Oppressive Language Is Violence

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about the negative consequences of the degradation of discourse and its amplification across the Internet. I’ve come to feel that it has led to a general coarsening and oppressiveness of dialogue in general, including inside many businesses and business interactions.

It occurred to me that this degradation often spreads to our thinking, especially when you add in the decrease in attention span the Internet has also led to. Lest this scourge intensify and spread even more widely, we all have to be vigilant, always aware of what we are saying and writing and its consequences. We must work to keep oppressive language from becoming the new normal and with appropriate dialogue, correct others when they slip into this speaking mode and thinking morass.

Reading the Economist early the morning, I came upon the words of a great writer who eloquently captured what I’ve been contemplating. Here then is Toni Morrison from her Nobel lecture telling us of the deeper and more destructive realms our oppressive thinking and language can take us to and how we must stand up to it.

“Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity-driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek—it must be rejected, altered, and exposed.”

Something for you to contemplate before you hastily speak your mind to someone who works for you or send a comment forth on social media. A great leader or manager doesn’t use oppressive language, ever. And when they hear it from others, they cut it off and refuse to enable. And so should you.

Image result for pictures of toni morrison

Commenting area

  1. Steve,
    Well said! As the hate rhetoric has grown louder in our national conversations, it has troubled me deeply that some people are painting entire groups of people “all Republicans” “all Democrats” “all LBGTQ”, etc) with a very wide and nasty brush. I appreciate your thoughtful reference to the sage advice of Toni Morrison. I also think your final words of wisdom bear repeating: A great leader or manager doesn’t use oppressive language, ever. And when they hear it from others, they cut it off and refuse to enable. And so should you.

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