Those Among Us

Those Among Us

Words matter.

We all know that words matter.

It’s why we choose not to use certain derogatory terms to describe persons of particular races or sexual orientations or nationalities or genders or religions. It’s why we’re careful about how and whether we use words like ‘crazy’ and ‘hysterical’. It’s why we’ve had passionate discussions about using the phrase White Supremacy Culture to describe the dominant experience of race in the United States of America—and in UUCC.

Words and language and phrasing also matter in more subtle ways, because how we express ourselves affects our own experience of the world.

There’s a difference between “I have children” and “I am parenting children.”

“I am very busy” vs. “Life is very full right now.”

“I cannot come to the party” vs. “I will not be at the party.”

“I don’t have time” vs. “I’m choosing to invest my time elsewhere.”

“I had a bad day” vs. “I had some challenging experiences today.”

And the one that is especially on my mind right now, because it’s a newer lesson for me:

“Those people…” vs. “Those among us who…”

The Republicans vs. Those among us who are Republicans.

Unvaccinated people vs. Those among us who are unvaccinated.

Asian-Americans vs. Those among us who are Asian-American.

The mentally ill vs. Those among us who live with mental illness.

The under-privileged vs. Those among us with fewer resources.

The differences often are subtle—they may even seem insignificant or insubstantial. But for those among us who have ever been on the outside of the dominant culture of a group, the phrasing matters. It matters in whether we feel we are noticed and included—whether we belong.

And it’s especially important in a congregation like ours, in which we say we intend to draw the circle of welcome ever wider. Does our rhetoric undermine our intention? Do we speak in ways that exclude those among us who are not middle class, who are Republican, who choose not to go to college, who are neurodiverse, who have non-Christian backgrounds, who serve in the military, who are food and housing insecure, who are newer to the community?

Who are we, anyway? Who is among us … now, and unseen?

Faithfully,
Paige

9 Comments

  1. Regina V

    “Those among us” is new to me too. And I love it. Thank you for this beautiful reflection. It reminds us that we are all here together on this planet.

  2. Bob Jackson

    Perhaps this is why I am quiet – tend not to talk too much. At least when I write something it is easier to review my words! Still, it is hard to understand how someone else will hear/read your words. I believe I am improving, but it is a long, constantly changing, process.

  3. Margaret Gesell

    I suggest we also banish the terms “intersectional” and “cultural appropriation” and such-like words and buzz phrases that we use to identify ourselves as among the enlightened ( or “woke”) ones as opposed to those people among us who are of the White Supremacy Culture persuasion. We could inadvertently offend a White Supremacist.

  4. Lowell Sunderland

    Words matter — no argument. But …
    So does 1) listening instead of merely hearing. So, at times, does 2) listening for what is not said instead of making assumptions. So does 3) trying to empathize instead of snap-judging. So does 4) humility instead of me-ism. So does 5) old-fashioned courtesy. So does 6) paying attention, first, to the person instead of color or gender or age or ability or schooling or employment or status.
    What was that age-old advice, again? Wasn’t it something like “do unto others as you would have them do unto you? “

    • Karen

      I tend to agree with you…When did we forget, as a society, the Golden Rule: “Do unto others, as we would have them do unto us…..” Most of our language is fraught with land mines. I don’t know the answer to language traps in English, or in any other language.

  5. Joyce C. Warner-Burke

    True communication is a process, not an absolute, and involves two directions: back and forth between at least two people; including listening to how one is heard and refining one’s message and how it is received so that both people are understood.

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