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Today, word choice matters, not only at the highest levels of political power in our country, but in our everyday speech, no matter our political persuasion or good intentions. Since the election of Donald Trump, we have seen an increase in hate speech everywhere from public gatherings to social media channels.

The past two months have been especially traumatic for so many groups, including the Latinx community who were targeted by a gunman in El Paso after being called "illegal invaders" of this country; immigrants who were told to "go back where they came from"; and journalists who were deemed disseminators of "evil propaganda" by our president.

These examples are enough for us to make the case, as some already have, that words matter more than ever in the current American public discourse. We must, however, all be responsible for the intentions of our speech (or tweets) and also how they are perceived.

Often, even those of us with the best intentions or the most 'woke' social justice warriors among us, use terms that are unknowingly othering, that contribute to long standing societal stereotypes or that embed violence into our speech.

While it is impossible to ignore the rhetoric stemming from the most powerful office in the land, that must not hinder each of our efforts to employ empathy and respect in the pursuit of a more just and equitable society.

For our team at Elle Communications, word choice is arguably the most important part of each of our days as we work to shape messaging with and for activists, advocates, entrepreneurs, companies, nonprofits, and other groups striving to create positive change in our country and our world.

Here are four things to consider when thinking about the ways in which we choose to move through this world and the words that we use along the way.

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Culture
Photo by XVla / Flickr

An ambitious scientific study conducted in Germany shows how discrimination can work on a spectrum. It also shows how anti-Muslim bigotry is affected by how much the target appears to have assimilated into mainstream society.

"It's a common argument, mainly by parties on the right, that immigrants are resistant to integrating," Nicholas Sambanis, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Los Angeles Times.

"They justify conflict and negative attitudes toward immigration and arguments to reduce immigration by referencing these fears that immigrants don't want to integrate," he continued.

To see whether an immigrants perceived adaptation of cultural norms affects the level of discrimination they face, Sambanis and two of his partners conducted a social experiment in 29 train stations that involved over 7,000 bystanders who unwillingly became test subjects.
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Communities

The Philippines is the First Nation to Welcome Sea-Stranded Migrants

Nearly 8,000 refugees from Burma and Bangladesh will be taken in after struggling to survive on “floating coffins.”

The approximate location of the refugee boats, termed "floating coffins" by the UN. Image from the International Organization on Migration.

The government of Manila was the first to agree to take in 8,000 refugees, including Rohingya Muslims from Burma and displaced people from Bangladesh, who had been stranded on the seas on boats. The refugees, who are escaping persecution and poverty in their home countries, are presumed to be near the Andaman Sea on what the UN has termed “floating coffins.” Other countries in direct vicinity of the boats, like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand, have rejected them, and they have been floating perilously on the waters for more than a week.

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Articles

How to Save Multiculturalism

"Multiculturalism" isn't a bad word. Embracing the differences diverse people bring to the table can create endless educational opportunities.


U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron just reignited the debate on "multiculturalism," joining ranks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Sarkozy by declaring their multicultural policies a "failure." As a U.S. passport carrying, multilingual, daughter of immigrants, and as a mother of aspiring global citizens, such a defeat felt like a kick in the gut. In my travels speaking to diverse audiences on gaining a global perspective and the tools contained in my book, Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be At Home in the World, I’ve seen quite the opposite: individuals of varied backgrounds coming together to raise beautiful families, make friends across cultural and ideological lines, and take tangible steps toward building a better world for their children.

Upon closer review, David Cameron’s justification for the failure of multiculturalism seemed reasonable: "Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream." Speaking specifically of radical Muslim youth, Cameron argued this resulted in marginalization, rootlessness, and "behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values."

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Articles