illustrating the political power of language

access to resources, illustrating the political power of language. The traditional names that dominant groups use for minoritized groups

have their roots in racist history and were not chosen by the minoritized group (such as “Colored People” “Oriental” or “Eskimo”, which are all terms that should be avoided). Further, it really isn’t that difficult to keep up with changes in language. Many of us manage to keep up with popular language of the day, whether it was slang like “groovy” and “cool” in the past or “OMG” and “LOL” more recently. It is easy for us to keep up with language when we are invested in the social context. To choose not to be aware of changes in language regarding minoritized groups indicates that we may be living in a great deal of segregation from them. It is also an indication of a lack of interest that is not accidental. On the other hand, to be aware of changes in language yet still insist that we have the right to say anything we want is willful irresponsibility. Of course we all have the right to say whatever we want, but there are consequences for what we say.

In a pluralistic society that claims to uphold the ideals of equality, speech must be chosen in ways that are cognizant of the context. We wouldn’t speak to our boss the way we might to our friends. These are choices of context-appropriate speech, and we all conform to these speech considerations on a daily basis. Rather than feeling resentful (an indicator that our internalized dominance is being challenged), we might consider our ability to adapt to changes in language as an indicator that we are growing in our critical social justice literacy.

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