Inclusive language: Race and ethnicity

Non-inclusive language regarding race and ethnicity can be harmful by maintaining a bias towards people based on race, ethnicity, country of origin, or culture. As society and language evolve, words that risk alienating or showing disrespect become less acceptable. In this article, we’ll help you catch up with this knowledge so you can ensure your content is welcoming to people of diverse backgrounds.

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Race & ethnicity

When referring to someone’s race or ethnicity, only include what is relevant to your content. Keep in mind that there are terms that characterize people in a negative way based on their racial and ethnic background. This includes not only direct slurs, but terms that originated from a slur. Avoid using these words to not risk alienating people with certain ethnical backgrounds.

Many terms become outdated because they were created from a generalization or inaccurate notion about a certain group. For example:

  • Non-inclusive: orientals (it is othering towards Asian or East Asian people).
  • Inclusive: Asian (or be specific about the country, region, ethnicity, or culture that is being referred to).  

Country of origin

It is more inclusive if you are specific and respectful when referring to the countries people come from. This helps to avoid generalizing. Consider these examples:

  • Non-inclusive: Third World (it is a derogatory term that puts several countries and societies in one group based on factors such as income).
  • Inclusive: low-income countries (or name the specific country or region).

Cultural origin

It is helpful to avoid misusing or reducing concepts from cultural groups that face bias or erasure. For example:

  • Non-inclusive: spirit animal (overgeneralizes deeply personal cultural traditions).
  • Inclusive: inspiration, idol.

Learn more

For a full list of inclusive terms related to race and ethnicity, read:

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