The Language We Use

Before I get into this very deep subject, I share with you one of the blooms of my hibiscus shrub. I have it pruned into a topiary shape, and it gives us two to three blooms a day. We eat our breakfast on the front patio with the blooms in the morning in order to begin the day with its joyous brightness.

I work in education, and have done for nearly 30 years. My focus continues to be advocating for underrepresented populations in education. At one time, I worked in adult education. Then I worked in community education and research. Today, my title is director of intercultural learning. That means I teach around a variety of topics to “normalize” human difference. I offer these concepts to get them out into the world:

Language Used That Further Separates Us

Preface: It is not about “saying the right thing.” Rather we must understand the meaning (etymology) or the semantics (formal, lexical, and conceptual) in the words we use.  We tend to think that language is fluid. Meaning of words takes on different meanings in different eras. Systemic words tend to carry historical influences. When certain words become part of the lexicon, they tend to be “normalized” to the larger society, whether or not they have negative connotations.

Not an exhaustive list, I present the concepts of the following words to give us pause and to allow us to think of their historical meanings in our work to increase representative demographics in our students, faculty, staff, and administration at KSU.  After all, the intended outcome of our work focuses on erasing the barriers to acquiring college degrees and thriving in global economies who have historically excluded identities.  

We are not here to “deal with diversity and inclusion.”  We are here to build relationships with one another to support students for maximal academic and social experiences.

“Minority” – The term further minoritizes historically excluded populations.  Could we use the term, “historically excluded populations?” The word, “minority” suggests “lesser than.”  No one wants to be referred as a psychologically pejorative term, “lesser than.”  It sets a life of low self-esteem and low social expectations of those in a majority.

“Marginalized” – A dominant power minoritizes groups by setting a standard for social, financial and governing expectations from an individualistic cultural pattern vantage point.  Groups from individualistic societies tend to marginalize groups from collective societies because of different approaches to social and economic “norms.”  See Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck’s Values Orientations.  As we know, majority powers set the cultural and behavioral norms for all the people living in such a society, with the exception of Apartheid era South Africa.  In that case, the non-majority White power worked to set a social standard for the majority demographic.

“Inclusion” – In order to  advance the concept of “inclusion,” we must understand the history of exclusion with its laws, policies, and practices that exclude one population in favor of another as an active part of societal and institutional cultures. Some of those historical and present laws include Extreme Climate Theory, Doctrine of Discovery, Manifest Destiny, Indian Removal Act of 1830, Homestead Act of 1862 (You must be Christian in order to receive and own land), Japanese Relocation Act, Redlining in housing, and the 21st Century Muslim ban, etc.

When we speak of being a Land Grant Institution, think of what we say. From a historical point of view, the Land Grant Act of July 1862 promoted that it was “Education for the common man.”  Who was the “common man?”  Natives were not labeled “human” until 1873 and not allowed to be citizens until 1924. President Lincoln issued The Emancipation Proclamation six months later, January 1, 1863. In both cases, the majority referred to men as “bucks.” Women had equally dismissive labels, such as “squaws and apes.”   

When we say, equitable representation across human identities, we do not assign a majority power.  Instead, we demonstrate an authentic desire to assure that all voices and identities contribute to institutional and cultural structures.

When we use the word, “inclusion,” it denotes a dominant or majority power or culture allowing others to participate in power, cultural, and social structures.  Perhaps we can strive for building a culture of “belonging” for our students and other.

As school psychologist, Bengu Erguner-Takinalp, says, Belonging is more than ‘tolerance,’ accepting,’ or ‘inclusion.’ Belonging means we feel connected, important, valued, part of a group, which we call, ‘our group,’ ‘our program,’ ‘our community!’”

 “Diversity” – This term tends to be synonymous with people of color and leaves out other historically marginalized groups (LGBTQ, physical and mental disability, etc.).  May we discuss simple human difference, and the thought that, “I am not different from you.  I am different like you” (Octavius Black).

