do you have a blog? If so, I want to check it out. Also, I have added a way to subscribe to mine if you would like to receive updates when I post new articles! Thanks.

      Take care.


  9. You make way too much sence….I am afraid that you will have a whole lot too type about in this crazy world….try to stay positive and best of luck !!

    • VanPelt's Vantage

      Chris, thank you for your comments. And thanks again for doing such a great job getting the pictures taken care of at my parents’ 50th anniversary! Your company is awesome and I will use you again in the future!

      Anyway, I have added a way to subscribe to my blog for free if you so desire. Do not feel obligated in any way. I was not buttering you up with the good comments about your company. Those were sincere. I just don’t want to “spam” my own friends and people I know all the time in e-mail and facebook about my blog, so I thought getting people to subscribe would allow me to stop that in the future (or at least do it less frequently!).

      I will not disturb you. I will just let you know when I have posted any new articles on the blog and send you a short excerpt to see.

      Okay. Thanks. Take care and have a great day.


      John VanPelt

  10. Im going to have to be following you, this is interesting work.

    • Thank you Rick! I appreciate it!

    • VanPelt's Vantage


      I thought you might like to know that I have added a free subscription feature to my blog. If you would like to receive short updates in your e-mail when I post new articles, you can sign up! I am just trying to avoid “spamming” my friends and family in e-mail and facebook! Thanks again.


  11. Jaime Maxwell

    That was very well written and I can\’t wait to see your next blog. Very interesting! A MUST READ!!!

    • VanPelt's Vantage

      Well, thank you so much, Jaime. Help me spread the word, then, if you don\’t mind! I love the all caps on must read. You can be my critic any day!

    • VanPelt's Vantage


      I thought you might like to know that I have added a free subscription feature to my blog. If you would like to receive short updates in your e-mail when I post new articles, you can sign up! I am just trying to avoid “spamming” my friends and family in e-mail and facebook! Thanks again.


  12. no problamo at all!! i hope everyone enjoys ur blogs as much as i did!! (:

    • VanPelt's Vantage


      I thought you might like to know that I have added a free subscription feature to my blog. If you would like to receive short updates in your e-mail when I post new articles, you can sign up! I am just trying to avoid “spamming” my friends and family in e-mail and facebook! Thanks again.


  13. congrats on ur first blog!! it is a master piece!! (: keep posting mr v!!

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