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It’s Time to End the Language of Oppression


It’s Time to End the Language of Oppression

Dr. Divine Taylor

Since the founding of the United States, language has been central to dehumanizing Black and brown people to justify violence and injustice. That oppression has lived in the racist polemics of the nation’s most prominent politicians and the dividing rhetoric of dog-whistle doublespeak.


“We must teach it to our partners.”

It’s not that I disagree, it’s that the article failed to do what it calls for. There are no examples that would teach what words he advocates in place of ‘inmate.’ Is he advocating ‘prisoner,’ or perhaps ‘captive’ instead? Maybe both are OK, or something else? I don’t know.

I, too, think the language we use is powerful in shaping what we think about and how we think about it I’d like to see this issue set out with more specifics and in greater detail.


He said clearly, “people who are incarcerated.” “People first” language is the point, though I agree I’d like to see a broader address to language of violence — ‘You’re killing/crushing it’ as congratulatory — and patriarchy, which he barely mentioned. But of course, language reflects deep-set attitudes, as well as setting them, especially in the young.


I wouldn’t worry about the prisoners. When the economy fails and the dollar is rejected one of the first things states will do to save money and survive, is to set the prisoners free. Can’t afford them.


If you visit the prisons, you find three major misfits:

  1. They did not do the crime
  2. The punishment is excessive.
  3. They will eventually return to society and the prison experience does not prepare them at all for it.
    Maybe someone else is guilty. Many someone is taking their property while they are incarcerated. Maybe they embarrassed someone. And maybe it was non-personal stereotyping. Maybe some just enjoy hurting others.

Dr. Taylor, there are the same situations in mental institutions. It is not like normal medicine. You cannot ask someone for a second opinion. Once an excon, always an excon. Once a mental patient, always a mental patient. Mental records cannot even be pardoned or negated, as when one doctor says you are pregnant and the second says no, you are definitely not.
Experiments are done on people. How can a person in a mental institution possibly give consent to experimentation?
And the same vicious language is used. Jobs, security, vicious, dangerous …

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