10 April 2017

Building Vocabularies for Everyday Discussions about "Race", racism, and Inclusion/exclusion

I was recently contacted by a student who had taken my Intercultural Competencies course last Fall.

In their email, they asked for clarification on the following topic:
Is it alright to use the terms Afghani or Pakistani or, if I wanted to refer to individuals from these countries, should I say "Afghanistan citizens or Pakistan citizens" respectively?

Their reasoning: I look at other nations such as Australia and Israel which are commonly labelled as Aussies or Israelis and understand that those are accepted in North American society.

They ended with: I would like a professional opinion as to whether I can use a shortened term (even if only in an educational conversation!).

I love getting these requests because as an instructor of Anthropology (and its concepts) and an intercultural competency facilitator, I find that lacking appropriate vocabulary is one of the biggest deterrents from having conversations about "race", racism, exclusion, and the like.

I responded to the email as follows:
Short answer: Yes, you can use these shortened terms is certain situations.
Long answer: In my opinion, and based on the research I conducted, the terms Afghani or Pakistani are absolutely acceptable terms.

For example, "I'm of Afghani or Pakistani origin" is fine.

These terms would also be appropriate if, for example, you talking about larger demographic trends.

For example, "One of the largest refugee group to come to Canada were Afghani refugees..."

The issue is when you start using these terms to stereotype a group of people.

For example, "I think all Afghani (or Pakistani) people are...".

How would you have responded? Tweet us at @anthrolens or email us at anthrolens@gmail.com.