A closer look at the words we use when discussing race and racism

Jun 24, 2015

"Words mean things."

Our favorite podcasters, Crissle and Kid Fury of The Read, are fond of saying that.

It's true now more than ever, but particularly when it comes to tough conversations. 

Americans, in person and online, are discussing race and racism.

We talked with Al Young, associate professor of sociology and African/Afro-American studies at the University of Michigan, about the words we use to talk about race and current events. 

Here are some of the words and phrases we talked about:

Is what happened in Baltimore a “riot” or an “uprising?”

“Black-on-black crime” as statistically correct, but no more so than other intra-group crime.

What are the assumptions behind saying, an “unarmed black man?”

Were the recent murders in Charleston, South Carolina a “hate crime” or a “terrorist attack?”

And your host Jenn White launched a sneak attack on her co-host, Kimberly Springer, by bringing up the whole Rachael Dolezal mess. 

Left and right images courtesy Radio Television News Digital Association/Society of Professional Journalists; center graph courtesy Linguistic Pulse blog