Sometimes we can become overly obsessed with the language we use, seeing implications where none may exist. However the words we use often matter because they, albeit unconsciously, reflect the way we think. The word ‘untouchable’ favoured by Mahatmas Gandhi [ a high caste Indian] has rightly been displaced by the word ‘dalit’. The awful phrase ‘half-caste’ by ‘mixed race’ and finally [thank goodness] ‘dual heritage’ to speak of people who have one black and one white parent. Words can empower but they can also rob people of their agency – turning them into objects rather than subjects. The phrase ‘the poor’ is a case in point.
In this blog post by Karin Kamp from the USA the minefield of the language we use when dicussing poverty is explored…..
‘This week, the Center for Community Change (CCC) released new research that details the way low-income Americans think and talk about living on the edge. It found that the language being used by policymakers and others to describe them is turning off the very people it is supposed to help…….’