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MTVE �INCLUSIVE �LANGUAGE �GUIDE

PARAMOUNT MEDIA NETWORKS & �MTV ENTERTAINMENT STUDIOS

Entertainment Industry

Best Practices

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Welcome to the MTVE Inclusive Language Guide, �a dynamic resource designed to align our teams around a shared understanding of the importance and impact of language. When used well, language has the power to make people feel seen, valued and understood.

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Introduction

The MTVE Inclusive Language Guide was created in collaboration with leading experts and offers best practices for avoiding harmful language in keeping with MTVE’s Do No Harm commitment.

It is a U.S.-specific resource that reflects some of the most common topics and communities that appear in MTVE content. It is not meant to be exhaustive, nor is it static. Language, like culture, is constantly evolving. �As the best practices, terms and phrases outlined here continue to evolve, this guide will also evolve.

For further guidance on a storyline or project, please visit the MTVE Culture Orientation Resource Guide for best practices on inclusive representation or contact the Social Impact Team at mtvesocialimpact@mtvstaff.com �for customized support. To share feedback on how this guide can better serve you or to suggest additional communities and topics we should address, please click here.

Do No Harm Commitment

At MTV Entertainment Studios, we have a baseline commitment to Do No Harm, meaning we aim to �never sensationalize the following:

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Harmful Language: Hate speech, slurs and disparaging, stigmatizing or inaccurate language/jokes/stereotypes are unacceptable.

Self-Harm: Storylines involving suicide, self-injury and substance misuse can �be challenging and should be handled �with sensitivity.

Harm Against Others: Gratuitous scenes of violence or hate symbols can be distressing �for viewers. Violence, including sexual violence, should never be a plot device without exploring its impact on those involved.

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While we share a responsibility �to Do No Harm within our content, our digital spaces, and behind and in front of the camera, there may be instances where harmful language or themes must appear �in content where the primary purpose is educational, documentary, scientific or artistic.

However, please note: this �should not be seen as a” pass” to promote hate speech, self-harm �or harm against others.

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What To Expect

The Inclusive Language Guide provides insight into the historical context of harmful language and offers alternative terms and phrases. Ways to engage with this guide include but are not limited to:

Use Cases

Content Warning

Some language used in this document is offensive, harmful and triggering in nature. We do not take the decision to include such material lightly and do so to educate and establish clarity around harmful language. Please read with care. Only share this guide, in part or in entirety, within its intended context.

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MTVE employees, talent and production partners, regardless of their role or department, can utilize the Inclusive Language Guide

The Inclusive Language Guide can be used to support inclusive decision making at every �phase of a project. In tandem with the Social Impact Team and our expert partners, you can� use this Guide:

BEFORE: To assess new opportunities before kicking off a project

EXAMPLES:

  • Greenlight process
  • Social media vetting
  • Library content

DURING: To align and set expectations at the start of a project �and throughout production

EXAMPLES:

  • Casting notices and character descriptions
  • Review of treatments, scripts and rough cuts
  • On set

AFTER: To vet materials and prepare stakeholders to support the project's release

EXAMPLES:

  • Digital: social copy, community management responses
  • Comms: press releases, internal and external communications, media training for talent, press interviews
  • Marketing: promos, marketing campaigns
  • Onboarding new hires, talent, production partners,� writers’ rooms, etc.
  • Support talent in brand building or leveraging their platform to discuss social issues and causes

Who:

When �& How:

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Inclusive Language Overview

Harmful Language

This language guide focuses on the first principle of MTVE’s baseline commitment to Do No Harm, “Harmful Language.” Words have the power to build up and tear down. We all deserve to feel safe, valued and respected. When we do, we are empowered to contribute our full selves, leading to a healthy environment for our cast and crew, and better content for our audience.

Harmful language often consists of misinformation, stereotypes and hateful/harmful speech.

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Misinformation is false, misleading or inaccurate information, which can be shared with or without the intention to mislead. Misinformation fuels hate speech and fosters stigma, discrimination and violent extremism. It spreads and creates panic and confusion, preventing critical solutions and decelerating progress.

Stereotypes are widely held, fixed and oversimplified beliefs about an individual or group. Stereotypes, often a byproduct of misinformation, are false or inaccurate and unfairly cast characteristics on individuals for having membership in a particular group. “Positive” stereotypes (e.g., Asians are good at math) can also lead to negative outcomes, alienating those within a community that do not identify with the said stereotype. Stereotypes target different groups of people for varied attributes, including but not limited to gender, race, class, age and religion.

Hateful & Harmful Speech

Hate speech is a broad term that covers varying forms of expressions that incite, promote or justify hatred, violence and/or discrimination against protected groups. Using slurs, pejoratives or hate speech is unacceptable without a defensible context (educational, documentary, scientific or artistic in nature).

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Examples:

  • “In the U.S., most people on welfare are Black.”
  • “Immigrants take jobs from citizens, don’t pay taxes and are a burden to the economy.”
  • “Abortion causes breast cancer �and infertility.”

Examples:

  • “Blonde women are not smart.”
  • “Older people do not know how �to use technology.”
  • “Women are bad drivers.”

Examples:

  • Slurs
  • Bigoted language
  • Racist rhetoric

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Inclusive Language Overview

Intent vs. Impact

The words we use can have willful or unintended consequences, but the impact of our words matters, regardless of intention. Your intent is what you aim to achieve through a word or action, and the impact is how an action or word is received or experienced by others. Good intentions do not always result in a positive impact.

Harmful language can show up in surprising and seemingly innocuous ways, including harmful jokes, �visuals and images and everyday “casual” conversations–all of which can be vehicles of microaggressions. �A microaggression is a comment or action that subtly and often unintentionally conveys a harmful and discriminatory attitude toward a member of a historically marginalized group. Microaggressions can be unconsciously or willfully sexist, racist, ageist, ableist, homophobic or transphobic, to name a few.

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Words and actions can impact others in both individual and systemic ways. Individual impact is the effect of a word or action on an individual or group. Systemic impact is a broader look at how language can perpetuate social inequality and systemic harm. It is the impact of an action or event on the systems and institutions that shape society. Recognizing both forms of impact creates more positive and inclusive spaces for everyone.

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Inclusive Language Overview

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Harmful Jokes

Harmful “jokes” include any humorous language or interactions that intentionally �or unintentionally lead to a negative impact, including mental and emotional distress, �undermined feelings of safety and security and professional and economic distress.

Avoid placing someone’s race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, �cultural practices, religion, etc., as the punchline of a joke.

There is a fine line in comedy between humor and offense �that can be difficult to define. As comedy is a genre often �predicated on crossing this line, there are many nuances �to consider and not a one-size fits all approach.

Visuals and Images

Hateful and harmful speech manifests in many forms of expression, including visuals and images, shared in digital or physical spaces.

Some may claim that visuals and images like the Confederate flag, Native sports mascots or swastikas are emblems of heritage, pride or nostalgia. However, for many, these symbols are enduring painful reminders of the hate inflicted on them and their ancestors.

“Casual” Conversations

Language holding harmful connotations (e.g., ableism, �sexism, racism, etc.) are often folded into everyday language. These words can be used casually, unknowingly and without the intention to cause harm. However, it is important to take a critical look at the impact of these words and consider �their context.

Examples:

Jokes centering on:

  • A person’s gender pronoun
  • The physical characteristic �of an ethnic group
  • Accents

Examples:

  • Symbols (e.g., Confederate �flag, swastika, etc.)
  • Memes/cartoons �(e.g., Pepe the Frog)
  • Mascots (e.g., racist Native �sports mascots)

Examples:

  • Ableist connotation: �“falling on deaf ears”
  • Sexist connotation: �“boys will be boys”
  • Racist connotation: �“low man on the totem pole”

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Questions to Consider:

  • Who is the punchline of the joke? What characteristics or identities are centered?
  • Is a member of the group present or involved in the creative process?
  • Is there an alternative way to be humorous without risking harm?

In addition to considering these three questions, you can lean on the MTVE �Social Impact Team and expert partners for support to assess the line.

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Inclusive Language Overview

Consider Context

Context matters. There are contexts in which harmful language or themes can serve a purpose in content. �There also may be instances when it might be appropriate for an individual or group to use seemingly hateful �and harmful speech. The meaning and consequences of language are deeply contextual.

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Library Content

Our library represents decades of content, and we recognize that some of our programs include culturally insensitive material and/or potentially offensive portrayals of people and/or cultures. �As Paramount strives to create content that fully embraces diversity, inclusivity and equity in all its forms, we believe that instead of removing this content, it’s important we use it to remain accountable: to acknowledge our history, learn from our failings and spark dialogue that helps transform the world for the better—one person, one story and one program at a time. Read more about Paramount’s anti-bias stance here.

Period Pieces

MTVE aims to create content that is authentic to the time period it is based in. With that in mind, �period pieces may include language we would not use today.

Reclaiming Language

Individuals and communities sometimes reclaim language disparagingly used against them. �The act of reclamation changes the context and meaning of words. Within a reclaimed context, �the word becomes a tool of empowerment and resistance. However, when people from outside �of the community use the same words, they still carry their original disparaging meaning �and context.

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LANGUAGE GUIDES BY COMMUNITY �& TOPIC

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Table of Contents

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Language Guides by Community & Topic

AAPI …………………………………………………….…. 10-19

Ageism …………………………………………………… 20-25

  • Older Adults ……………………………………. 20-23
  • Younger Adults ……………………………….. 24-25

BIPOC …………………………………………………….. 26-27

Black & African American ………………………. 28-29

Class ……………………………………………………… 30-31

Immigrant ……………………………………………… 32-33

Jewish ……………………………………………………..…… 34

Latine/x …………………………………………………. 35-36

LGBTQIA+ ……………………………………….………. 37-51

  • Lesbian …………………..…………………………….. 41
  • Gay ……………………………………………………….. 42
  • Bi+ ………………………………………………….. 43-44
  • Trans ………………………………………………. 45-46
  • Queer ……………………………………………………. 47
  • Intersex ………………………………………………… 48
  • Asexual …………………………………………………. 49
  • Nonbinary ……………………….………………. 50-51

Mental Health ………………………………………… 52-54

Middle Eastern & North African ……………… 55-56

Muslim …………………………………………………… 57-58

Native & Indigenous ………………………………. 59-61

Online Harassment & Misinformation ……. 62-64

People with Disabilities …………………………. 65-68

  • Autism ………………………………………………..… 68

Rural Communities ………………………………… 69-70

Sexual & Reproductive Health ……………….. 72-73

Southern ………………………………………………… 74-75

Survivors of Sexual Assault & Abuse ……… 76-77

Women & Girls …………………………………………….. 78

Acknowledgment

*Clicking the purple bar on any page will bring you back to the Table of Contents

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AAPI

Terms & Definitions

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AAPI: The AAPI community includes people who live in the U.S. and identify as East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander. AAPIDA (Asian American and Pacific Islander Desi American) is also sometimes used to include people who identify as Desi—the people, cultures and products of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and their diaspora

Model Minority Myth: A perception that certain underrepresented groups are more successful than other marginalized groups or have particular “positive” traits. The model minority myth paints people of Asian descent as silent, hardworking and passive but ultimately successful and deferring to white people or systems of white supremacy—even if it is to their own detriment

Xenophobia: Dislike or prejudice against people from other countries

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

The model minority myth

The model minority myth drives a racial wedge between people of Asian descent and other underrepresented groups. It also ignores and erases individual differences, alienating those who do not fall within the myth or stereotype. The model minority myth is a perception that certain underrepresented groups are more successful (excelling in school, work, etc.) than other marginalized groups or have particular “positive” traits. The myth upholds the false perception that all Asian people are economically advantaged when, in fact, they actually experience a wide income and education gap.

The hypersexualization of Asian women & emasculation of Asian men

Painting Asian men as emasculated and hypersexualizing Asian women leads to real-life consequences, including fetishization, hate and violence.

