On Thursday, November 18th I attended the event “Please Don’t Call Me That” at the Boston College O’Connell House Grand Hall. Sponsored by the Black Student Forum, the discussion encompassed a deeper look into the history and effects of the derogatory and racial stereotypes used in every day conversation. It  served as a reminder of how simple “colloquial” words can lead to negative results. Are these words hurtful even if they are used casually?

The Black Student Forum invited other cultural groups of the Boston College community to share meanings and issues that arise due to provocative language. Members of the Campus School shared how it is not correct to refer to others as “retarded” or even use the word in our daily conversations. Alternatives to this word included “mentally disabled”. A representative from OLAA spoke about derogatory terms such as “spic” and “wetback”. These terms are offensive but society has made such vocabulary conventional. Another interesting issue was referring to Asians as “yellow” people. To address this matter, a powerful poem was written by a member of the Chinese Student Association, which addressed other misconceptions of this racial group. The repetitive lines in the poem that had the greatest effect were, “I would be heated…you should be heated too.” The poem instilled the need to remove all racial derogatory terms from our society and to act upon hearing them.

This discussion gave me a new perspective on how words can have a powerful impact in our society. It was great hearing the experiences of other cultural groups because it taught me tolerance, increased my understanding, and overall, showed me what it is like to walk in someone’s else’s shoes.  I learned to be mindful that people are more than labels and hope to apply the lessons from this event to my daily living and to the health care field. Race, ethnicity, gender, disabilities, religion, and sexual preference should not make a difference in  access to adequate health care.