How Language Can Trigger Discriminatory Behavior


Diversity

One of the ways through which we make others feel discriminated is by the things we say, and/or how we say them. At times we might say certain things without even intending to offend others. However, if we say these things to someone who has already been discriminated or one who is aware of implied bias, we might trigger discriminatory and/or resentful behavior.

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” – James Humes

Let me explain.

         “Our language is the reflection of ourselves. A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers.” – Cesar Chavez

Let’s imagine that you are the only white man/woman in a large group of black people. In that scenario, it is very clear that you are the odd-man out. You definitely stand out in that crowd. Furthermore, everyone in the group recognizes this fact although they don’t say it. However, let’s imagine that someone in the group addresses you as, “Hey white man/woman, what have you been up to?” How would you feel? If you’ve never experienced discrimination you might deem this as funny. However, let’s imagine that you’ve been racially discriminated in the past, how would this statement make you feel? Chances are that you will feel uncomfortable. You will feel isolated. You will immediately develop a resentful attitude to protect yourself from any possible negative experiences with group. If you are not strong enough, you will walk away from the group. They may call you sensitive, but the fact is the person who referred to you as “white” was insensitive or maybe unaware of how language can promote discriminatory behavior.

How can we prevent this from happening?

    “A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” – William Arthur Ward

We can all be conscious of what we say, and think before we speak. In a group with people who are different from us, we should make sure that we do not use words that isolate the minority. We should avoid calling others by their skin color, race or religious background. For instance, we should never call someone by using statements such as, “White man/woman, black person, and African man/woman, Muslim or Christian.”

There might be incidents where the minority do not understand what the majority are saying because of a common slung used in that race, social class or religious group. We should then explain what we mean without coming off as being more intelligent.

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These are very simple tips but if ignored can be the foundation of discriminative tendencies, or resentment. Remember, language can create or destroy. Therefore we must be cautious about what we say. We must be kind to each other considering that although we are different, we are like apples and oranges: although they are different, they are all fruits. Likewise, we are all humans.

Friut

Dr. Jacinta Mpalyenkana, Ph.D, MBA is a Counselor, Transformational Coach, published author and professional speaker who speaks on the subject of Diversity. For more about her, please visit her website at http://www.tapthegood.com. orhttps://speakerhub.com/speaker/dr-jacinta-mpalyenkana?b=s

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