Words hit close to home for RA

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Re: “Words are just words”
Dec. 2, 2008

To the editor:
Words are never just words " they are the most powerful tools we have to communicate ourselves to the world. To use them as if there aren’t consequences is hurtful to those they offend. Not to mention that the words in question refer to specific groups of minorities; no one walks around and says, “That’s so straight.” Heterosexism, sexism and ableism are built into our language.

As a Resident Assistant, I understand the value of inclusive language to build communities. Words like “retarded,” “gay” or “fag” have the power to divide and destroy the communities we live in, capable only of building walls between us to define our differences, while never highlighting how we are alike. As a lesbian, the heterosexist/homophobic comments of others spell out one clear idea: I am different and that difference is not yet acceptable.

I’m not trying to say that the meanings of words are permanent. It is obvious that meanings behind words change over time and it does feel like we are on the verge of some of these changes. But isn’t it important to recognize that language changes by the whims of the majority? Doesn’t it matter that these words were once used to hurt and restrain specific minority groups?

In the end you are going to make an impression on the people around you no matter what language you use. People might be offended, or hurt, or feel personally attacked by even the most carefully chosen language. Clearly the language you use is a personal choice, but what I don’t understand is why a person would choose to use language that they know is hurtful and demeaning to a group of people who are already in the position of a minority. It’s not about being politically correct; it’s about being respectful.
" Megan Kelly
Social Justice and Peace Studies IV

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