In her article about educational and retail institutions, Jennifer Rittner writes, “Diversity itself is a numbers game, easily addressed through clever, conspicuous hiring practices and even more clever promotional photography. Representation means that because we may not always be physically present, but our pedagogies, industry spaces, and frameworks are activated in our interests.”  Rittner reiterates, “Inclusion is about more than just those of us who have achieved the platform for speaking out. Representation requires that we all stay vigilant and attentive to all of those not represented in our own work”.

“Culture” – Those practices, beliefs, behaviors, and ways-of-knowing of each human being.  Every human possesses cultural identities.  Culture is not something to denote ethnicity or people from another country. We develop as human beings, and that development comes from family, community, state, national, and world cultures.

“Multi-cultural” – Since the word, “culture” has come into the lexicon meaning, students of color, this term tends to feed the notion that people of color are the only people who have a culture!  Since every human has many cultural identities, we could say that everyone is multi-cultural.  Using this term, also, can exclude others with historically excluded or under-represented identities, i.e., LGBTQIA, those with different physical and learning abilities, and others with whom we do not include when we say, “multi-cultural.”

Race

Race In everyday discourse, the word race invokes phenotypical features such as skin color, eye shape, hair texture, facial features, and so on. However, scientists generally agree that race is not a concept determined by biological evidence. In other words, categorization of different races cannot be verified by biological constructs such as genetic characteristics. Arguing that any differentiation of races, if they exist at all, depends on relative, rather than absolute, constancy of genes and raising a problem of classifying the human species in racial terms, Goldberg (1993) states: Human beings possess a far larger proportion of genes in common than they do genes that are supposed to differentiate them racially. Not surprisingly, we are much more like each other than we are different. It has been estimated that, genetically speaking, the difference in difference — the percentage of our genes that determines our purportedly racial or primarily morphological difference — is 0.5 percent. (p. 67)

More recently, the Human Genome Project has shown that human beings share 99.9% of their genes, leaving only 0.1% for potential racial difference in a biological sense (Hutchinson, 2005).  

References

Allan, B. & Smylie, J. (2015). First Peoples, second class treatment: The role of racism in the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Toronto, ON: the Wellesley Institute.

Ergüner-Tekinalp, B., Ilieva, V., Williams, K. (2011). Refugee Students in Public Schools: Guidelines for Developing Inclusive School Counseling Programs. Journal of Counseling Research and Practice, 28, 2.

Kubota, R. and Angel Lin. (2006). Race and TESOL: Introduction to Concepts and Theories.

TESOL Quarterly. Vol. 40, No. 3.

Martinez, E. (1998). De colores means all of us: Latina views for a multi-colored century. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

Middleton, R.A., Ergüner-Tekinalp., B., Williams, N., Stadler, H., & Dow, J . (2011). Racial Identity Development and Multicultural Counseling Competencies of White Mental Health Practitioner. International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 11, 2, 201-218.

Hills, M. D. (2002). Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck’s Values Orientation Theory. General Psychological Issues in Cultural Perspectives. 3.

Wilcox, Jill. (2016). The hijacking of the words, diversity and inclusion. ( I am not able to insert the URL here)

Millennials have a different definition of diversity and inclusion

https://www.fastcompany.com/3046358/millennials-have-a-different-definition-of-diversity-and-inclusion

Rainbows
Rainbows over my yard

The Meaning of Safety in Common Spaces

I work at a university as a teacher of intercultural learning and development.  That means I work with students to learn about their own cultures so that they are better prepared to understand other cultures.  You see, we want to graduate students who are globally marketable and are able to think past their own identities.

I have developed many workshops over the years to address such learning outcomes.  One of the developmental workshops/classes is called Safe Zone.  It was developed by Anthropologist, Dr. Susan Allen, among others, originally to address sexual minorities, and then began to include intersectional identities deemed, “Not in the mainstream.”  That was back in the 1970s, and we continue this important work of building allies today.

