Pyret Colors & Cultures

Skip to first unread message

Nick Bousquet

Oct 28, 2020, 10:48:43 AM10/28/20
to Bootstrap-Teachers
Would it be possible to remove / rename the color "indian-red" in Pyret?

Last year, I joined a district that is wrestling with institutional racism (e.g. their Redmen mascot made national news), and removing / renaming this color seems like the right move, in the same spirit of moving away from 'black list' and 'white list' in computer science.

Thank you for considering this suggestion.

Schanzer (Director)

Oct 28, 2020, 2:08:58 PM10/28/20
to Bootstrap-Teachers
Thanks so much for posting about this. We take social justice seriously, and we’ve worked hard to explore our own institutional biases and reflect that work in our curriculum and software. In some cases, we have made changes to our colors based on cultural differences, e.g., supporting different spellings of colors (such as “gray” and “grey”).

In this specific case, this is actually an opportunity for explanation and discussion. "Indian red" is a natural pigment made from ochre ( ), named for its resemblance to soil found in India. There is nothing pejorative about the name, despite the lens of the US’s past.

While this color has no origin in bias, we’ve learned not to take any colors for granted. If there’s something we missed, we want to make sure we fix it and get it right for future students.

(PS - just a reminder that we've moved our teacher forum to, so in the future you'll want to post there instead)

Nick Bousquet

Oct 29, 2020, 7:25:23 AM10/29/20
to, Emmanuel Schanzer
Thanks Emmanuel,

I appreciate this discussion. Some in Rhode Island are making a similar argument to keep "Plantations" in the State's name, as "Plantations" in RI may or may not mean something different than it does down south. But, in the equity and inclusion training I have participated in, facilitators repeatedly emphasized we must own both our 'intent' (i.e. what may be historically / semiotically defensible) and our 'impact' on others.

What are your thoughts on other Pyret colors like navajo-white [sic] ?


You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Bootstrap-Teachers" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to
To view this discussion on the web visit

Shriram Krishnamurthi

Oct 29, 2020, 8:01:09 AM10/29/20
to, Emmanuel Schanzer
Hi Nick,

That's certainly a valid position! We have to take the current meaning of words into account, not just their origin. 

However, in this particular case there is the unfortunate fact that "Indian" has two entirely unrelated meanings. As an Indian myself, in fact part of whose family hails from parts of India that give rise to that color, I always feel sad for the Native Americans having to bear a name of a people from half-way around the world due to an accident of poor navigation. But the other (Asian) notion of "Indian" has not slipped away into history, making this the only relevant one to take into account.

[Language slippage is much on my mind right now as I'm in the midst of an utterly fascinating book on the topic of how languages evolve, "The Unfolding of Language" by Guy Deutscher. And the word "Plantations" is as well, because we have a proposition right now in Rhode Island to remove it from the name of the state, with even the governor supporting it:,_Name_Change_Amendment_(2020)]

"Navajo White" is also interesting, because it's a reference to the color of the Navajo flag. TBH, I had previously not really known much of anything about the Navajo flag ( — it's not common to find here in RI. (The term "Navajo" is, as I understand it, itself a bit problematic, but it's a term that the Navajo Nation has adopted for itself.)

It may help to understand where our color names come from. There's a classic list of colors that was compiled for X11, an old graphics standard for Unix systems dating back to the 1980s:

Many of these color names came to be adopted by the Web standardization folks:

Screen Shot 2020-10-29 at 7.51.23 AM.png


So these aren't names we made up, at all. We're just following well-established computing standards.

Now, not being actual historians, semioticists, etc., I think our best plan would be to let these things be decided by the Web standards committee and follow their lead. They have whole groups of people who do nothing but think about these names, and also have high visibility, so that these — the Web colors — are far more likely to be noticed by those who are offended than the color list of puny little Pyret. If the Web colors committee decides to rename a color, we would immediately follow. Even if there is enough contention about a color and we feel it's inappropriate, we would not have to wait for them to act first.

But absent such controversy, we also favor following standards: a student can look up colors on third-party Web sites and be confident they will "just work" when entered into Pyret. There is real value to that.

Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages