Words Matter by Patrick Rodriguez
“Put your hands behind your back!” “Stop right there, inmate!” “Everyone on the ground!” “You have 3 minutes to eat. Hurry up! Let’s go!” “Wake up. It’s time to go to court!” “I have Mr. Rodriguez here for the crimes listed. Mr. Rodriguez, were you using those drugs? Mr. Rodriguez, were you selling those drugs?” “Why is he in red? That’s a guilty man!” “Mom, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do this. It all just happened so fast. Please help me!” “Danielle, I need you. I love you! I can’t do this without you!” “I’m sorry I missed your graduation!” “I’m sorry I missed your wedding!” “I’m trying to come home; I promise I’m doing everything I can.”
When we aren’t cognizant of the language we use, we can cause someone to relive everything they are working to overcome.
As we work to create a more just society, I would like you to join me in using language that acts as an alternative and is more advocacy-focused.
Here are some alternate words/phrases that can be used:
Justice involved, system impacted, incarcerated person, formerly incarcerated, and person with a history of substance abuse.
We should be able to apply for any apartment complex, housing loan, job or university without facing biases based on our choices.
I dream of a world where everyone is able to receive a second chance. I ask you to not just dream with me but take action by reframing your language choices.
No one is perfect, and this is important to note as this is a learning process, and there will be no such indictment when mistakes are made. All we ask is that you try.