There are many words and phrases used daily by peers that can easily be classified as offensive, inclusive or stereotypical. The Gamma chapter of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority and Kaleidoscope, from the Office of Intercultural Engagement, hosted an event to highlight a few examples of these words and their backgrounds.
Tiffany Boley, Senior Undergraduate Media Specialist, began the event with an activity called “Take a Stance.” The idea of the activity is that Tiffany would name a phrase or a word widely used that could be considered offensive and all participants would either agree that the phrase is okay to use, disagree that it should be used or take the neutral stance depending on the context of the word or phrase.
The first phrase used was, “that’s so gay.” One hundred percent of participants agreed that the statement should not be used at all, and in any occasion.
The next word used was “oriental.” When the word was first presented by Boley, 100 percent of participants took the neutral stance, because they were unaware of the origin and true meaning of the word. The word “oriental,” is associated with a time period when Asians were considered foreigners. This word was used mainly when the United States government passed laws to prevent Asians from entering the country.
The word was also seen on a controversial campus flyer as an advertisement for the UNCG College Republicans. After the meaning of the word was given, all participants changed their vote from neutral to disagree.
The next word given was “the N word;” the spelling of the word was not given. Eighty percent of participants took the stance of neutral because they use the word in their everyday language, while 20 percent disagreed that the word should be used at all.
Neisha Williams stated, “the spelling ending in ‘ga’ refers to the black community depending on who you’re talking to,” while the one ending in ‘ger’ is seldom ever used.
Grad Student Chelsey McIvor was conflicted between neutral and disagree, stating that it’s hard to determine if it’s right or wrong. “I know the historical background of it, but sometimes I feel like a hypocrite because I listen to songs and I say it,” said McIvor.
The next word given was the r slur, or “r*tarded.” One hundred percent of participants agreed that the word should not be used. “Working with children, I’ve learned that it’s negative…I say children with disabilities,” said McIvor.
The next phrase used was “illegal immigrant.” Fifty percent took a neutral stance with the question, “well what if you are an illegal immigrant?” The other half agreed that the phrase should not be used in any situation.
“It’s technically correct but I don’t like the terminology,” said Junior Tia Jarrell.
“I’d rather say undocumented person rather than illegal immigrant,” said Gabrielle Evans, UNCG grad student. Jarrell concluded with, “We shouldn’t have to call anybody this because it’s nobody’s business whether or not someone has documents.” Boley concurred, and added that she thought it should be about that who can say these words, as well as should anyone say these words.
The last word given was “bitch.” Forty percent of participants agreed that it was fine to use, because they do. Thirty percent were neutral, agreeing that it depends largely on the context it’s used in and thirty percent felt as though the word should not be used at all.
“I use it as a term of endearment with my friends,” said Jackson.
“It’s derogatory, and I only use it when I’m referring to someone in a bad way, therefore it’s negative,” stated Jarrell.
The intent of the activity was to examine how things are being said, who is saying them and the context in which things are being said. Each participant left with the question, “How are you going to be an example of leadership on this campus when hearing these words, saying them or thinking about saying them?”