People Have Names

4 May

Watching the local NBN News in Tweed Heads last night, I noticed something disturbing. A picture of the beautiful local model Samantha Harris was shown followed by the newsreader saying, “Is this the first indigenous supermodel?’ (I do not have a transcript unfortunately). They then broke for an advertisement.

What is wrong with “this” you may ask? Almost everything. We were not looking at an object but a young lady with a name, full of aspirations and hopes who has, it seems to me, worked very hard to achieve her goals. Samantha is not a ‘this’, an object like a flower or a rock but a person, a subject the same as myself and the newsreader.

Here lies a major stumbling block for a society raised on analytical and rational thinking, a society which reduces all its constituents to objects so they can simply be discarded without concern at the most expedient time. It is the violence we do to others who are, for what ever reason, different to ourselves and the accepted norms of our group.

Think for a moment of all those who may have been watching last night who are different and who have not achieved the heights Samantha has. Perhaps they were thinking, “If that’s how they treat someone who is successful, what do they think of me?”

Our language is important for it is the tool we use most often to build up or pull down, to change stereotypes or to maintain them, to encourage or discourage others.

For those of us who work with young people or have young people of our own, it is a timely reminder to mind our language, whether we are talking to or about the children in our care is irrelevant. What we say reflects what we think and what we think can and does change the world for others. Let that change be positive.

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