With the recent focus on inequities across all social constructs, there remains a focus to help institutions build community, foster a sense of belonging for all, and address emotional well-being.  As I continue to say, it’s a life-long journey.  When one asks me, “How long with this take?”  My favorite answer is, “A life time.”

I have a class called, History of Exclusion, Implicit Bias, Aggression, and Language.  I present this here as a way for us to think about the environments that we build in order to exclude, which is the opposite of building community.  Here is a quick primer:

Justification:

As with any intercultural learning processes, all students , no matter who you are,  must understand and internalize the benefits of being globally aware, confident and competent. This learning is not a “check box,” nor is it a “once and done” process.

The goal is for a us to move toward “allyship,” with historically excluded groups with “Authentic Allyship.” For example:

  • “Performance Allyship,” i.e. extrinsically motivated and tends not to be sustainable. Rather is tends to be “a means to an end.”
  • “Authentic Allyship,” intrinsically motivated and tends to promote positive and sustainable change in systemic exclusion.

If we are asking ourselves and teaching our children to function in a global society, we must model that same “self and other” awareness.  Here’s a way to begin:

  • Learn about your own identity and the characteristics that make up your culture.
  • Learn about the identities of others and what about those identities that make up their cultures.
  • Internalize how this understanding contributes to cohesion and the equitable representation of multiple identities in the class (room), in community, and in  societal settings.

Intended Outcomes: Participants in this practice  internalize their personal journey in Authentic Allyship with persons who identify with populations not part of a dominant.  Practitioners of allyship understand how their own stories influence how they view the “other.”  Practitioners of allyship find common ground to learn the stories of “others” and build relationships.  Ultimately, practitioners of allyship advance the concepts of “Community, Belonging, and Emotional Well-being” for all.

As you look for readings, look for key words in the following topics.

Topics Covered:

  • History of the exclusionary acts that contribute to racism and other “-ism” constructs
  • Understanding Implicit biases and its effects in building relationships
  • Understanding different types of aggressions: how do they affect the relationship between the aggressor and their “targets,” including:
    • Micro-invalidations
    • Micro-insults
    • Micro-assaults
  • Understanding the language that further “minoritizes” and separates one group from another.

Again, we promote: “Community, Belonging, and Emotional Well-being”

This is what I want for us:

Jumbo Ball Pit with 10 students

Thank you for reading.

My Favorite Words

I snapped the featured image at my former house in another part of the state in which I lived.  I love the way the foliage framed this bird, which now I can’t remember if it is a robin.  The color is not there, and I am looking at backside of the feathered creature.  Of course, my featured images do not necessarily have anything to do with my story.  I just like to post interesting pictures.  Today, I shall discuss language.

Language is a beautiful thing, no matter the mother tongue. I continue to be amazed at the sounds, the phonemes of languages. The way the words tumble in the throat, the mouth, on the tongue, and over the teeth are like music to me.  One time I was at an international bike race in Madrid, Spain.  I stood in a crowd of spectators.  I heard Castilian,  French, German, Portuguese, and Italian!  Total ear candy to hear and experiences all those wonderful languages.  That was more than 10 years ago, and that was about the time I began to collect words.  I have a little book in which I often write some of those words.  I don’t always have the book with me, so it’s missing many great words.  Most of the words are in English, but many are in other languages.  Then, the English language dictionary is a product of, roughly, 75 different languages.  I learned this phrase from a friend, Linda, who is a writer: “English doesn’t borrow from other languages.  English follows other languages down dark alleys, and knocks them over, and goes through their pockets for loose grammar!”  I don’t know who originated this thought, but it does explain why speakers of other languages often struggle with phonetics and grammar when learning English.

When I collect words, often, I write them in this little book I carry in my hand bag.