Conflating communities within Asia

Asian communities are not homogenous and should not be discussed as if they are. Communities within Asia may have overlapping customs or shared experiences, but their cultures are distinctly different. Additionally, Asian communities face discrimination in different ways.

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AAPI

Resources

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Derogatory terms or racial slurs to refer to people who �are native to or originating from Asia

Examples:

  • “Oriental”
  • “Ch*nk,” G**k and J*p

  • “Oriental” is an outdated term used to refer to people of East Asian descent. This term can be offensive and derogatory towards people of Asian descent, as it implies “exoticization” or “foreignness” and reinforces harmful stereotypes.
  • “Ch*nk” is a racial slur rooted in hate and generally used against people of East Asia and Southeast Asia. The term originated in the 19th century against people of Chinese descent following a movement to expel Chinese workers from the United States. This derogatory and offensive term perpetuates stereotypes and promotes racism. It is best to use a person’s identity (e.g., Japanese, Korean) when possible.
  • “G**k” is a derogatory term for people of Asian descent, particularly in East and Southeast Asia. �“G**k” comes from the word “guk,” which means “country” in Korean. The American military commonly used the slur during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The use of the word perpetuates a long history of racism and discrimination towards people of Asian descent.
  • "J*p" was a slur used against Japanese people �during WWII. The use of this term can evoke painful memories and trauma for people of Japanese descent.

Xenophobic, othering and anti-immigrant rhetoric

Examples:

  • “Go back to China”
  • “Where are you from?”

The othering of people of Asian descent ignores their significant contributions to history, culture and society. �It can also fuel racism, violence and harmful and �discriminatory policies.

Racist jokes

Examples:

  • Accent mocking/Racist impressions
  • Stereotypical jokes (e.g., “bad driver” jokes, �dating ineptitude)

Jokes at the expense of a social group send a message defining “insiders” and “outsiders,” which can undermine a person’s sense of self-worth and belonging. Avoid humor that belittles or maligns an individual or group.

Exoticizing, fetishizing and oversexualizing �Asian women

While these depictions can be intended as positive� or laudatory, they are harmful and objectify Asian women. These depictions can put Asian women at risk of violence.

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AAPI: East Asian

Terms & Definitions

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East Asian: Those with ethnic background or ancestry from countries and territories of China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan. This region and diaspora represent various ethnicities, cultures, religions and languages

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

The “perpetual foreigners” stereotype, which paints those perceived as a “foreigner” as not “belonging” or as posing a threat to the U.S.

Examples:

  • The false idea of “stealing” jobs from other groups
  • “Yellow Peril”

Using the “perpetual foreigner” stereotype such as the “yellow peril” fuels xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric and violence against East Asian people.

The “yellow peril” is a racist fear in Western countries and cultures that East Asians, particularly of Chinese descent, will invade their lands and disrupt white Western values, power and culture. While often dismissed as 19th-century history, this language persists and was revitalized during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hypersexualized, objectifying or fetishizing stereotypes regarding women of East Asian descent

Example:

  • The “Dragon Lady” stereotype

The “dragon lady” stereotype depicts East Asian and Southeast Asian women as “strong,” “deceitful,” “domineering” and “sexually alluring.”

These portrayals are rooted in racism and sexism, and often put East Asian women in danger of violence.

False stereotypes about men of East Asian descent

Examples:

  • “Weak”
  • “Romantically undesirable”

These stereotypes shame people of color for not fitting into heteronormative (i.e., that heterosexuality is the normal or preferred sexual orientation) and Eurocentric beauty standards, and they are rooted in racism. These stereotypes fuel harassment against East Asian men, especially �queer men.

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AAPI: East Asian

Resources

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Derogatory terms like “Oriental” to refer to people who are native to or originating from Asia

Although the word “Oriental” is not considered a slur, �it is an outdated term when used to describe people. �It inaccurately lumps people of different regions such �as India, Egypt and China together, taking away �their individuality.

Blaming and scapegoating people of Asian descent for the COVID-19 pandemic

Examples:

  • “You brought the virus to our country.”
  • Mislabeling COVID-19 as the “China virus” �or “Kung Flu virus”

Inaccurate blame placed on people of Asian descent �has led to an increase in racism, xenophobic violence �and discrimination.

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AAPI: Native Hawaiians & Pacific Islander

Terms & Definitions

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Island Time: A characterization, often ascribed to islanders, of being “leisurely,” “tardy” or having a slack attitude toward time

NHPI: The indigenous inhabitants, descendants and diaspora of the Pacific Islands, comprising the Oceania subregions of Melanesia (e.g., Fijians, Papuans), Micronesia (e.g., Chamorro, Marshallese, I-Kiribati) and Polynesia (e.g., Native Hawaiians, Māori, Samoans). While “Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders” (NHPI) is the federal term most commonly used, it reduces tens of thousands of islands and indigenous cultural groups—7,000+ in Papua New Guinea alone—into one homogenous label

Native Hawaiian: The indigenous people of the Hawaiian islands (called Kānaka Maoli). Throughout history, Native Hawaiians have had their sovereignty and culture dominated and challenged by the U.S. and other Asian and European colonizers. “Native Hawaiians” does �not refer to everyone who lives in or was born �in Hawai’i

Polynesia: A subregion of Oceania in the southern and central Pacific Ocean. Polynesia includes Hawai’i, New Zealand, Easter Island, Samoan Islands, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Niue, Tokelau and Tuvalu, Tonga, Wallis and Futuna, Rotuma Island and Pitcairn Islands

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

“Simple,” “exotic,” “primitive” or “uncivilized”

“Lacking ambition or intellect” (e.g., the phrase �“on Island time”)

These stereotypes uphold imperialistic views of NHPI people and disregard their varied identities, cultures and histories. NHPI stereotypes often ignore the devastating impact colonialism and tourism have had on the Pacific Islands.

The devastating consequences of these stereotypes include lack of access to education, healthcare disparities, high unemployment rates, etc.

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AAPI: Native Hawaiians & Pacific Islander

Resources

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Equating all NHPI identities to only Hawaiian identity

This ignores the full spectrum of Melanesian, Micronesian and Polynesian experiences.

Fetishized (e.g., dusky maiden, hula girl, etc.) or sexist comments about NHPI women

Fetishized and sexist comments, exoticizing NHPI women misappropriates NHPI cultural traditions and makes NHPI women vulnerable to violence.

Harmful jokes targeted toward NHPI people

Examples:

  • “Large” body type jokes
  • Marveling at strength/size
  • Accent mocking

Jokes at the expense of a social group send a message defining “insiders” and “outsiders,” which can undermine a person’s sense of self-worth and belonging. Avoid humor that belittles or maligns an individual or group.

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AAPI: South Asian

Terms & Definitions

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South Asian: Those with ethnic background or ancestry from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives (thousands of tiny coral islands), Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. This community also includes a South Asian diaspora settled all across the world, including large populations in Canada, the Caribbean, East Africa, Europe, the Fiji islands, the Middle East and North African region, and the U.S.

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Perpetuating the lie that all South Asian people are “violent” and “enemies of the West”

Racist stereotypes painting the South Asian community �as violent, dehumanizes them. Reducing people of South Asian descent to negative stereotypes leads to devastating consequences such as hate crimes, exclusions and �harmful policies.

South Asian stereotypes centering around curry

Examples:

  • South Asian people eat curry all day, and everyday
  • Racist curry “jokes”
  • “All South Asian people smell like curry”

These stereotypes falsely reduce all South Asian people and cuisine to categories, telling an incomplete or inaccurate singular story. Food is a vital aspect of culture and should be respected. South Asian cuisine features a diversity of spices and cuisines.

Misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding South Asian arranged marriages (e.g., all arranged marriages are not consensual). Additionally, assuming a married South Asian couple is the result of an arranged marriage

These cultural stereotypes are steeped in the false notion that “Western” culture is superior to “Eastern” culture. �It is harmful to make assumptions about an individual or group based on stereotypes.

There is a difference between arranged marriage and �forced marriage. In an arranged marriage, there is the consent of both parties entering the marriage. A forced marriage is when one or both parties did not or cannot consent to the marriage.

Language casting South Asians as “terrorists to be “hated” or “feared”

This results in ongoing anti-brown, anti-Sikh and anti-Muslim hate crimes.

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AAPI: South Asian

Resources

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Language mocking or trivializing religious practices �(e.g., holding cows sacred, believing in reincarnation and wearing bindis)

Jokes at the expense of a social group send a message defining “insiders” and “outsiders,” which can undermine a person’s sense of self-worth and belonging. Avoid humor that belittles or maligns an individual or group.

Racial, sexist and religious slurs such as “towelh**d,” which is an offensive term for people of Arab descent �who wear headdresses such as a turban and keffiyeh

Terms such as “towelh**d” are packed with racist and sexist undertones and have a history of being used derogatorily against people of Muslim faith or Arab origin.

Pejorative slurs, terms and phrases involving food or spices (e.g., curry “jokes,” “curry muncher,” �“curry ni**er)

These racist terms, usually reserved for people of South Asian descent, perpetuate incomplete or inaccurate stereotypes.

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AAPI: Southeast Asian

Terms & Definitions

Resources

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Calling a queer or trans person of Southeast Asian �descent a “Ladyboy” (primarily used to refer to transgender people in Southeast Asia), equating them �to performers or sex workers

The term “Ladyboy” specifically targets those of Southeast Asian descent. It is a term that originates from an English translation of the Thai word “kathoey,” which has been applied to transgender women, gay men or intersex individuals. This term has a specific impact when used against LGBTQIA+ individuals of Southeast Asian descent.

Southeast Asian: Those with ethnic background or ancestry from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam. Southeast Asians (SEAs) comprise hundreds of ethnic groups. They include diaspora (e.g., Chinese Malaysian, Indian Singaporean) who have resided in Southeast Asia (SEA) for multiple generations, as well as the SEA diaspora around the world

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Terms and phrases that stereotype Southeast Asian women as aggressive (e.g., “Tiger mom”)

Phrases like “tiger mom,” stereotypes Southeast Asian women as aggressive or domineering, which can negatively impact the way in which Southeast Asian women are perceived and treated in society.

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Ageism: Older Adults

Terms & Definitions

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Ageism: Stereotyping, prejudice or discrimination against people based on their age (across all ages), especially older adults

Gendered ageism: The intersectionality of sexism and ageism. This type of ageism typically affects women over the age of 40. Gendered ageism falsely frames older women as less valuable in society

Long-term care: Varied medical and non-medical services for older adults and others with chronic illnesses or disabilities (e.g., assisted living homes and communities, home accessibility renovations such as walk-in tubs, physical and drug therapies)

Medicare: Federal U.S. health insurance that subsidizes healthcare services for people 65+, and certain younger people with disabilities

Older adults: Typically defined as a person who is 65 years or older. However, sociocultural signifiers, such as genetics, lifestyle and overall health (often impacted by social determinants of health) can also influence who is considered an older adult

Social determinants of health (SDoH): Conditions in the environments where people are born, grow, live, learn, work, play, worship and age. These conditions are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels and influence health outcomes

Social Security: A federal program that �provides retirement and survivor benefits �and disability income

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Language stereotyping older women as “undesirable”

This stereotype contributes greatly to gendered ageism, which is the intersectionality of gender bias and age. This type of ageism typically affects women in their 40s and beyond. Gendered ageism falsely frames women who are perceived to be older as less valuable in society, impacting many aspects of women’s lives (career, dating, etc.).

The misconception that older people are “incompetent” �or “out of touch”

Examples:

  • “Unable to use technology, unless with the help of a younger person”
  • “Unable to manage finances on their own”

This stereotype devalues and marginalizes older �adults, leading to discrimination, exclusion and feelings �of incompetence.

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Ageism: Older Adults

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Language implying that older adults are “set in their ways” and thus cannot learn and grow

This stereotype discourages older adults and caregivers from engaging in new hobbies or activities and shifting their perspectives or ideologies.

Language implying that all older adults are in cognitive or physical decline or are incompetent due to their age (e.g., calling an older person “slow,” “weak,” or “frail” simply because of their age)

These assumptions and stereotypes can deter older people from exercising their full potential. The misconception that memory decline is an “inevitable” aspect of getting older can reduce a person’s motivation, despite having resources such as brain exercises proven to help boost memory. It perpetuates a bias that age-related disabilities decrease a person’s value and worth. Older adults can continue to be active and contribute equally to their communities, workplace, etc.

Language that stereotypes or “others” older adults as being a group that is separate from society

Examples:

  • “The elderly”
  • “The aged”
  • “Seniors”

These phrases imply that older adults aren’t part of society.

The misconception that older adults are no longer useful to society

This misconception can distort how older adults view themselves and how they’re perceived, valued and treated in society.

Language stigmatizing older people as “negative,” simply because of their age

Examples:

  • “Grumpy old man”
  • “Get off my lawn” jokes

These stereotypes falsely typecast an entire generation.

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Ageism: Older Adults

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Perpetuating negative and positive attitudes and stereotypes about aging and older adults

These negative attitudes have adverse consequences on the mental and physical health of older adults. Consequences include social isolation, internalization/stereotype embodiment, ageism in the healthcare system (e.g., dismissing a treatable illness as a feature of “old age,” treating the natural outcomes of aging as a disease,” etc.) and more.

Negative attitudes and stereotypes about aging can cause younger and older people to be repelled by aging, which robs society of intergenerational connection and fuels ageist policies that lead to harmful consequences (e.g., compromised medical care, workplace and hiring discrimination, etc.).

Condescending and infantilizing terms and phrases

Examples:

  • Calling a group of older women “young ladies,”
  • “Little old lady” or “little old man”
  • Terms like “adorable”

These terms perpetuate the stereotype that older adults are frail or weak.

Calling an older adult terms that reference medical facilities, especially outside of a medical context (e.g., geriatric, using terms like geriatric to describe things that are worn out)

Terms like “geriatric” are considered offensive, as it can mean “worn out” or “incompetent” depending �on the context in which it is being said. Due to how deeply ageism is embedded in culture, negative connotations have been added to the term, which can be defined as “relating to an older person.”

Fear-based phrases and metaphors

Examples:

  • “Silver tsunami”
  • “Graying population”
  • “Demographic cliff/time bomb”

These terms frame aging and the aging population �as a crisis or burden to society.

Ageist jokes, euphemisms and cliches

Examples:

  • “Over the hill”
  • “Dinosaur”
  • “Teaching an old dog new tricks”

Ageist terms and phrases are rude, often suggesting/implying that a person is no longer fit, attractive or capable of contributing to society, their communities or workplaces because they are of a certain age.

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Ageism: Older Adults

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Avoid

Suggested Alternative

“senile/senility”

“dementia”

“person with dementia”

“person with dementia

due to Alzheimer’s disease”

“elderly people”

“the aged”

“seniors”

“senior citizens”

“older adults”

“older people”

“person 65 years or older”

“the older population”

Person-First Language Terms and Phrases

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Ageism: Younger Adults

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Baby boomer: The generation born approximately between 1945 and 1965, following World War II, when there was a “baby boom,” meaning an increase in the number of babies born

Generation X: Also known as Gen X. Members of this generation were born between 1965 and 1980, approximately

Generation Z: Also known as Gen Z, iGen or centennials. The generation born approximately between 1997 and 2012. They are often characterized by their familiarity and access to digital technology, the internet and social media at a young age

Millennials: Also known as Generation Y or Gen Y. �The generation born approximately between the early 1980s and mid-to-late 1990s. Millennials are often characterized by being born without the prevalence of technology or social media but witnessing its evolution

Younger Adults: Typically defined as a person who is between the ages of 18-25 or 18-30

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Boomer versus millennial tropes and stereotypes:

  • Stereotyping younger adults as “lazy” or “slackers”
  • Accusing millennials or “Gen Z” of “killing” industries, products or practices
  • Millennials have a sense of entitlement”
  • “Boomers are resistant to social change”
  • “Ok, Boomer”

Generational labels often perpetuate stereotypes.These tropes and stereotypes ignore the richness in diversity within generations and fuels social divisions. This robs society of intergenerational connection and fuels ageist policies that lead to harmful consequences.

“Millennial” is the same as a “young adult”

Conflating the term “millennial” with “young person” inaccurately lumps millions of people into a single homogenous group. Millennials are the generation born between the early 1980s and 1990s.

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Ageism: Younger Adults

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Referring to millennials or gen z as a “snowflake” or “snowflake generation”

“Snowflake” is a disparaging and divisive term that characterizes entire generations, typically younger people, as “overly sensitive,” “fragile,” and “easily offended” often due to their political beliefs.

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BIPOC

Terms & Definitions

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BIPOC: BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous and people of color

Colorism: Racial discrimination based on �the shade of a person’s skin tone, typically favoring lighter complexions within an ethnic/racial group due to its perceived proximity to whiteness

Ethnicity: A social construct used to �categorize groups of people based on shared culture, religious practices, traditions, �ancestry, language, dialect or racial, tribal �or national origins

Race: A social construct used to categorize people based on various physical attributes �or traits

Reverse racism: A myth referring to discrimination against white people between �the ages of 18-25 or 18-30

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

“Reverse racism”

The reverse racism myth ignores the power/privilege dynamic between the individuals/groups involved and assumes that racism occurs on a level playing field. For reverse racism to be real, all racial groups must have equal power. While a BIPOC person can be biased or prejudiced, they cannot be racist. Racism is a system of inequality that BIPOC communities do not have the structural power within this system to enact. Thus, although harmful, racial prejudice against white people is not considered racism. Within the U.S., BIPOC communities do not have the institutional power to enact racism (e.g., limit opportunities on a systemic level for white people).

Perpetuating stereotypes about an individual or group’s race, culture and ethnicity

Examples:

  • “[Insert race/culture/identity] smell like �[insert food]”
  • “[Insert race/culture/identity] have �[insert physical feature]”
  • “[Insert racial/ethnic group] are good or bad �at [insert skill or subject matter]”

These stereotypes are often exaggerated or false generalizations that can shape attitudes/behaviors toward a given race, culture and ethnicity.

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BIPOC

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Derogatory terms like “mulatto” or “half breed” �when referring to people with multiple racial or �ethnic backgrounds.

Terms such as “mulatto” or “half breed” are dehumanizing and harmful legacies of slavery. These terms were used to refer to bi-racial enslaved Africans. Instead, use terms like “multiracial” or “biracial” or an individual’s preferred term.

Harmful jokes placing someone’s race or ethnicity as the joke's punchline.

Jokes at the expense of a social group send a message defining “insiders” and “outsiders,” which can undermine a person’s sense of self-worth and belonging. Avoid humor that belittles or maligns an individual or group.

Using umbrella terms to refer to a single racial or ethnic group (e.g., people of color or BIPOC)

Umbrella terms are not always interchangeable with terms that refer to a distinct racial or ethnic group. For example, an individual belonging to the Southeast Asian community is a person of color, but not all people of color are from Southeast Asia. Ensure the term you are using accurately reflects the racial or ethnic group you are talking about.

Incorrect terminology when referring to groups of people

It is important to understand the meaning behind the terms we use to address people and ensure the use of appropriate and respectful terms. It is also important to describe people based on their preferences.

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Black & African American

Terms & Definitions

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African American: African Americans are �an ethnic group of Americans with total or partial ancestry from any of Africa’s Black racial groups. African American typically refers to descendants of people who were enslaved in the U.S. It’s important to note that not all Black Americans, particularly those from Latin America, South America, Africa and the Caribbean, consider themselves African American. Like any community, Black Americans reflect a wide range of experiences based on ethnicity, culture, identity and geography

Black: Black is a racialized classification for people of African ancestral origin. The term covers a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds

Afro Latine/x: Black Latine/x people refer to themselves in varied, nuanced ways. For instance, those from Latin America and the diaspora self-identify using terms including, but not limited to, Black Latine/x (“negro(a)/x” in Spanish), Afrodescendant (“afrodescendiente” in Spanish), and Afro Latine/x

Black Muslim: Black people who engage in Islam as a religious and spiritual tradition

Caribbean: People born in or inhabitants of the Caribbean region or people of Caribbean descent living outside the Caribbean

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Reinforcing racist stereotypes by calling a Black person a “thug” or “aggressive”

The term may seem racially neutral, but the words “thug” and “aggressive” have become coded language for the N-word. The term perpetuates and invokes a racial stereotype that Black people are more prone to violence than others.

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Black & African American

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Use of dehumanizing terms such as ”the Blacks,” racial slurs like “n***a,” “n***er,” “Aunt Jemima,” or outdated words like “colored” or “negro”

These terms are rooted in a deep history of oppression, racism and white supremacy and elicit that deep history when said. If you do not identify and are not identified as Black, do not use slurs or dated terms of any kind when referring to Black people.

Microaggressions, including painfulremarks, questions or actions that are rooted �in racial stereotypes

Examples:

  • “You’re so articulate”
  • “You’re an oreo,” meaning a Black person �who “acts white”
  • Calling things or people “ghetto,” “hood,” �or “ratchet”
  • Calling a Black woman “angry”

Microaggressions negatively impact a �person’s mental and emotional well-being �while reinforcing stereotypes.

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Class

Terms & Definitions

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Boujie/ Boujee: A slang term referring to a person viewed as upscale or someone who prefers higher end, lavish materials and products

Bourgeois: Characteristic of the middle class, typically with reference to its perceived materialistic values or conventional attitudes

Class: Relative social rank in terms of income, wealth, education, status and/or power. Social classes are hierarchical groupings of individuals, usually based on wealth, educational attainment, occupation, income or membership in a subculture or social network

Class ally: A person from the more privileged classes whose attitudes and behaviors are anti- classist, who is committed to increasing his or her own understanding of this issue related to classism, and is actively working toward eliminating classism on many levels

Class privilege: Tangible or intangible unearned advantages of higher-class status, such as personal contacts with employers, good childhood health care, inherited money and speaking with the same dialect/accent as people with institutional power

Classism: Prejudice against or in favor of people belonging to a particular social class

Economic inequality: The unequal �distribution of income and opportunity between groups in society

Lower class: Also referred to as the working class, this class earns the least income compared to other classes

Middle class: Refers to a class of people in the middle of a social hierarchy, often defined by occupation, income, education, or social status

Socioeconomic status: The position of an individual or group determined by a combination �of social and economic factors such as income, amount and kind of education, occupation, residence, etc.

Upper class: The economic group with the greatest wealth and power in society

Upper middle class: Refers to the highest earners of the middle class

Upward mobility: The capacity or facility for rising to a higher social or economic position

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

“American Dream”

The “American Dream” is the idea that the United States is a land of equal-opportunity economic mobility, where hard work is rewarded with economic success. This is, in fact, a myth because race, gender, gender expression/identity, the socioeconomic status one is born in, where one lives, education level and other factors contribute to and play a role in one’s ability to gain economic success.

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Class

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

“Pull yourself up by the bootstraps”

The phrase “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” indicates that all people, regardless of the circumstances they face from birth, have an equal opportunity to attain great wealth and prosperity by working hard to do so. This notion ignores the systemic barriers that stack the deck against historically disenfranchised communities, making economic mobility more challenging.

Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

“Inner city”

“Inner city” is an outdated and inaccurate euphemism, synonymously used to signify poor, urban Black neighborhoods and/or poverty within cities. Conflating poor and Black neighborhoods with a location, ignores the racist history of redlining, housing discrimination, etc., and instead blames the community.This term creates a falsehood on the realities of who is low-income and where “poverty” is located. Poverty also increasingly occurs in rural and suburban areas. As an alternative, state the name of the actual area you are referring to.

“White trash”

This phrase was first used in the 1800s to describe low-income white people in rural communities. It has its roots in class bias and infers that only wealthy people’s lives have value. This term can perpetuate stereotypes and contribute to false narratives of people living in rural communities.

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Immigrants & Migrants

Terms & Definitions

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Asylum-seeker: A person who leaves their �country, seeking protection from persecution and human rights violations in another country, is not legally recognized as a refugee and awaits a decision on their asylum claim. Seeking asylum is a human right

DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is a program that allows individuals who came to the U.S. as children and meet several stringent requirements to apply for temporary protection from deportation and work eligibility for two years. The program requires that the DACA status and work permit be renewed every two years. As of 2022, all DACA recipients have lived in the U.S. for at least 15 years, yet they do not have a pathway to citizenship

DREAMer: A broad term that refers to undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States since childhood but have no pathway to citizenship

Immigrant: A person who migrates to another country, usually for permanent residence

Migrant: A broad term for people who go to another country without status. Migrants may remain on the move for extended periods, and some may wish to return home one day

Refugee: A person who has fled their country because they are at significant risk of human rights violations and persecution. Refugees have a right to seek international protection

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Other-izing and stereotyping language or language that portrays immigrants, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers as criminals or violent

This fosters a lack of empathy and apathy about changing broken immigration policies and systems.

Language equating immigrants and migrants �as criminals

Not only is it inaccurate, as immigrants are far �less likely than the native-born population to �commit crimes and be incarcerated, but it is �also dehumanizing.

Portraying refugees or asylum seekers as a national security threat

This fosters a lack of empathy toward migrants and their reasons for migrating, and apathy about changing unjust immigration policies and systems.

Assuming all immigrants and migrants are Latine/x

There is a common misconception that immigration is only a Latine/x issue. Immigrant and migrant communities are incredibly diverse.

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Immigrants & Migrants

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Perpetuating the “good immigrant” trope

A common narrative is the misconception that only “good” immigrants who are “hard-working” and/or “contribute to the economy” are worthy of living in the United States. Though these depictions are usually well-meaning, reducing people to an economic value-add or taking away their right to be flawed, complex individuals is still dehumanizing. An immigrant person does not have to be perfect or experience/overcome every form of adversity to have rights or worth.

Making immigration status, one’s identity as an immigrant, or a desire to achieve citizenship be the sole defining characteristic of a person

Immigrants are people with goals and aspirations that go beyond their immigrant status, which are themes that should be explored.

Perpetuating fear-based narratives

These reductive narratives portray immigrants as either living in fear (of deportation or other types of discrimination) or causing fear in others. It is important to also share stories that center on joy and resilience.

Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Dehumanizing and racialized terms such as “illegal immigrants,” “illegals,” “alien” to refer to undocumented immigrants”

These words are dehumanizing and other-ing. They replace complex legal circumstances with an assumption of guilt and fuel perceptions that immigrants deserve the cruel treatment they receive (e.g., being imprisoned in inhumane detention centers and torn from their families).

Exposing someone’s immigration status without �explicit permission

Many people choose to hide or keep their immigration status private rather than risk deportation due to the unwanted attention this type of exposure would attract. It’s important to remember the risk undocumented immigrants face in coming forward with their journeys.

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Jewish

Terms & Definitions

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Antisemitism: Anti-Jewish prejudice, discrimination,hatred, hostility, violence or oppression

Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Antisemitic language, meaning hostile language toward Jewish people

Examples:

  • Denial or distortion of the Holocaust
  • Deicide, a myth that Jewish people are collectively responsible for the murder of Jesus
  • Blood libel, which is an accusation that Jews �have murdered

Misconceptions about an ethnoreligious group or culture can have social and legal consequences and lead to religious hostility, discrimination and violence (e.g., vandalization of religious buildings, shootings, exclusion from jobs, etc.).

Holocaust denial, any attempt to negate facts of the Nazi genocide of European Jews

Holocaust denial and distortion is a form of antisemitism. These views perpetuate long-standing antisemitic stereotypes and hateful beliefs that helped lay the foundation for the Holocaust.

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Perpetuating stereotypes about Jewish people. �A stereotype is an oversimplified image of a certain �group of people

Examples:

Misinformation and stereotypes about Jewish people contribute to antisemitism and a negative image of the Jewish community. This type of misinformation and stereotyping fosters animosity and discriminatory attitudes and behaviors toward the Jewish community and institutions (e.g., swastikas found on Hillels or synagogues), leading to lethal consequences. For centuries, conspiracy theories that subscribe to misinformation and tropes about Jews have led to violence and genocide.

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Latine/x

Terms & Definitions

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Afro Latine/x: Individuals who identify their ethnicity as Latine/x and their race as Black. Afro-Latine/x (or Afro-Latino, -Latina) refers to individuals of Latin America or Latin American descent who are also of African ancestry. Black Latine/x people refer to themselves in varied, nuanced ways. For instance, those from Latin America and the diaspora self-identify using terms including, but not limited to, Black Latine/x (“negro(a)/x” in Spanish), Afrodescendant (“afrodescendiente” in Spanish) and Afro Latine/x. It is up to an individual to identify as Latino(a)/Latine/Latinx

Asian Latine/x: Two of America’s fastest-growing ethnic groups are Asian and Latino, and they aren’t mutually exclusive. Asian Latine/x people are Latin Americans of Asian descent. For centuries, Asian immigrants have settled throughout Latin America. It is up to a person to identify as Latino(a)/Latine/Latinx

Hispanic: This term refers to anyone from Spain or Spanish-speaking parts of Latin America. Though it's a more popularized term, it is often not preferred as it centers the cultural and historical link to Spain and its violent history of colonization

Indigenous: includes indigenous peoples of �the Americas, such as Native American, Maya, �Taino or Quechua

Latine: (pronounced la·ˈ​ti·​ne) is a gender-�neutral form of the word Latino, created by LGBTQIA+, gender nonbinary and feminist communities in Spanish-speaking countries. �The emerging term uses the gender-neutral Spanish letter E. Latine originated within the �Latine genderqueer community due to criticism �of the anglicization of Latinx and because Latine �is easier to conjugate in Spanish

Latino: People of Latin American origin or descent. It has also been adapted to become �even more specific. For groups often excluded �from the discourse, words like Afro-Latino, Muslim Latinos, and Asian Latinos have helped to center their experiences

Latinx: This term is a gender-neutral or �nonbinary alternative to “Latino/Latina/Latin American.” Latinx is more widely known among English speakers

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Assuming a Latine/x person is a recent immigrant and/or doesn’t speak English

These assumptions perpetuate harmful stereotypes, �racism and xenophobia which can create barriers to social, economic and political opportunities for people of �Latine/x descent.

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Latine/x

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

“Disinterest” in higher education, “laziness,” and �“limited intelligence”

This stereotype perpetuates a falsehood and ignores the systemic racism that is often a barrier to Latine/x people’s ability to access higher education.

The “Latine/x Lover” stereotype (e.g., calling a Latine/x person “spicy,” “feisty,” or “exotic”)

This stereotype hypersexualizes and objectifies �Latine/x people.

Assuming a Latine/x person is "Mexican" or that all Spanish speakers are Mexican

This assumption treats the Latine/x community as one homogeneous group. Latine/x communities may have overlapping customs or shared experiences, but their cultures are distinctly different.

Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Centering a Latine/x person as the punchline of a joke or mocking their accent

Jokes at the expense of a social group send a message defining “insiders” and “outsiders,” which can undermine a person’s sense of self-worth and belonging. Avoid humor that belittles or maligns an individual or group.

Racial slurs and pejoratives that refer to people from Spanish-speaking countries, such as: “sp*c,” words related to being greasy or dirty such as “greaser” or “greaseball;” “chile sh*tter,” “border rat,” “border bunny,” “wetback” or any word related to being from the border or crossing it; words related to food (e.g., “beaner,” “nacho,” etc.); words related to the ending or beginning of Latine/x countries (e.g., “MexiCAN,” “cuBAN,” “Latrino,” etc.); terms related to “typical” Latine/x names or words (e.g., José, Chico, Hombre); words related to manual labor �(e.g., “berry picker,” “orange picker,” etc.)

These terms are highly offensive, racist and perpetuate harmful stereotypes that increase hate, bias and injustice toward people of Latine/x descent. When used, they express contempt and create an atmosphere of intolerance. Dehumanizing slurs such as “border rat,” “wetback,” etc., place value on people based on their immigration status. The stereotypes associated with these terms ignore the struggles and inequities that Latine/x people face and the vast contributions they have made to society.

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LGBTQIA+

Terms & Definitions

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Cisgender (Cis): Someone whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth

Disclosure: The act or process of sharing one’s gender history with another person

Drag: A type of entertainment and form of art where people dress up and perform in highly stylized ways, dressing in exaggerated clothing and makeup of the opposite sex. Originating in the 19th century as British theater slang, the term was used to describe women’s clothing worn by men. Drag can be a form of gender expression and celebration of LGBTQ+ pride

Drag queen: Gender diverse performers who dress in exaggerated “feminine” drag to presume female characters and presentation

Drag king: Gender diverse performers who dress in exaggerated “masculine” drag to presume male characters and presentation

Gender exclusive: Using pronouns for �one gender group while excluding another �gender group

Gender expression: How people communicate their gender through external means, �including makeup, voice, clothing, appearance �or mannerisms

Gender identity: Someone’s internal, deeply �held understanding of gender (i.e., who they are—man, woman, agender, nonbinary, etc.). �It’s not visible to others, nor is it determined by someone’s biology or sex characteristics (e.g., chromosomes, reproductive organs)

Gender inclusive/gender neutral: Intended �for any gender; Speaking in a way that does not perpetuate gender stereotypes or discriminate against a particular sex, gender or gender identity

Genderfluid: A person whose gender identity �is fluid, not consistently adhering to one �fixed gender

Sexual orientation: How someone experiences romantic and/or sexual attraction. It’s an �inherent part of a person, not dependent on their sexual experience(s)

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LGBTQIA+

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Associating the LGBTQIA+ community with terms such as “dysfunctional,” “deviant,” “disordered,” “ diseased,” “destructive”

The notion that being LGBTQ is a psychological disorder was discredited by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association in the 1970s. Words such as deviant," "diseased" and "disordered" are sometimes used to portray LGBTQIA+ people as less than human, mentally ill, or as a danger to society. These words should be avoided when referencing the LGBTQIA+ community. If they must be used, quote them directly in a way that clearly reveals the bias of the person being quoted.

Associating the LGBTQIA+ community with child abuse, sexual abuse, polygamy, adultery, incest pedophilia, etc.

Being LGBTQIA+ is not synonymous with or indicative �of, any tendency toward pedophilia, child abuse, sexual abuse, bestiality, bigamy, polygamy, adultery or incest. �Such claims, innuendoes and associations are often �used to insinuate that LGBTQIA+ people pose a threat �to society, families and children. These insinuations are discriminatory, can be deemed defamatory and should �be avoided.

Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Slurs and offensive language toward members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Do not use harmful terms like “hermaphrodite,” “transvestite” or “transexual” (unless the person uses that to describe themselves) or slurs such as “f*g,” “f*ggot,” “d*ke,” “h*mo,” “sodomite,” “tr*nny” and similar derogatory terms

The impact of these words cause psychological damage and affirm negative treatment of folx within the community which extends to discriminatory policies and violence. Instead, use affirming language to identify LGBTQIA+ people. Use terms such as LGBTQIA+, transgender people, trans, gender nonbinary folks, folx, genderqueer and queer.

Mocking LGBTQIA+ people. Also, avoid mocking the idea of gender identity (e.g., “I identify as a helicopter”) or joking about someone’s pronouns.

Mocking LGBTQIA+ people erases and trivializes the nuanced experiences of and injustices against them.

Trivializing gender identity is a microaggression that often leads to violence and harassment against nonbinary people. The conversation around pronouns has become highly politicized, despite the fact that everyone uses pronouns. Avoid using pronouns in a derogatory or politicized manner. This can look like continuing to misgender someone who has explicitly stated their pronouns and/or referring to a person as “it” instead of their pronouns. This is dehumanizing.

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LGBTQIA+

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Implying an LGBTQIA+ victim of a hate crime shares responsibility for being attacked or that an attack �was justified because of an unwanted romantic or �sexual advance

This can unintentionally support a “gay panic” or “transgender panic,” which is a defense that legitimizes and excuses violent behavior against the LGBTQIA+ community. The implication is based on irrational fears and prejudice and implies that violence against LGBTQIA+ people is acceptable.

Equating gender and anatomy

Equating gender and anatomy can overlook and exclude trans and nonbinary people. Instead of simply saying “men” or “women,” consider who the issue you’re talking about affects.

Examples:

  • People with ovaries
  • People with prostates
  • People who can get pregnant

When you say the word woman, are you including trans women? Does it apply to nonbinary people and trans men?

Assuming someone’s gender or pronoun

Using the wrong pronouns for a person can be harmful �to their mental and emotional wellness. Instead, use pronouns you are told to use or the pronouns a person �uses for themselves.

Best practice: If unsure, ask (e.g., My pronouns are [insert pronoun]. What pronouns do you use?). You can also use the singular they to describe someone when you do not wish to assign a gender (e.g., I have not met your friend. What pronouns do they use?)

The term “homosexual relations/relationship,” “homosexual couple,” “homosexual sex,” etc. Avoid identifying a same- sex couple as a “homosexual couple,” characterizing their relationship as a “homosexual relationship,” or identifying their intimacy as “homosexual sex.”

Anti-LGBTQIA+ activists frequently use these terms to denigrate LGBTQIA+ people, couples and relationships.

Best practice: Relationship, couple (if necessary, gay/lesbian/same-sex couple), sex, etc.

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LGBTQIA+

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

The term “homosexual” (n. or adj.), except if directly quoting someone

Anti-LGBTQIA+ activists aggressively use the term to suggest that people attracted to the same sex are diseased or psychologically/emotionally disordered. These notions were discredited by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association in the 1970s.

Best practice: gay (adj.); gay man or lesbian (adj., n.); gay person/people - use gay, lesbian, or, when appropriate, bisexual, pansexual or queer to describe someone attracted to people of the same gender or more than one gender. Ask people how they describe themselves before labeling their sexual orientation.

The term “sexual preference”

This term is typically used to inaccurately suggest that being attracted to the same sex is a choice and, therefore, can and should be cured or changed. Instead, say, sexual orientation or orientation.

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LGBTQIA+: Lesbian

Terms & Definitions

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

“D*ke”

D*ke is a homophobic term, however, those within the community can and have reclaimed this term to describe themselves. Those outside of the community should avoid using this term except in a direct quote that reveals the bias of the person quoted or if an LGBTQIA+ person uses the term to describe themselves.

Lesbian: Women who are only or predominantly sexually, romantically, and/or emotionally attracted to other women (or girls who are attracted to other girls). Please note that some women prefer to call themselves “gay” or “wlw” (for woman-loving woman) instead

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Language perpetuating the “predatory butch” stereotype, especially Black butch lesbians

These stereotypes lead to a false perception that butch lesbians are violent, leading to overcriminalization and being less likely to be believed as the victims of violence.

Stereotyped language portraying lesbians as “jealous,” “unstable,” “homicidal,” “suicidal” and more

These stereotypes falsely portray lesbians as �threatening, leading to harmful consequences such �as overcriminalization.

“U-hauling,” which refers to the stereotype of two women moving in together after a short period of time

The “U-hauling” stereotype falsely portrays all lesbians �as lacking boundaries in relationships.

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LGBTQIA+: Gay

Terms & Definitions

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Terms like “gay lifestyle,” “LGBTQIA+ lifestyle,” “homosexual lifestyle,” or “transgender lifestyle”

There is no single LGBTQIA+ lifestyle. These terms denigrate LGBTQIA+ people by suggesting that sexual orientation and gender identity are a choice. You can instead say “LGBTQIA+ people and their lives.”

Gay: Men who are only or predominantly sexually, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to other men (or boys who are attracted to other boys). “Gay” can also be used to describe people of other genders who aren’t straight (e.g., some women prefer “gay” to “lesbian”)

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

"Gay rights" or "Special rights"

LGBTQIA+ people are not asking for rights that are �different from the rights of everyone else. They are �simply seeking full equality under the law and an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Best practice: say “equality for LGBTQIA+ people.”

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LGBTQIA+: Bi+

Terms & Definitions

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Bi erasure: Describes the issue in which the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality+ is questioned or outright denied

Biphobia: Prejudice or hatred directed at bi+ people, including jokes or comments based on stereotypes that undermine the legitimacy of bi+ identity

Bisexual (Bi): A person of any gender who can form sexual, romantic and/or emotional attractions to people of two or more genders

Bi+: An encompassing term for people of all genders with the capacity to be physically, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to more than one gender (e.g., bisexual, pansexual, queer, fluid, etc.)

Fluid: Attraction that changes or might change over time to people of various genders

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Suggesting bisexuality is a phase, deception or path �to another sexual orientation

This is a form of biphobia and bi erasure that leads to a widespread misunderstanding of bi+ people and contributes to higher rates of mental health struggles, sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Bisexuality is not an experimental or transition stage. Bisexual people are not confused, indecisive or lying.

Stereotypes that associate bisexuality with promiscuity or incapability of monogamy

It is harmful to imply that bisexual people are more "promiscuous" than others. People of all sexual orientations can be monogamous for some or all of their lives, or they can choose other types of relationships. This decision is separate from one's sexual orientation.

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LGBTQIA+: Bi+

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Language excluding or erasing bi+ people from queer spaces and conversations about LGBTQIA+ issues

Exclusionary language reduces the bi+ community’s access to resources and support.

Inaccurately identifying a bisexual, bi or bi+ person as gay, lesbian or straight

Misidentifying a bisexual, bi or bi+ person can lead to bi erasure and impact their mental health and well-being.

Assuming a couple’s sexual orientation

A bisexual person in a same-sex relationship is not gay or lesbian. A bisexual person in a relationship with someone of a different gender is not straight.

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LGBTQIA+: Trans

Terms & Definitions

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Cisgender: A person whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth; individuals who are not transgender

Transgender: A person whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The shorthand for the term is trans

Transgender man: A man who was assigned �female at birth

Transgender woman: A woman who was assigned male at birth

Transition: The process of aligning one’s gender expression and/or body with their gender identity. The process varies individually and can include a social (using different pronouns, dressing differently, letting others know), legal (name and/or sex marker changes on legal documents like a driver’s license) and medical transition (hormone replacement therapy and/or surgical procedures)

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Stereotypes depicting trans people as deceitful, violent �or disordered

Examples:

  • Using terms such as passing, trap, posing, etc.
  • Stereotypes depicting trans people as clownish, �ugly, i.e., “man in a dress”

Leads to negative outcomes such as anti-trans violence �and murder, poverty, police brutality, poor mental health and more.

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LGBTQIA+: Trans

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

“Identify as”

Avoid using the phrase “identify as” in reference to a trans person, as it implies that gender identity is a choice.

Terms like “passing” and “stealth”

Terms like “passing” or “stealth” are used to describe a person’s ability to not be perceived as trans. Stealth implies deceit and “passing” implies that a person is “passing” as something they are not. These terms can perpetuate harmful notions that a trans person who is perceived as cisgender by others, is deceptive. Avoid using these terms.

Outing a trans person or disclosing their gender history (e.g., medical transition)

The false expectation that trans people are obligated to disclose their gender history leads to violence against them. A trans person choosing to be private about their gender history does not mean they are hiding or being deceptive. Trans people should never be forced or coerced to disclose to anyone. If, how and when they do should be entirely up to them.

Misgendering/deadnaming a trans person.

A trans person may stop using their birth/legal name and choose a name that aligns with their identity. Deadnaming is calling a trans person by the name they were given before they transitioned.

Misgendering someone is disrespectful and can be a stressful and traumatic experience for the person. It can remind them of a period before they could take steps to affirm who they are. Use someone’s current name and pronouns when talking about a person in the past, unless they tell you otherwise. If you make a mistake, quickly apologize and make the correction.

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LGBTQIA+: Queer

Terms & Definitions

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Queer: An umbrella term for the entire LGBTQIA+ community. A way for some to explain they aren’t straight but don’t feel words like “gay,” “lesbian,” or “bi” describe their sexual orientation. A way for some to describe their nonbinary gender identity (e.g., queer, genderqueer). Historically, “queer” has been used pejoratively and may still be considered a slur to some, especially older LGBTQIA+ people—but the term is now widely used and accepted by younger generations

Genderqueer: A person who blurs and/or rejects the boundaries of the man/woman gender binary—seeing themselves as both man and woman, neither, or outside of these categories. Genderqueer people often, though not always, have a queer sexual orientation

Pansexual: An individual with the capacity to form physical, romantic and/or emotional attractions to people of all genders or to people regardless of gender

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Perpetuating stereotypes that fetishize and objectify BIPOC queer men

Examples:

  • “Fiery Latine/x lover”
  • “Muscle-bound Black man”
  • “Submissive Asian”

This stereotyping is dehumanizing and limits the agency and diversity of BIPOC queer men.

Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

See here

See here

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LGBTQIA+: Intersex

Terms & Definitions

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Intersex: An umbrella term for anyone born with a wide range of sex characteristics (e.g., genitals, chromosomes, hormones, reproductive organs) that don’t adhere to binary male/female bodies. Intersex people can be any gender (e.g., man, woman, nonbinary, etc.) and sexual orientation (straight, queer, asexual, etc.)

Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Conflating having an intersex trait with being transgender

Not all intersex people are transgender. Intersex people are assigned either male or female at birth by medical providers and parents, which may not match the gender identity of the child. If the sex assigned to an intersex person is different from their gender identity, they may describe themselves as trans.

Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

“Hermaphrodite”

“Hermaphrodite” is an outdated, medically inaccurate and derogatory term, however, some intersex people can and have reclaimed this term to empower themselves. This term should not be used by those outside of the community.

Mocking intersex people or traits.

Examples:

  • Calling an intersex person “it” or “he/she”

This behavior is offensive and fuels the falsehood that there’s something wrong with being intersex.

Asking invasive and insensitive questions about an intersex or trans person’s body, genitals or medical history.

Avoid spreading rumors about an intersex or �trans person’s genitals. This behavior is offensive and fuels the falsehood that there’s something wrong with being intersex.

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LGBTQIA+: Asexual

Terms & Definitions

Resources

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Perpetuating the stereotype that asexuality is a phase Examples:

  • “They just haven’t met the right person” or “had �good enough sex”

These misrepresentations can put ace people in harmful situations (e.g., forced therapy or medications, sexual assault, rape).

Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Jokes that make fun of asexual/ace people and depict the lack of sexual experience and attraction as something irregular and wrong

This puts sexual pressure on people of all identities.

Asexual (or “ace”): People who experience little or no sexual attraction (to people of any gender). Rather than explaining who someone’s attracted to, asexuality describes how they experience attraction—if they do at all. Remember, like gender identity, sexual orientation isn’t always fixed. Asexuality is sometimes shortened to �“ace” and is an umbrella term that encapsulates �a spectrum of asexuality experiences �and identities

Asexuality: The total or near total lack of sexual attraction to anyone and/or the lack of desire for sexual contact

Demisexual: A person who only experiences sexual feelings and attraction after developing �an emotional bond and not on the basis of first impressions, physical characteristics, etc.

