We use language to express ourselves, whether it’s spoken, signed or written language. The way in which we express ourselves, refer to others and tell stories says a lot about our identities as well as how we view both the people and world around us. This plays an important role in how we use our discourse. Dr. Nicki Lisa Cole defines discourse as, “how we think and communicate about people, things, the social organization of society and the relationships among and between all three.”
Discourse usually comes from politics and the media. This makes sense when considering what discourse does to us. Cole further explains that discourse has been described by sociologists “as a productive force” that forms how we think, what ideas we’ll have, what we believe in, what are our values, how we identify and how we as people behave.
Due to the diversity of our world as well as the history of oppression and power structures, discourse holds power. This is a power that not everyone has access to and lies on the legitimacy for certain kinds of knowledge while undermining others.
The power that discourse holds, on many occasions, is used either to uplift and incentivize inclusive values, thoughts and ideas or for the complete opposite. Discourse has been used negatively towards citizenship status, gender identities, sexuality, race and many other topics.
Being careful and thoughtful on how we not only refer to people and situations but also to people’s experiences is important.
Our discourse opens conversation about more diverse topics to the public therefore normalizing such topics.
Using our discourse and the power we might hold within our privileges to uplift and allow others to be seen is the ideal goal.
Accurate and non-hateful information beyond the stereotypes that have been created, whether throughout history or by personal biases, need to be considered when considering communication techniques.
Understanding that the language we use might harm other people is always something we should keep in mind. Respect, regardless of who we are or what our morals and biases are, should be the bare minimum for a well-functioning and respectful community-based society.