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Non-discriminatory language

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Non-discriminatory language - Ethnicity

There are two main issues.

Being inclusive

You need to use words which do not exclude any groupings.

You should avoid implying that everybody in Britain is white or British. Many British people are not white. Many people who live in Britain are not British.

Ways of doing this include:

  • acknowledge and pay attention to the fact that there are different ethnic or cultural groupings
This is from an earlier part of this section. The example includes ethnic or cultural groups.

People outside a group using certain slang words may not understand them (e.g. religious group; ethnic or cultural group; group sharing an interest, like a sport; age group).

  • when using examples, use names or photographs of people from different ethnic or cultural groups.
Salma liked the book. She found it interesting.
Jane disliked the film. She found it boring.
Avoiding offence

It is unacceptable to use words or phrases which offend people from other cultures or ethnic groups.

Find out what terms people from other cultures or ethnic groups use to describe themselves, so you can use those terms. The terms can change over time, so make sure they are currently acceptable.

Scottish people dislike being referred to as *Scotch (it's the name of a drink!) - Scottish is acceptable.

People with African roots refer to themselves as black (other terms may be offensive e.g. *coloured).

Minority ethnic students is acceptable as opposed to ethnic (everybody has a certain ethnicity).

'Black, Asian and people from other minority ethnic communities' is an inclusive term.

© Learning & Teaching Institute, Sheffield Hallam University 2004