Language and Reflection
Credit: Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian, Notesfromanaspiringhumanitarian.com, Relando Thompkins-Jones
If we look at our own vocabulary, it may lead us straight to the bias that underlies it.
We have a dozen derogatory words for queer men; a different set for queer women.
We have a dozen derogatory words for trans people.
We have another dozen derogatory words for black people.
We have a dozen of derogatory words for Latinos.
We have a dozen derogatory words for poor people of all backgrounds.
We have a dozen derogatory words for immigrants and newer words are coming into play since this election cycle started.
Q: Who do we not have derogatory words for?
Changing our language is the key to breaking these patterns, to redirect our conversation and for us to realize the meaning of the words we are using.
The words we assign to the group that lacks power communicates an idea, usually negative or sometimes pitying. Language provides imagery so that after some absorption of degrading language all we have to do is to look at a person that fits the stereotype in our mind and already we have a look on our face, a feeling in our heart and words in our head ready to go.
These thoughts are not innocuous just because we choose not to verbalize them. On the contrary, the negative imagery perpetuates the stereotypes on which they are based. One way or another, they consciously or unconsciously come out in our language or in our actions or both.
This is why anti-bias and anti-oppression trainings are so important. The interactive program asks these difficult questions and challenges participants to think about the language they use. If we do not challenge the meaning behind our words, we cannot change our actions or reactions.