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Language and Prejudice

diversityHow we speak and how we write is a pretty good reflection of how we are and how we feel.

I was reminded of this by an article by Roy Clark at Poynter Online – Writing Tools called Lesson of the ‘Mexican Flu’: Beware Language Prejudices.

It’s so subtle sometimes. I wanted to comment and started my comment with Oh boy! With a sigh I copped (oh dear, is that another one?) to some sort of gender bias.

Years ago I was fortunate enough to take a class through a Unitarian Church aimed at helping white folks like me get in touch with institutional and unconscious racial prejudice.  What an eye opener that was for me.

At one point the instructor asked us to write about this questions: What is it like to be white?

I’d never ever considered that at all, because I grew up with what I’ve come to recognize as white privilege. A lot of it is unintentional and/or unconscious, but darn I found that a question worth really thinking about.

Prejudice does show up in language. Have you got a favorite example?


{ 2 comments… add one }
  • I really have to thank you for this post. I read it a few days ago and thought about how I am ultra-conscious of this sort of thing. I avoid racist slang terms and phrases that I hear people use all the time, and naturally assumed your post was not something that I needed. Unbeknownst to me, it planted a little seed in my head that just stopped me from telling someone that something I read sounded like it had been, “cut off at the knee.” I have never thought about how that phrase might make someone feel–as though that is the definition of useless. How insulting and thoughtless. It also made me think how wide-spread prejudice is. I know I’ve made mistakes like this in the past, I can only try to make sure I don’t do it again.

    Yolander Prinzel’s last blog post..The Difference Between Buyers and Clients

  • In one of his movies, Michael Moore talked quite a bit about the media blitz around “killer African bees” (which kill only one or two people per year) to illustrate racist language.

    Eve Lopez’s last blog post..Writing for eHow.com

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