Split Attraction Model (SAM): First coined by asexuals and aromantics to better describe and explain their identities themselves and others. The model splits sexual and romantic attraction into separate categories, meaning that for every sexual orientation, there is a romantic �orientation counterpart

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LGBTQIA+: Nonbinary

Terms & Definitions

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Nonbinary people are “entitled” or “seeking attention”

Referring to someone by their correct name, pronouns, etc., is a basic form of respect and kindness. To suggest that the expectation to be correctly identified is entitled or attention seeking, denies nonbinary people of a fundamental act of human dignity and respect.

Language assuming a nonbinary person’s gender based on how they look

Nonbinary people can have varied gender presentations. Assuming someone’s gender solely based on how they look or present reinforces outdated stereotypes and ideas about gender and sexuality. There is no one specific way to look or be nonbinary.

Language denying the existence of nonbinary people

Examples:

  • “Nonbinary people are confused”
  • “Identifying as nonbinary is a “fad/phase,” “quirk” �or “trend””
  • “There is no such thing as being nonbinary”

Nonbinary people have existed in many different cultures for as long as human history. Recognizing that all gender identities, including those who do not fit into a male/female binary, are valid is essential to embracing diversity and �being inclusive.

Nonbinary: Both an umbrella term and a specific, individual identity for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression doesn’t fit within the man/woman gender binary. Most, but not all, nonbinary people use gender-neutral pronouns

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LGBTQIA+: Nonbinary

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Asking invasive and insensitive questions about a nonbinary person’s identity, former name, body, and gender expression

Unwanted, invasive and insensitive questions can �leave nonbinary people feeling vulnerable and unsafe. �It is not their responsibility to explain their gender �identity to anyone.

Gendered nouns when describing groups of people �with many genders represented

Examples:

  • “You guys”
  • “Ladies and gentlemen”

Using gender-exclusive nouns ignores the existence of nonbinary people.  Instead, use gender-inclusive nouns.

Best practice: Use all, everyone, folks, team, friends, loved ones or y’all

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Mental Health

Terms & Definitions

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Derogatory language associating mental health challenges with “violent” or “scary” behavior

Examples:

  • “crazy,” “nuts,” “disturbed,” “mental,” “lunatic,” “looney,” “insane,” “psycho,” “unhinged,” etc.

Linking unrelated negative experiences and outcomes �to mental health challenges reinforces stereotypes �and stigmas.

Bipolar disorder: A disorder that causes severe high and low shifts in mood, energy and activity levels and unusual shifts in a person’s ability to complete daily tasks

Depression: A mood disorder characterized by a low mood, loss of interest in activities, etc.

Mental health: A state of wellbeing; a continuum from thriving to actively coping to struggling

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): A mental condition characterized by obsessions (recurrent, persistent and intrusive thoughts, impulses or images) and compulsions (repetitive behaviors �and rituals)

Schizophrenia: A mental condition characterized by hallucinations, delusions, loss of personality, confusion, agitation, social withdrawal, psychosis, etc.

Stigma: Negative and often unfair beliefs attached to a person or group, often placing shame or blame for a perceived difference or shortcoming

Substance use disorder: a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior, leading to the uncontrolled use of a substance despite harmful consequences

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Mental Health

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Shaming or stigmatizing language

Examples:

  • Blaming/judging individuals experiencing a mental health challenge
  • Framing mental health conditions or challenges as �the result of someone’s actions
  • Positioning people as “lazy” or “difficult” when they �are struggling with real medical conditions

Blaming people experiencing a mental health challenge is harmful and can lead to social exclusion and discrimination. This also perpetuates the everyday struggles and stigma of people living with mental health challenges.

Using language associated with mental health conditions as slang, insults or inaccurate descriptors.

Examples:

  • “Psycho” to describe someone who is angry or behaving erratically
  • “OCD” to describe someone who is extremely organized, particular or clean
  • “Bipolar” to describe someone who is indecisive or has shifts in mood

The casual and inaccurate use of mental health terms and phrases can lead to social exclusion and discrimination of those living with a mental health challenge.

Defining a person by their feelings or conditions or associating terms related to mental health conditions with someone's overall identity or character

Defining someone by their mental health and state does not consider other facets of their experience and diminishes their wholeness. Mental health conditions are something people have or experience, not who they are. Instead, use “person-first” language when referring to a person or group (e.g., “person experiencing depression” is the preferred phrase over “depressed person”). However, an individual’s preference supersedes this.

The phrase “committed suicide”

The term commit has criminal overtones, implying that the suicide is a crime or sin, further stigmatizing and alienating those experiencing mental health challenges. Use the phrase “died by suicide” instead.

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Mental Health

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Avoid

Suggested Alternative

“Victim”

“person who has experienced”

“person who has been impacted by”

“Mentally ill”

“person living with a mental health condition”

“person with a mental illness”

“Addict”

“person with a substance use disorder”

“person experiencing addiction”

“anxious person”

“depressed person”

“person living with anxiety” or

“person experiencing anxiety”

“person living with depression”

or “person experiencing depression”

Person-First Language Terms and Phrases

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Middle Eastern & North African

Terms & Definitions

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Arabs: People who identify as being from one of the 22 Arab League Nations who share a common language, history and culture. The term “Arab” morphed in meaning over the centuries. At times, it meant Bedouin tribes from southern Arabia. It was a linguistic marker, meaning anyone whose language or origin was Arabic. The current meaning refers to nationalistic/ethnic kinship. Used here as an expansive category including all identifying as “Arab.” Arabs speak multiple dialects varying from country to country, city to city. Arabic is one of the most common languages spoken in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

The Arab League: Comprises 22 members: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen

Druze: Druze is a monotheistic religion formed in the 10th and 11th centuries with ties to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It combines Islamic tenets with Greek and Hindu philosophies, and their prophets are Moses, John the Baptist, Jesus and Mohammed. The most revered religious figure is Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. Though some Druze consider themselves “Muslim,” Druze is not a branch of Islam or a sect; it’s recognized as a separate religion. As of 2020, there were about one million adherents to the Druze religion worldwide, mostly in Jordan, Israel, Syria and Lebanon, with approximately 30,000 in the U.S., with the largest American group in California

MENA (Middle East and North Africa): Most common term for the region that commonly comprises: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen. Arab and Middle Eastern are not interchangeable. “Middle East” is a colonial designation and, like “MENA,” reduces an immensely diverse region of cultures, races, ethnicities, languages and religions to a single, homogeneous label. The list of countries can vary and might be referred to as the “Near East” or SWANA (Southwest Asia and North Africa)

Sheik: An honorific title in the Arabic language. �It commonly designates a tribal chief or royal family member, and also can often refer to a Muslim religious scholar. Transliterations include shaik, shaikh, shayk, shaykh, sheekh, sheikh, shekh and sheyikh

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Middle Eastern & North African

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

“All Arabs are Muslim”

This inaccurately lumps millions of people into a single homogenous group. Not all Arabs are Muslims. Most Muslims in the world are not Arab. Arabs can be Christian (Maronite Catholic, Melkite Catholic, Syrian Catholic, Chaldean Catholic, Roman Catholic, Antiochian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox and various Protestant denominations), Jewish, Muslim, Druze, etc.

Stereotypical language and framing equating and depicting MENA people as terrorists, oppressed women, anti-modern and/or antisemitic.

This stereotype drives the falsehood that “MENA” equals “violent,” regressive and that women within MENA societies lack agency.

Perpetuating the stereotype of the Brown Foreign “Other”: Newly arrived, dangerous outsider or only capable of broken English and low-skilled labor.

This false or inaccurate stereotype sends a message defining “insiders” and “outsiders,” which can undermine a person’s sense of self-worth and belonging.

Perpetuating the stereotype that all MENA men are sexist, polygamist, homophobic, bloodthirsty, emotionally closed, and abusive

This misrepresents these traits as unique to MENA men rather than a global gender issue.

Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Racist slurs such as “sand ni**er”

“Sand ni**er” is a racist and pejorative term for people of Middle Eastern or North African descent.

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Muslim

Terms & Definitions

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Allahu Akbar: “God is Greatest.” Muslims say this during happy and successful times to keep their ego in check (there is something bigger) and during sad times to help comfort and remind them to hold on to God

Arab/Muslim: Arabs are among many ethnicities practicing Islam. But not all Arabs are Muslim

Islamophobia: Extreme fear of and hostility toward Islam and Muslims, often leading to hate speech, hate crimes, and social and political discrimination

God/Allah: Allah is the Arabic word for God. Christian Arabs say Allah when they are referring to God

Hijab: The covering many Muslim women wear to cover their hair. Hijab is worn for many reasons, such as modesty, identity and religion. Hijab is not necessarily a sign of religiosity as many devout Muslim women do not wear the Hijab. Most Islamic scholars believe that Hijab is obligatory for women after the age of puberty. However, it is still a matter of choice. Hijab is a Judeo-Christian tradition adopted by Muslims

Islam/Muslim: Islam is a religion, and a Muslim is a person who follows the Islamic faith. Islam, in Arabic, means one who submits to the Oneness of God

Jihad/Jihadi: Jihad translates to a “strive and struggle for God,” which encompasses an internal struggle towards personal betterment. A jihadi is a person who strives and struggles for God. Jihad is not an order to murder and doesn’t equate to “terrorism,” as often portrayed in the media

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Muslim

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Language that equates/depicts Muslims as violent �or terrorists

Example:

  • Language linking the doctrine of Islam with terrorism such as, “The Qur'an inspires or justifies violence �or terrorism”

Equating Muslim people as violent dehumanizes them as people. Reducing Muslim people to only negative stereotypes leads to devastating consequences such as hate crimes against Muslims, Sikhs and other non-Muslims and oppressive policies.

Language that equates Muslims as antisemitic, terrorists/jihadis (e.g., Muslim terrorist jokes)

This falsely creates a narrative that the word “Muslim” equals “terrorist” and the Quran promotes violence. Far-right terrorists, not Muslim extremists, have been responsible for 73% of domestic terrorism fatalities from 2009 through 2018, per a 2019 study by the ADL.

Language that portrays Muslim women as submissive, passive and as victims.

Portraying Muslim women without agency perpetuates the fallacy that Muslim women are victims.

Perpetuating the “white savior” trope as if Muslims need to be saved

This implies that Muslims don’t enjoy their faith or that one can’t be Muslim and American at the same time.

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Native & Indigenous

Terms & Definitions

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Reinforcing misinformation and stereotypes about �Native communities

Examples:

  • “All Native peoples receive free government benefits just for being Native”
  • “All Native peoples/tribes are rich from tribal gaming”
  • “Indigenous people are alcoholics”

These misconceptions can shape false views of what it means to be Native.

Indigenous: a term used to represent the original inhabitants of a certain geographic location or when referring to all the original inhabitants of the world

Native: a less formal term to describe the original inhabitants of the United States and can be a shorthand to include Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians

Native American: a more formal term used to represent the original inhabitants and caretakers of the land now referred to as the United States. This term is often used within the community and is appropriate when referring to two or more people with different tribal affiliations. Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian peoples are not always included in this term. It would be most appropriate to use Native American and Alaska Native or Native American and Native Hawaiian to be inclusive. It is most appropriate to identify people by their preferred tribal affiliation when describing individuals or individual tribes

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Native & Indigenous

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

When possible, it is best to refer to tribal communities or nations by name (e.g., Yuchi, Cherokee, Muskogee/Creek) rather than as all-encompassing terms.

  • Terms like “Native American” and “American Indian and Alaska Native” are most commonly used in the U.S., but preferred terms can vary by person. It is best to use the term the person you are referring to identifies as.
  • Indigenous is an inclusive term, as every continent has Indigenous peoples. Indigenous describes a group of people native to a specific region.
  • Slurs such as “sq*aw,” “esk*mo,”

“Sq*aw is a sexual and racial slur that perpetuates harm and violence against Indigenous women. The term is dehumanizing to Indigenous women.

