Last week I received a very kind email from reader Anthony, in which he pointed out an embarrassing error I had made in my written agenda for The Golden Rule worship service.
I am reaching out to thank you but to also lift up something I observed in your recent Golden Rule manuscript. I loved your parallel using the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as an illustration for treating neighbors justly, however when referring to the African-American/Black community, you referred to us as “the blacks.” I understand your point and I am not arguing to be political, but I am lifting up the power of words. The term “the blacks” has historically been used as a derogatory term when referring to the African-American community. Even the term “black” was derogatory until people of African descent reclaimed the term to express the resilience and brilliance of the African-American community during the 1960s. We both know that words have power and with love I ask that you reconsider using “the blacks” and its implications to some as an othering/distancing expression to people who have been historical marginalized. Using the word “the” in front of any group is a way of emphasizing the group’s otherness from the speaker and his or her audience.
Anthony was and is absolutely right. I responded:
Anthony, thank you so much for writing and for your kindness. I don’t know when I use the phrase “the blacks” in that service but I truly apologize! I know it’s the wrong phrase for all the reasons you name so I’m ashamed I didn’t notice. Please forgive me … Again, thank you for your compassionate words and correction.
I immediately did some digging and discovered that I had not proofread that PDF carefully enough. Now that I’m back in town I’ve updated that Golden Rule agenda and replaced any links to it throughout the site.
I’m so sorry to all my readers for this oversight and will work to pay closer attention. Please continue to alert me to anything you notice that needs correction!
Peace be with you,