June 23, 2020
Five Language Changes You Can Make Now to be a Better Ally
By: Sharon Muza, BS, LCCE, FACCE, CD/BDT(DONA), CLE | 1 Comments
Your choice of language is always important, particularly if you are an ally and anti-racist. As a perinatal professional, the words you use; written, spoken, in videos and more, can further support racism or work towards dismantling it. Here are five critical changes that you can make to your language that really matter as you do the work necessary to be an anti-racist. I am working hard to make sure my language is respectful and accurate. I continue to learn how to be a better anti-racist every day. It is critical that you do the same.
"Choose to use words that affirm instead of question, benefit instead of oppress, respect instead of denigrate, and value instead of marginalize. Speak into existence the world in which you want to live — one word at a time." – Natalie S. Burke
1. Capitalize the “B” in Black
Using a capital “B” when using the word Black to refer to a group of Black people is proper and respectful. The Associated Press (AP) recently updated their style guidelines and released them on June 19, 2020. The AP stylebook guidelines are the standards that many organizations follow. The AP also included the statement that the “I” in Indigenous should also be capitalized when referring to the original inhabitants of a place.
“AP’s style is now to capitalize Black in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense, conveying an essential and shared sense of history, identity and community among people who identify as Black, including those in the African diaspora and within Africa. The lowercase black is a color, not a person.” - John Daniszewski, AP’s Vice President of Standards
2. Enslaved versus slave
When people refer to people who were captured from places such as Africa and taken from their homes, (and their future generations), they were commonly referred to as slaves. The reality is people, who were kidnapped from their own vibrant societies and forced to serve others are people who were enslaved. Talking about the person first and then the condition is important. People who were enslaved is the proper way to refer to those individuals and the situation. You can learn more here in this article from The Chicago Tribune.
3. Race versus racism to describe public health outcomes
For many years, I would write and speak about how someone’s race impacted their health outcomes. As I learn more, I am now correcting myself to say that racism impacts their health. Black people are 3-4 times more likely to die during the childbearing year in the USA, but it is not because they are Black. It is the impact of racism on people who are Black. Do not continue perpetuating the myth that Black people are unhealthier then their white peers.
"Racism is a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of how one looks (which is what we call "race"), that unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities, unfairly advantages other individuals and communities, and saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources." - APHA Past-President Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, PhD
4. Health disparities versus health inequities
The amazing Natalie S. Burke was the first person to help me understand that I was using the term disparities when the proper term was inequities, and I am forever grateful. This is a common mistake but correcting it is important. Natalie says it best:
"In education and health, we have been stuck on “disparities” for decades while failing to cultivate an understanding of inequities — avoidable and unjust differences — that desperately require our attention. Inequities cause disparities, not the other way around. Disparities are very real but they are also a very real distraction."
Natalie also has a one-minute piece you can watch on YouTube that addresses this topic concisely and clearly.
5. Underserved versus under-resourced
I owe thanks to Natalie again for pointing out the difference when I first heard her speak many years ago. Infrastructures and services that are inadequate to meet the needs of the populations they are intending to support mean that those communities are under-resourced. While the services are there, the resources that are needed are not sufficient to have an impact on the people who will benefit from support. Helpful guidance from Natalie:
"Use the phrase “under-resourced” as a more accurate way to frame larger issues. For this purpose, resources include leadership, physical assets, money, power, political will, institutions, community cohesion, and services."
How you communicate as a perinatal professional is important. Consider making these simple but impactful changes in your language. Commit to learning more about additional changes that you can make to more clearly define and represent the circumstances and realities that exist in our world today.
TagsChildbirth education Racism Natalie S. Burke Sharon Muza Inequity Ally Black Parents