“Eskimo” is a derogatory term used against Alaska Native communities and perpetuates stereotypes about their life.

The phrase “Indian giver”

People often use this phrase when a person receives a gift that is then retracted. This phrase perpetuates false stereotypes that Native people are selfish and deceptive.

The phrase “Too many Indians, not enough Chiefs” or “Too many Chiefs, not enough Indians”

This phrase is typically used to describe the lack of a leader in a group of people. While it may seem like a compliment, the basis of comparison between “Indian” and “Chiefs” suggests “Indians” hold undesirable qualities and do not know how to take action.

The word “tribe”

People use this phrase colloquially to refer to friends, families, or a group that shares interests or passions. This use minimizes Indigenous tribes and their rich histories and cultures and should be avoided unless referring to a specific group of Indigenous peoples.

The phrase “spirit animal”

The widespread use reinforces incorrect stereotypes about Native peoples and spiritual beliefs while also being a form of cultural appropriation.

The phrase “powwow”

People often use this phrase to describe meetings �or gatherings in office settings. This use is incorrect �and exemplifies how people appropriate Native cultures �and traditions.

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Native & Indigenous

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

The phrase, “lowest man/person on the totem pole”

Totem poles are of spiritual significance and part of Native culture. This phrase minimizes their significance and disrespects Native peoples.

The phrase “Circle the wagons”

This phrase is rooted in the western expansion and �the colonization of Native lands. The phrase also furthers stereotypes of Native peoples as aggressors and “the enemy.”

The phrase “off the reservation”

This phrase refers to the forcible removal of Native peoples from their lands onto reservations where their movements were restricted upon penalty of death.

The phrase “savage”

This phrase was used by Western colonizers to reinforce ideas that Native peoples were inherently violent and therefore needed to assimilate. When used today, it can be viewed as a slur by Native peoples.

Referring to Native people as “r*dskin”

“R*dskin” is offensive, disparaging and insulting to �Native peoples.

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Online Harassment & Misinformation

Terms & Definitions

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Bot: A fake profile, mainly on social media, created to spread information using automated technology

Confirmation bias: When a message aligns with your preexisting beliefs and resonates with you emotionally, making them more susceptible to believing misinformation

Disinformation: Purposefully engineering and disseminating false, misleading or inaccurate information intended to deceive and cause harm or serve an agenda. Types of disinformation include fabricated content, manipulated content, imposter content, false content, misleading content, satire or parody

Doxing: Releasing someone’s private �information publicly

Infodemic: Describes an excessive amount of information about a problem, which makes it difficult to identify a solution. With an infodemic, false claims circulate more easily, hampering public health responses (e.g., vaccine misinformation during a pandemic or epidemic), creating confusion and distrust, and causing harm to people’s lives

Misinformation: Sharing false, misleading or inaccurate information with or without bad intent or knowledge of false information

Phishing: Phishing is a cybersecurity attack �that sends messages via email, phone or text, pretending to be a trusted person or entity

Rumor: Unverified information that spreads quickly through a group or population

Sexual harassment: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment does not always have to be specifically about sexual behavior or directed at a specific person (e.g., negative comments about women as a group is a form of sexual harassment)

Stalking: A pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes a person to feel fear,” according to the Department of Justice. Stalking behavior includes:

  • Making threats against someone or that person's family or friends
  • Non-consensual communication (e.g., repeated phone calls, emails, text messages, unwanted gifts, etc.)
  • Repeated physical or visual closeness (e.g., waiting for someone to arrive at certain locations, following someone, watching someone from a distance, etc.)

Swatting: An anonymous false report to send an emergency response team to a target’s home

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Online Harassment & Misinformation

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Online harassment, particularly hate-based harassment, which is harassment targeting individuals based on �their identity

Examples:

  • Doxing
  • Harassment for a sustained period
  • Offensive name-calling
  • Physical threats
  • Purposeful embarrassment
  • Sexual harassment
  • Stalking
  • Swatting

Online harassment causes mental and emotional distress, undermines feelings of safety and security and leads to professional and economic impact.

Spreading or creating disinformation, misinformation or false rumors

Spreading disinformation and misinformation can create panic and confusion, spark an infodemic (an excessive amount of information about a problem, making it difficult to identify a solution), promote violent extremism and hate speech, negatively impact public health outcomes and more. Disinformation and misinformation are especially dangerous for children and teens, who are still building �the critical thinking skills needed to distinguish fact �from fiction.

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Online Harassment & Misinformation

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  • Read information in its entirety: Avoid re-sharing information before reading the source of your information entirely. Read beyond the headline, as articles often use clickbait-ish headlines to draw readers in or elicit a strong reaction. The headline might not match the article's content.
  • Take another look: Think about accuracy and the feelings triggered by what you see/read before sharing. Consider what is being conveyed and whether the content is accurate before sharing.
  • Consider the source:
    • Take time to ensure your source of information is credible by looking at other articles they’ve written and watching out for excessive typos and poor grammar.
    • Consider who created the account or article or captured the original piece of content.
    • Look into the account's location, website or piece of content.
    • Reflect on the poster or author’s motivation.
    • Use platforms like factcheck.org, snopes.com or a media bias chart to help distinguish fake from real.
  • Beware of confirmation bias: We are often served content based on an algorithm that sources from what we have searched or viewed in the past. This means that we typically receive information that confirms our biases or tells us what we want to hear. You can combat this by checking multiple sources, even those that may conflict with your beliefs or values, so that you can see a story from all angles and sift out fact from opinion or fiction.
  • Review content: Ask yourself: Is it a bot, deep fake, phishing, satire or a sock puppet account?
    • Bot: Bots can be created to spread information using automated technology.
    • Deep fake: Deep fake technology can replicate a person's facial movements in video and audio �to look real. High-profile people such as President Barack Obama have been impersonated through deep fakes.
    • Phishing: If a sender’s email address does not contain a company name or has a false version �of a real company, that could be a sign of phishing.
    • Satire: Satire sites like The Onion can sometimes lead to misinformation if the reader is unaware of its satirical nature.
    • Sock puppet account: Sock puppet accounts use fake online identities to mislead or manipulate public opinion.
  • Amplify the voices of experts: Amplify the voices of those with lived experiences and vetted organizations with issue area expertise.

Here are ways to avoid spreading or creating disinformation, misinformation or false rumors:

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2

3

4

6

5

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People With Disabilities

Terms & Definitions

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Perpetuating stereotypes about people with disabilities

Examples:

  • “Disabled people are helpless, unable to care for themselves or make their own decisions”
  • “All people with hearing disabilities can read lips”
  • “All people using wheelchairs are chronically ill”

Disability stereotypes are inaccurate and portray people with disabilities in a one-dimensional way. These stereotypes are a form of discrimination that creates barriers for the disabled community.

Calling a disabled person “superhuman,” “brave,” “courageous,” or “inspirational” solely based on �their disability

When disabled people are praised, it is often for existing despite their disability or transcending a disability stereotype. This insults people with disabilities and implies that they should want to rid themselves of their disability and that those who don't or can’t are “failures.”

Additionally, phrases identifying a person as successful or productive, simply due to their disability, can also come across as ableist because it is rooted in the idea that a disabled person must work through their disability or persevere in order to have value in society.

Ableism: Practices and beliefs that assign a low value to those with developmental, emotional, physical/sensory or psychiatric disabilities

Identity-first language: Language that leads with a person’s diagnosis (e.g., disabled person, deaf person, etc.). The autistic community supports the use of identity-first language

Person-first language: Language that puts a person before the disability, describing what a person has, not who a person is (e.g., a person with a disability)

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People With Disabilities

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Identifying people solely based on their diagnosis �or disability

This can be viewed as an inaccurate way to describe people and reinforces stereotypes. Consider using person-first language, which puts people before their diagnosis, describing what a person has, not who a person is.

Every disabled person relates to their disability differently and might prefer identity-first or person-first language. For example, the culturally Deaf community and the Autistic community tend to use identity-first language (e.g., Autistic person instead of “person with autism”) while the intellectual disability community tends to use person-�first language. It is best to ask a person how they would like to be identified.

Avoid

Suggested Alternative

“The disabled/ handicapped/ crippled” (please note that “crippled” and “crip” are often �reclaimed by physically disabled people. In the context of a disabled person reclaiming the term, it is acceptable.)

“Physically challenged”

“People with a disability” (person-first language)

“Disabled person” (term often preferred by disabled people, especially those involved in �or with access to disabled culture) (identity-�first language)

“Mentally retarded”

“Developmental, cognitive or �intellectual disability”

“Learning disabled”

“Has a learning disability”

“[insert pronoun]’s quadriplegic”

“[insert pronoun] has quadriplegia”

“Wheelchair-bound”

“[insert pronoun] uses a wheelchair/�mobility device”

“Handicapped parking or bathroom”

“Accessible parking or bathroom”

Person-First Language Terms and Phrases

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People With Disabilities

Resources

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Ableist language

Examples:

  • Words like “lame,” “dumb,” “spaz,” “retarded,” etc.
  • “Falling on deaf ears”
  • “Blind leading the blind”
  • “Tone deaf”

Ableism is discrimination based on disability. Ableist language is any word or phrase that discriminates against and devalues people with a disability. Ableist language is offensive and suggests that people with disabilities are abnormal, further marginalizing them. The examples are often used casually, without intending to perpetuate ableism. However, it is important to be aware of the impact of these words.

Avoid

Suggested Alternative

“Retarded”

“Frustrating”

“Annoying”

“Irritating”

“Obnoxious”

“Ignorant”

“Spaz”

“Silly”

“Dorky”

“Nonsensical”

“Insane”

“Crazy”

“Intense”

“Wild”

“Awesome”

“Extreme”

“Outrageous”

“Overwhelming”

“Bizarre”

Alternatives to Ableist Terms

Avoid

Suggested Alternative

“Lame”

“Bad”

“Uncool”

“Awful”

“Midget”

“Dwarf” (“Dwarf” is becoming the preferred term over “Little person”)

“Little person”

“Person of short stature”

“Victim of”

“Suffering from”

“Experiencing”

“Living with”

“Diagnosed with”

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People With Disabilities: Autism

Terms & Definitions

Resources

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

The stereotype that people with autism cannot focus or attend to demands made in a professional setting

This stereotype often leads to unfair hiring and workplace discrimination and social exclusion (e.g., a production company hiring a person without autism to portray a character with autism). The stereotype also leads to autistic people masking their autism to avoid stereotyping or discrimination. In actuality, autism doesn’t hold people back at work–discrimination does.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD): A developmental disability that refers to a group of complex disorders of brain development. According to the Autism Society, “some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills; and sensory sensitivities.” However, symptoms vary across the spectrum

Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

People-first vs. identity-first language

The autistic community tends to use identity-first language (e.g., autistic person instead of “person with autism”). It is best to ask a person how they would like to be identified.

Most individuals do not like being identified as having �ASD because of the negative stigmas associated with �the word “disorder.”

Describing autistic individuals as “inspirational” or “courageous” just because they have autism

Praising an autistic individual solely for their disability assumes that disability itself is so terrible that the mere �act of living a normal life with a disability is inspirational, which denies.

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Rural Communities

Terms & Definitions

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Rural America is the “white agricultural heartland.”

Stereotypes about rural America as the white, agricultural heartland perpetuate the misconception of the rural idyll, in which rural places are depicted as aspirational, largely white farming communities set apart from modern life. This misconception erases the historical and growing diversity of rural places, masks real and persistent rural challenges, and miscasts rural ways of life as antiquated or regressed.

Rural America is becoming increasingly ethnically diverse. Rural Native American, Asian and Latino/a/x groups are reported to be growing at the fastest rates, followed by Black Americans. Fewer than 6% of rural Americans are employed in agriculture and rural communities exist in nearly every state and territory.

