Black…and the power of words
Words are powerful and yet we are often complacent with them. They can build, heal, connect, or destroy. I want to share a few examples of language used in relation to Race. Think about the meaning and intent behind them, because all of them have power.
I was listening to a radio chat show and the topic was Race. At the conclusion of the conversation the presenter (white male) told the guest (black male), it was nice to have a civilized conversation! This really struck a chord with me, especially because of an incident that happened to one of my Associates. She was in a team meeting shortly after the death of George Floyd and they were discussing related matters. She asked if she could make a contribution. “Yes” – but there was a condition – “as long as it’s not aggressive and civilized”. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a conversation about gender, disability, age, or sexual orientation. start with the precondition of “being civilized”. You do the maths!
My team has just put out a cartoon post about playing the race card, Check it out. Can someone please show me this race card? I’ve been alive for over 50 years and I’ve heard so much about it and seen people being accused of using it. But I’ve still never seen it! The race card is a smokescreen!
And the classic, “they have a chip on their shoulder”. Yes, I’ve probably had this one thrown at me, but not to my face. Always behind the person’s back. It’s so interesting that the response to a perspective that doesn’t align with your reality, or in some cases shows you to be wrong is met with shoulders and chips. May I suggest we try a different menu in the future, one of openness and not fragility?
Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can damage people for life! As a child, that was the medicine given to me for the abuse I endured. But this medicine can have serious side effects. Perpetrators use this to justify their bullying and hostility and victims use this as a coping mechanism. The words we use can and do cause damage and for some irreparable. When you call someone stupid or lazy, you are literally brutalizing that person.
What do I want you to from reading this? Tune into your own language and the language used in your professional and personal environments. What’s the intent and real meaning? Then be brave to challenge (without having a chip on your shoulder) and facilitate more thoughtfulness in the meaning and language that is used.
Be powerful with your words.
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