As data lovers and evaluators, we know that implicit and explicit biases influence our work. Data is not objective. Data are numbers that represent people. People make the decisions about how that information is collected, who it is collected from, how it is analyzed, and what and how results are shared.
With books like Weapons of Math Destruction and movements like Data for Black Lives’ #NoMoreDataWeapons, we understand the ways in which biases and decisions are codified in our algorithms, software, policing, education, funding, and hiring practices.
I want to talk about another type of violence happening in our data and evaluation work – weaponized, militarized, and violent language. We talk about hitting targets or benchmarks, blowing people away with our presentations, and giving something a shot. We have bullet points in our presentations and bullet charts in our reports.
These phrases have become so common in our vernacular that we might not even recognize them as violent. But they are.
The language we use shapes how we see the world and sends a message about what we value. I don’t want to live in a world that normalizes and excuses violence. Do you?
Below are some common phrases and alternatives that we can use to stop weaponizing our language when talking about data and evaluation:
|Bullet points||Key points, main ideas|
|Bullet chart||Overlapping bar chart|
|Hit the target/benchmark||Meet or achieve the goal|
|Hardest hit||Most impacted|
|To be brutally honest||To be honest|
|Blown away||In awe, impressed|
|Give it a shot||Try|
|Armed with the facts||Knowledgeable|
|Leading the charge||Leading|
|Rally the troops||Encourage, support, inspire|
|Had a blast||Enjoyed|
|Knocked it out of the park/killed it||Did well|
|On your radar||Paying attention|
|Pull the trigger||Launch|
|I’m shooting for||My goal is|
- A life worthy of our breath (On Being with Krista Tippett and Ocean Vuong)
- Gun metaphors deeply embedded in English language
- How gun culture permeates our everyday language
- The ‘warspeak’ permeating everyday language puts us all in the trenches
- Violent phrases that are used in everyday speech
What violent language have you used in your work and what alternatives could you use instead?
Interested in learning more about inclusive language? Read Part 1 of this post.