TED Conversations

Joshua Lee

This conversation is closed.

Is the language we use perpetuating the racial divide?

When I started working at the University I was asked, "Who do you relate to?" I answered unawares of their intention, "My wife." To which there was a pause... an irritated pause... ,"No, What race do you identify with?" Response, "The human race."

This only provides a small example into the plethora of ways that language contributes to how we perceive ourselves and others. This example illustrates how language shapes identity or at least perceived identity and its association with our race. It gives clues to how society contributes to a divide that no longer should exist. I believe that we can move beyond defining ourselves through race. We can rebuild ourselves through language and allow growth to truly take place.

Perhaps then a lack of opportunities wouldn't be presented as a racial issue but an economic issue, perhaps stereotypes would disappear and we would be able to characterize each other based on work ethic not racial stigmas, Perhaps we would be able to address the social issues from a less jaded perspective. Maybe now is the time that we stop making up for our ancestors mistakes and start working together as true equals.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Jul 2 2013: Language controls the pattern of information availability. As meaning creatures developing understandings of those sets in 'real time' as ourselves and others generate them in conversation, language inherently limits what ideas we can come to (or rather the speed at which we are likely to come to them). I think people take language for granted instead of an evolutionary tool. Tool's have a lot of tasks and it's important, I think, to know those to which language is applied.

    I don't think stereotyping will ever disappear. I'm sure most systems need to class objects in some way, regardless of inner working, for the purpose of dealing with them. Doing so will invariably lead to stereotyping. What's missing from the stereotype language, I think, is the degree of uncertainty (English deals with decision making and probability horribly in my opinion).
    • thumb
      Jul 2 2013: Interesting perspective. So you think that stereotyping needs to exist so that we can classify things? If so, don't you think that is limiting our ability to accept one another? Most importantly though, we need to classify objects but do we need to classify people?

      What do we gain through this type of classification?

      I think we could eliminate classifying people all together, if we did we could eliminate borders, immigration, segregation, privilege, ect.... I think this is possible and I agree that language is a tool but don't you feel that sometime we use it as if we are hammering a nail with the back of a screw gun?

      I like the direction you were headed though, how can we more effectively use the tool to eliminate division between races, sexual orientations, religions ect...

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.