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Expanding Your Awareness

Expanding Your Awareness


Let’s face it, we live in a world that is constantly changing and evolving. Daily we are charged with striving to be more inclusive than we were previously. How does one do this when language is always evolving? When thought, theory, cultural/political dynamics are shifting to become more equitable? The answer is simple; commit yourself to learning. 

Language is a critical aspect of this learning because it is what communicates, enforces, and perpetuates the “status quo,” or, our society’s collectively shared rules and values.

We know there are certain words or phrases that society commonly considers problematic to use because of painful, historical connotations. Some examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Using the “R” word or words that end in “-tard.” The implication is that persons with intellectual disabilities are unintelligent or incapable.
  • Using “as a rule of thumb” as an approximate method for doing something. The use of the phrase lacks understanding of the origin; the phrase comes from an 18th century law that legally allowed men to physically assault their wives with a stick no thicker than their thumb.
  • A person who is non-Indigenous referring to something as their “spirit animal.” The use of the term by a non-Indigenous person lacks understanding of the act being cultural appropriation, which is defined as the borrowing or adoption of something as one’s own when it did not originate from them or their culture. When folks are participating in this type of behavior, it negates and trivializes the historical, cultural and ancestral practices that are sacred and meaningful.

It is essential to be aware of the impact our words have and of the power of language. You don’t have to know everything about every identity or every new development in the DEI field. However, it is your responsibility to educate yourself on the evolving cultural/political climate so you can mirror relevant, critically aware, trauma-informed language and spread that knowledge within your circles of influence. 


Additional Resources & Reading