Words book

Here are some of my words.  Say them, and think of how they sound, and what parts of your mouth, tongue, throat, lips, or teeth you use when saying them.

Clostridium Botulinum – the bacteria that contributes to food poisoning

Senegalese – People from Senegal (Beautiful people from a Francophone country in Africa)

Evapotranspiration – The process of water transferring from land to the atmosphere, from soil, surfaces, and plants.

Heuristic – Hands-on learning

Agitized Dolomite – Simply, flint.  There is a great place north of Amarillo, Texas, called the Alibates Flint Quarries.  It’s a great place to see this lovely mineral.

Monongahela – One of the rivers that converge around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It meets the Allegheny (another one of my favorite words), and the Ohio rivers.  Pittsburgh is a lovely city, and the rivers offer a spectacular view!  The names of the rivers likely come from Indigenous languages of the Lenape peoples.

Hamor Gador – This is Arabic for “You big donkey!”  Be sure to roll your “Rs” when you say the term.

Epigentics – (Spell check does not like these words!) – It’s the study of changes in organisms that do not involve alterations to the DNA sequence.

Be assured, that I’m not an expert in all the discipline from which I gather these words.  I have picked them up along the way of my reading.

Forsythia – A lovely, yellow bush that blooms in the spring.  It’s in the olive family.

Crepuscular – For 22 years, I was a volunteer teacher at a zoo.  My specialty was birds and geographical distribution of animals.  Some of our education animals (we called them, “ambassadors”) were active, primarily at twilight (dawn and dusk).  They included hedgehogs and chinchillas.  Other animals, not in our education program, include skunks and bobcats.  I am a hunter, and the best time to harvest a deer is at dawn and dusk.

Geosynchronous – Awww…One of my most favorite, being a geographer, is when a satellite’s orbit is with that of earth’s rotation. (Geo, meaning earth).  Another one of my favorite geography words is, Cartography, map-making.

Shukriya – is Urdu for “thank you.”  It’s pronounced Shoe-cree-yah.  Lightly roll the “r.” It’s a lovely sound.   I learned a few Urdu words from a group of Pakistani farmers visiting the experiment station where I used to work.  It was great fun working with them.

Yikes! – This is American English slang for “Oh, my!”  Perhaps it can be likened to the Swedish, “Ufda!” or the Yiddish, “Oy Vey!”  Some of the others are escaping me at the moment.

Sebastian Cabot – This is the proper name of a British actor who no longer lives among us.  I saw him in a weekly television show called, Family Affair.  He played the butler to the bachelor who inherits a deceased relative’s children.  I just like the poetry in the sound of the name, Sebastian Cabot.

Speaking of names, I have a friend who recently married (I was the officiant of said marriage!). Anyway she took the name of her spouse, and her name became, Christina Rose, and that’s another given name that has a nice rhythm to it.  I feel like one could conduct, with a baton, when one utters this name.

I like the rhythm of names, bi-nomial-ly speaking, especially when there two syllables to one of the names followed by one syllable or vice versa.  For example, my own children’s names are Stevie Dean and Riki Lee (may her name be for a blessing).  I’m not sure that I did that deliberately (since it was nearly 4- years ago), but I know I’ve always liked the rhythm of words and names.

There are all forms of words and their sounds.  Perhaps another blog could focus on words that phonetically imitate sounds that describe them.  One of my favorites is oink! It’s the sound a pig makes, but when one says it, it’s hard not to think of a pig’s, sort of, greeting!

As long as I’m going for random, here’s a picture of another favorite: rock hunting.  I snapped this photo while rock hunting on the Arkansas River in Colorado, not far from the headwaters of this river that starts in Colorado, runs through Kansas to Arkansas (Ar-can-saw).  Kansans call it the “Ar-Kanzaz” river, which took me a bit to get used to when I moved to this state 30 years ago.

img_4383

Thank you for reading.   Next time, I will tell you about some of my latest kitchen tests.