5 offensive phrases communicators must avoid

Many common sayings we write and speak have racist origins. Use these terms instead.

The PR industry is charged with influencing and swaying media conversations on-air, online and in print.

As we face this generation’s largest civil rights moment, it’s our duty and responsibility to ensure our communication and the professional counsel we provide are respectful and culturally sensitive.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the PR industry is 89.7% white. The severe lack of diversity in the industry indicates many PR teams may lack cultural depth and knowledge to provide credible counsel, especially now. The homogeneous makeup of the industry is why so many brand statements have fallen short, and it’s contributed to mass acceptance of racially damaging labels as part of everyday language.

The promise of meaningful change is underway. Grammy-winning country trio, Lady Antebellum, changed its name to Lady A. because antebellum is used to denote a romanticized image of the American South prior to the Civil War during times of slavery.

California restaurant Sambo’s will change its name after a consumer launched an online petition challenging the offensive name and hurtful imagery. Sambo is a derogatory term used to refer to people who were of Indigenous American or African origin and also a term for people with ancestry from multiple races. Today, we use the term biracial, interracial or multicultural.

A vital step PR pros must take right now is to educate ourselves on offensive terms that are ingrained in everyday conversation and work to remove them from their vocabulary. Here are five examples to start with:

1. “Urban” or “inner-city”

While you might have thought you were just referring to people living within the metropolitan area of a city, the connotation extends beyond mere geography. In the U.S., “urban” is born out of racial stereotyping of black communities, and it’s most often a reference to generalize and marginalize people of color in high-need communities.

If you’re referring to your target audience as “urban” or “inner city” because it seems more politically-correct than naming the actual group you really mean—please stop. Urban is not a synonym for people of color. Inner city is not a synonym for black neighborhoods.

The GRAMMYs recently announced that it will stop using “urban” in award categories to describe music with Black origins. Republic Records (Drake and Ariana Grande’s record label) has dropped it too.

What to say instead: To refer to people living within a city, use “metropolitan population” or “city-dwellers.” When referring to a lower income economic class, “low-income” or “high-need” might be appropriate terminology. If you want to refer to a racial or ethnic group, be sure to do the research and learn the appropriate term for that group (e.g., knowing the difference between Latinx or Hispanic).

2. “No can do”

“No can do” is common slang to express an inability to do something, but its origins are racist. “No can do” was used to poke fun at Chinese immigrants who didn’t speak fluent English, beginning in the 19th century. There is a similar history with the phrase “long time no see.”

What to say instead: Simply swapping stating, “I can’t do that,” “I am unable to do that now,” or “It’s not possible” are good alternatives.

3. “Dreadlocks”

There has been a lot of debate surrounding the hairstyle often referred to as “dreadlocks,” in terms of phrasing and cultural appropriation, and both are important.

“Dread” was attached to the hairstyle’s name when the style first entered the U.S. as a way to label them as dreadful or dreaded. The hairstyle has a cultural history in African, Jamaican, African-American and some Indian cultures.

What to say instead: The appropriate name for the hairstyle is simply “locks” or “locs.”

4. “Grandfather clause” or “Grandfathered in”

While you may mean to refer to an old rule applying to a new situation, “grandfather clause” is a term that was often associated with efforts to disenfranchise African-Americans after the Fifteenth Amendment was passed. Eventually, this clause was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court for being discriminatory and unconstitutional.

What to say instead: Using “old rule,” “inherited” or “precedent” are options that might convey what you’re trying to communicate.

5. “Tipping point”

“Tipping point” was a phrase coined in the ‘50s and ‘60s to describe white families moving out of a neighborhood because of the influx of African Americans. Today, it’s often used to refer to a critical moment, usually with negative connotations.

What to say instead: Alternatives may include, “boiling point,” “I/We reached my/the limit,” “we’ve reached a crossroad” or “this is the final straw.”

The insensitive and hurtful phrases in our vocabulary include more than the above phrases. Having to learn and keep up common terminology that is actually offensive can be uncomfortable and overwhelming, especially in an industry with limited diversity and perspectives.

Embracing opportunities to listen, learn and share your knowledge with colleagues will work to strengthen you as a communicator, and as a respectful, kind human.

Toni Harrison is CEO of Etched Communication, A Ten35 Co., a full-service, MWBE-certified agency with offices in Houston and Chicago. 

The post 5 offensive phrases communicators must avoid appeared first on Ragan Communications.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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