Stanford University published an index of “harmful language” it plans to eliminate from the school’s websites and computer code, offering terms to be used as replacements.
The Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative, which was revealed in May, is a “multi-phase, multi-year project to address harmful language in IT at Stanford,” according to the guide.
The guide says its goal is to eliminate “many forms of harmful language,” including “racist, violent, and biased (e.g., disability bias, ethnic bias, ethnic slurs, gender bias, implicit bias, sexual bias) language” in Stanford websites and code. It added that it strives to educate people on the impact of words.
There are 10 “harmful language” sections outlined in the index: ableist, ageism, colonialism, culturally appropriative, gender-based, imprecise language, institutionalized racism, person-first, violent and additional considerations.
Among the words the university urges people to avoid in the imprecise language section is the term, “American.” People are instead asked to use “U.S. Citizen” because “American” typically refers to “people from the United States only, thereby insinuating that the US is the most important country in the Americas.” The Americas, the index notes, comprises 42 countries.
Other terms deemed harmful in this section include “abort,” which offers the replacement of “cancel” or “end,” because of moral concerns about abortion; “child prostitute” is replaced with a “child who has been trafficked,” so the person is not defined by just one characteristic; and “Karen” is replaced with “demanding or entitled White woman.”
Under the ableist section, the index urges people to use “accessible parking” instead of “handicap parking,” “died by suicide” instead of “committed suicide” and “anonymous review” instead of “blind review.” It also says people should use “unenlightened” as a replacement for “tone deaf,” and a “person with a substance abuse disorder” as a replacement for “addict.”
The index does not offer an alternative for “brave” under the culturally appropriate category, but rather cautions against using the word at all. This section also asks that people use a person’s name instead of “chief” or “Pocahontas.”
In the gender-based section, the index says “pronouns” should be used instead of “‘preferred’ pronouns” because “preferred” suggests “non-binary gender identity is a choice and a preference.” The section further advises against words like “freshman,” “fireman” and “congresswoman” because the “gender binary language” does not include everyone.
The institutionalized racism section says to avoid using words like “black hat,” “black mark” and “black sheep” because of “negative connotations to the color black.” It also says to avoid using “grandfathered” and use “legacy status” instead, because of “roots in the ‘grandfather clause’ adopted by Southern states to deny voting rights to Blacks.”
The index also advises against using language with “violent” words included. These terms include “beating a dead horse,” “pull the trigger,” “trigger warning” and “killing two birds with one stone.”
Many of the terms in the index offered longer alternatives for terms that described a person by one characteristic. These terms include replacing “immigrant” with “a person who has immigrated,” “prisoner” with “a person who is/was incarcerated” and “homeless person” with “a person without housing.”
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