It”s easy to talk about creating a more inclusive and respectful environment, but taking action to create that kind of safe space can be difficult.
While events like Writing on the Wall might not seem like an instrumental part of building a more inclusive social environment on campus, these things actually play a crucial role.
For the event, the ASUI Center for Volunteerism and Social Action encouraged students to write words or phrases that they found to be offensive on a slab of drywall outside of the Idaho Commons Wednesday.
The event helped expose the dangerous stereotypes that are ingrained in our society, with phrases like “Trans people are rapists” and “All Muslims are terrorists” scrawled across the wall.
At the end of the day, the wall was smashed down by University of Idaho students, administrators, faculty and staff.
Writing on the Wall helped start a conversation about harmful stereotypes, but more importantly, it served as a symbolic act – that together, the UI community has the power to break down barriers by acknowledging the existence of these stereotypes and working to combat them.
Verbal communication can be as powerful as physical action. Although many view the UI campus as a physically safe space, that doesn”t mean it”s always a verbally inclusive one.
People can be made uncomfortable when they hear outdated terms that are now offensive, such as “retard” or racial slurs.
In addition to words that were once appropriate but are now offensive, sometimes we aren”t aware of what common phrases are used that have derogatory roots. For example, the term “I was gypped” is derogatory toward a group of nomads called the Roma, or Gypsies. The phrase “butt-hurt” is also seen as discriminatory toward homosexual men.
What might seem like an off-handed comment or an innocent use of a common phrase in a conversation can be offensive, even when it”s unintended.
The language we use is important, and being sensitive to the colloquial phrases within the English language that embody stereotypes is one way to help foster a more inclusive environment.
Breaking a wall covered in statements that others find offensive doesn”t erase all of the problems in our society or the hurt the words cause, but there is an important symbolism behind the act.
The event demonstrated that one of the most constructive ways to promote inclusivity within a community is to not only start conversations about harmful stereotypes, but also to acknowledge and understand the kind of roundabout rhetoric these social misconceptions are rooted in.
Conversations about harmful stereotypes and offensive terminology are important. Talking about the verbal transgressions that alienate other humans is important. Beyond that, understanding where these stereotypes came from, why they are damaging to others and choosing not to use them helps create a better society.