Students speak on inclusive language for cultural unity week

Lara Catalano, Staff Writer

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A student led panel on inclusive language was held on campus on April 11 in honor of Cultural Unity Week at Mesa College.

Jeffrey Mckennie, president of the Black Student Union club on campus, led the student panel in discussing personal stories of the impact language can have. Mckennie explained to the audience it is common to disagree with another person, and the type of verbal communication that is used will often affect the argument. “Sometimes, you need to address people in different ways,” Mckennie said.

The panel was held during what is usually an art class, but in lieu of lecture the speech was presented and welcome for all students and faculty to join.

Mckennie captivated the audience with his personal story of a man unintentionally offending a group of his friends based on word choice. The man offended the group by creating assumptions based on the skin color of Mckennie and his friends. Though the man thought it was “harmless”, the friends got upset and a verbal altercation began.

“All of this happened because of words” and “it was resolved because of words,” Mckennie said to prove the impact conversation can have.

In front of Mckennie, there was a panel of other students who also participated in the talk. Following his story and brief opening, Mckennie opened up the conversation to those on the panel. He began by asking one of the students, Drey Daniel, to share a personal experience of his own.

Daniel explained a situation he faced where dialect that offended him, and Mckennie followed up with examples of how “appropriate language” could lead to a solution for this specific issue.

Mckennie asked the panel further questions, and each member shared incidents when they were affected by the insensitivity of somebody else’s words.

At one time, a woman student on the panel, Itzel O., got up from her seat to talk to the audience face-on in the front of the classroom. She said she does not “like to be referred to as ‘guy’. ” Along the same topic, she also shared how she spells the word “women”  like “w-o-m-y-n” to eliminate the word “men” from it and express pride in being a woman.

This sudden passion sparked attention from a male audience member, who questioned her theory. The two bantered for a bit before Mckennie interrupted to demonstrate the reasoning behind the whole altercation.

Mckennie encouraged the two to hear each other’s sides, and come to an agreement. Itzel then explained that her actions are “not about changing people’s minds” but “about planting seeds.” The two’s tones changed, and they ultimately felt “respect” for one another, despite disagreeing on the topic.

Mckennie closed off his speech by giving the floor to the audience to ask questions and share their thoughts. Many shared their personal stories, and discussed that it is important to be mindful and use inclusive language when speaking to others.

This student led speech and panel discussion was one of the first events in honor of Cultural Unity Week on campus, and was followed by many more events and activities.  

 

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Students speak on inclusive language for cultural unity week