Rural: Areas that consist of open countryside with population densities less than 500 people per square mile and places with fewer than �2,500 people

Urban: Areas with either 50,000 or more people OR clusters with 2,500 - 49,999 people

Appalachia: The Appalachian Region consists of 423 counties ranging from southern New York to northern Mississippi. Within this region, ¼ of the communities are classified as rural

Colonias: The Colonias consist of distinct �rural communities along the US-Mexico �border that are home to predominantly Latino/a/x populations

Delta: The Delta region consists of 252 �counties in an eight-state region in the Southeastern U.S. and is distinctive for its �unique culture and complicated racial history, particularly for Black people

Native Lands: The Native Lands consist of a combination of American Indian reservations, trust lands, tribal jurisdiction statistical areas, tribal designated statistical areas, Alaska Native Regional Corporations and Alaska Native Villages

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Rural Communities

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Poor, rural people live in “cultures of poverty.”

This stereotype puts the blame on residents of the community and depicts them as having intergenerational social or moral deficiencies.

Most chronic economic challenges in rural areas occur because of changing global economies. Consequences of globalization—including manufacturing losses, economic restructuring, extractive industry monopolization and agricultural consolidation—have contributed to economic decline and social disruption in many, though certainly not all, rural places.

Poor, rural white people are often othered with racialized framings to distance them from nonrural, non-poor white people. Anti-Black racist and classist myths about the causes of rural poverty among white people diminish the intersecting impacts of changing global economies and race-based discrimination in many rural communities �of color.

Rural is a singular voting bloc

Rural voters are not a monolith, but this misinformation homogenizes rural peoples’ interests and fails to account for the long-standing and growing political progressivism in many rural regions of the U.S.

Though politically conservative candidates often win races in agriculture-dependent rural communities, politically progressive candidates frequently do better in rural communities with strong recreation, amenity-based and service economies. In the 2016 election, nearly one in three nonmetro voters supported Hillary Clinton, and persistently poor rural counties were less likely to support Trump than counties experiencing more recent economic decline, even when controlling for urbanity.

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Rural Communities

Resources

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

“Redneck”

This derogatory term is typically used to define white, working-class people; often associated with having a lack of education or being unsophisticated. Its meaning possibly stems from the sunburn found on farmers’ necks dating back to the late 19th century. Using this word can perpetuate negative stereotypes and marginalized individuals from rural or working class backgrounds

“Hillbilly”

A term typically used to describe an “unmodern” and unsophisticated person from a rural area, especially someone living in the mountains or far from cities or towns in the southeastern U.S. “Hillbilly” can be a hurtful term that perpetuates harmful stereotypes about rural and Appalachian communities.

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Sexual & Reproductive Health

Terms & Definitions

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Perpetuating abortion misinformation and stereotypes

Examples:

  • “Abortion increases a person’s chance of developing breast cancer.”
  • “Having an abortion makes it more difficult to get pregnant in the future.”
  • “Women would not need abortions if they �used contraception.”

Perpetuating abortion misinformation and stereotypes causes psychological distress to those who are considering an abortion or who have already had one. Misinformation and stereotypes about abortion lead to harmful anti-abortion laws that place people’s health at risk.

Blaming Islam for restrictive abortion policies

This is Islamophobic, racist and inaccurate, as Islam permits abortions. It reinforces harmful stereotypes that can further marginalize Muslim communities.

Comparing barriers to reproductive justice to the underground railroad

This comparison is inaccurate. It appropriates and minimizes the experiences of enslaved people and the abolitionist movement.

Abortion: A medical procedure that ends �a pregnancy

Late-term abortion: A medically inaccurate term that refers to the termination of pregnancy by induced abortion during a “late stage” of gestation. The term is often misused by the anti-abortion movement

Reproductive Justice: A term coined by Black women from the Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice. Reproductive Justice is the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, the right to have or not have children and the right to nurture children in a safe and healthy environment. The term acknowledges the role systemic barriers such as race, sexual orientation, citizenship status and religion play in access to reproductive health

Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Stigmatizing, judgemental, inaccurate and negative language when discussing abortion

Individuals have the right to make decisions about their bodies. Stigmatizing and inaccurate language about abortions can lead to harmful consequences, including miseducation and harmful anti-abortion laws that place people’s health at risk.

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Sexual & Reproductive Health

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Avoid

Suggested Alternative

“Abort a child”

“End a pregnancy”

“Have an abortion”

“Voluntary interruption of pregnancy”

“Not moving through a full pregnancy”

“Abortion is illegal”

“Abortion is legal under the following conditions”

“Abortion is legally restricted”

“Abortionist”

“Abortion provider”

“Healthcare provider”

“Baby”

“Dead fetus”

“Unborn baby”

“Unborn child”

“Embryo (up to week 10 gestation)”

“Fetus (from week 10 gestation onwards)”

“The pregnancy”

“Get rid of”

“Choose not to move through a full pregnancy”

“Decide to end a pregnancy”

“Keep the baby”

“Keep the child”

“Choose to move through a full pregnancy”

“Continue the pregnancy”

“Late-term abortion”

“Abortion in second/third-trimester”

“Abortion at [insert # of weeks] gestation”

“Repeat abortion”

“Multiple abortions”

“More than one abortion”

Stigmatizing Language Examples and Alternatives

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Southern

Terms & Definitions

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Stereotyped perceptions of the South including, but not limited to:

  • “Southern people are polite.”
  • “Everyone in the South lives on a farm or in a rural area.”
  • “All Southerners have heavy accents.”
  • Southerners are “simple,” “ignorant,” “illiterate” or �“lack proper education.”
  • “All Southerners are bible thumpers.”
  • “Everyone from the South is poor and lives in a �trailer park.”
  • Southerners are “overweight” and/or eat an unhealthy diet of fried foods.
  • “All Southerners are racist bigots and anti-progression.”

These stereotypes highlight and perpetuate a culture �divide between the American North and South. Many of them are steeped in class-related prejudices. Stereotypes can inform beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, which can influence decision-making. When a stereotype frames the decisions that are made about people, it can lead to devastating outcomes.

“All Southerners are white.”

The notion that all Southerners are white or that the South disproportionately has more white people than other racial groups compared to other regions in the United States is false. This false notion erases varying demographics living in the South.

“The South:” The U.S. government defines the South as states including Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. Historically, “the South” was distinguished from “the North” by factors such as staple crops, a long growing season, agricultural slave labor and more

Southern: Refers to living in or originating from the South

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Southern

Resources

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Harmful “jokes” about Southerners or the South

Examples:

  • Trailer park jokes
  • Incest jokes
  • Accent mocking

Jokes at the expense of a social group send a message defining “insiders” and “outsiders,” which can undermine a person’s sense of self-worth and belonging. Avoid humor that belittles or maligns an individual or group.

“Hillbilly,” “redneck,” “cracker,” “white trash”

Hillbilly is a term typically used to describe an “unmodern” and unsophisticated person from a rural area, especially someone living in the mountains, far from cities or towns in the southeastern U.S.

Redneck is a derogatory term typically used to define white working-class people and often associated with having a lack of education or being unsophisticated. Its meaning possibly stems from the sunburn found on farmers' necks dating back to the late 19th century.

White trash is a racial and class-related disparaging term that is typically used to refer to “poor” white people, especially those living in the South.

These phrases are often used to describe low-income white people in rural or Southern communities. They are rooted in class bias and infer that only wealthy people’s lives have value. Terms like “hillbilly,” “redneck,” and “white trash” can perpetuate stereotypes and contribute to false narratives of people living in rural and/or Southern communities.

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Survivors of Sexual Assault & Abuse

Terms & Definitions

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Making assumptions about a survivor’s experience and/or healing process

These assumptions can be damaging and dismissive of their unique journey. The experiences and healing process of survivors varies. Do not assume something has already taken place, such as reporting to law enforcement or that the survivor may feel a certain way.

Sexual violence: An all-encompassing, nonlegal term that refers to crimes like sexual assault, rape and sexual abuse. Please note that the legal definitions of crimes vary from state to state

Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Sharing a survivor’s story without consulting with them and getting their approval

This can further traumatize the survivor, violate their privacy and perpetuate a culture of victim-blaming and silencing. You may risk generalizing a survivor’s experience. Consider letting the survivor share their story in their own words.

Best practice: If permitted to share their story, avoid generalizing.

Neglecting how a person who has experienced sexual assault or abuse would like to be referred

For some, “victim” may apply to a recent assault, while “survivor” may be more appropriate after healing. Ultimately, it’s an individual preference. Neglecting how a survivor would like to be referred can lead to further emotional distress and trauma.

Best practice: Use “survivor” instead of “victim” when possible, as the term is more person-centered and places them in an active rather than passive role.

Victim blaming, which implies that a sexual assault was the victim’s fault

Examples:

  • “She asked for it”
  • “You shouldn’t have been drinking”
  • “What were you wearing?”

Victim blaming decreases the likelihood that people who have experienced sexual assault will seek help and support due to fear of being shamed or judged.

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Survivors of Sexual Assault & Abuse

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Resources

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Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Gender-exclusive terms when generally speaking about sexual violence

Gender exclusive terms can be silencing to survivors who don’t fit into those gender categories and perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes. Survivors and perpetrators can be of any gender identity.

Best practice: Use “they” and “their” instead of “he or she,” and “people” instead of “man or woman” when generally talking about sexual violence.

Possessives when discussing sexual violence

Using possessives when talking about someone’s experience with sexual violence centers the perpetrator and decenters the survivor.

Phrases like “child prostitute, “underage prostitution ring,” or “survival sex” when talking about trafficked and exploited children under the age of 18

Phrases such as “child prostitute” or “underage prostitution ring” implies agency or consent, which is inaccurate as a child cannot consent to sex. These terms also minimize the victimization, abuse and trafficking of minors.

Best practice: Say “when they were raped” or “when they experienced sexual assault” instead of “their perpetrator” or �“their rape.”

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Women & Girls

Terms & Definitions

Resources

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Misinformation & Stereotypes

Impact

Gender stereotypes

Examples:

  • “Boys shouldn’t play with dolls.”
  • “Doing [insert activity] is gay.”
  • “Women should take care of cooking and housework.”

Gender stereotypes promote the harmful belief that people must be placed into binary boxes. These stereotypes limit an individual’s choice, voice and power, disregarding their individual and inherent abilities and opportunities.

Hateful & Harmful Speech

Impact

Misogynistic and sexist language

Examples:

  • Words like “feisty,” “bossy,” “hysterical,” etc.

Misogyny and sexism can lead to discrimination, exclusions and feelings of incompetence. This treatment of women, girls, transgender and nonbinary people can negatively impact their mental and physical health. Misogyny and sexism manifest in different ways, including violence, sexual harassment, rape culture, devaluing traditionally feminized work, sexist jokes and more.

Slut shaming, victim blaming or trivializing sexual assault

Examples:

  • “Boys will be boys.”
  • “She shouldn’t have worn that. She asked for it.”

Victim blaming, slut shaming and trivializing sexual assault decreases the likelihood that people who have experienced sexual assault will seek help and support due to fear of being shamed or judged.

Gender stereotype: A gender stereotype is a preconceived notion or generalization about traits, roles or characteristics belonging to a given gender

Misogyny: Hatred, dislike or distrust of women, girls and femininity

Sexist hate speech: Expressions that spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on a person’s sex or gender

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Acknowledgement

A huge debt of gratitude to our Culture Orientation Partners who laid the foundation for us to build this comprehensive guide.

ADL | CAPE | Color Of Change | Define American | GLAAD IllumiNative | JED | MPAC Hollywood Bureau | MOT | NALIP Storyline Partners | RespectAbility

“If culture was a house, then language was the key �to the front door, to all the rooms inside.”

— Khaled Hosseini, Afghan-born American �novelist and physician

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