Wait, you said what now?
Using inclusive language isn’t always the easiest thing. Society socializes it’s members with specified roles and pre-determined mindsets, beliefs, and attitudes that it can often just feel normal and comfortable to talk with vocabulary that doesn’t really do the most for the diversity gap. Language, verbal and nonverbal, is such a strange and fascinating phenomenon to observe, and be a part of. It gives culture and lends words for emotions and feelings. It can comfort, harm, inspire, disgust, persuade, deny all at once. Relationships are formed, wars are waged, and leaders are elected all upon the basis of their communication. So how can we let such a powerful tool go to the wayside in a fight for diversity and equality? We can’t, and one can start by practicing inclusive speech.
People are Individuals
Sonder – This word basically describes the realization that every person you see, even if only for a moment, holds a completely unique and intricate life story of their own. The first step into practicing inclusive speech is understanding the individuality of people.
i. Use “person-centered” language
a. Person experiencing Homelessness v. Homeless Person
ii. Use words that encompass all genders
iii. Be intentional about representing diversity in stories and curricula
vi. Use language that reflects what people call themselves
v. Use language that respects experiences and cultures
On an Alternative Break Program trip, a member of the group was talking about the importance of saying “Y’all” as opposed to the default “You Guys.”Even when the entire team had a grand total of 2 boys with 8 girls, we were referred as “you guys” and also referring to the group with “you guys” among ourselves. It technically was not inclusive speech because it didn’t account for all genders, particularly to the ones in the group. Now, that is one immediate practice one could incorporate into their daily language – nudge –
I was introduced to an interesting book a while back called 35 Dumb Things Well-Intentioned People Say: Surprising Things We Say That Widen the Diversity Gap by Dr. Maura Cullen. It really put language and the sentences that people, and I too, say everyday into perspective. This handout, taken “verbatim from the cited source”, states the many different phrases found in the book that are actually quite offensive.
“He is a good person. He didn’t mean anything by it.”
“I know exactly how you feel!”
Referring to older people as “cute.”
When you don’t even realize what you’ve been exactly entailing from a sentence/statement is such a bad feeling, particularly when you had meant it with a positive heart.
SO whether you’re describing people/a person, talking to someone one-on-one, with a small grouping of people, talking to a collective audience, or just thinking… PRACTICE INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE.
This has been How To Talk 101. Class dismissed.
– Gavel Drop –