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Violet’s internal guide to language: Part 2

Violet’s internal guide to language: Part 2

The words we choose speak volumes.

Language indicates what we value and how well we listen. At Violet, we’re building a more equitable health care system by credentialing cultural competence and upskilling care delivery teams to provide more inclusive care.

But we can’t do this work in a silo. That’s why our education is created in collaboration with folks who not only have experience teaching but also have lived experience facing the very discrimination they teach.

The language we use matters when describing those who may experience discrimination in health care settings. To stay consistent across our educational content, Violet uses an internal guide that we maintain out of consensus as a company and with external thought partners. We released the first part of our guide earlier this summer focused on gender and sexuality terms, and now we’re releasing the second part today, which focuses on race, ethnicity, and disability.

Remember: Every term or word comes nuanced with history, context, and personal preference. If you aren’t sure how someone may identify or what language may be appropriate, just ask! The primary thing to remember is that there’s always room for growth and learning. Cultural competence is not static; it is a lifelong journey.  

Read Violet’s internal guide to language: Part 1 if you’re not caught up yet.

Violet's language guide: Part 2

White

At Violet, we do not capitalize white when referencing people of European origin. We recognize that race is a social construct with early roots in scientific racism, artificially positioning white people—especially able-bodied, heterosexual, and cisgender men—as superior to all other races. This falsehood is rooted in the earliest principles of modern science and medicine: eugenics. It is therefore important not to capitalize "white," or else we give reverence to a disproven concept. Though, the study of eugenics became so ubiquitous around the world that we still categorize and identify along racial lines.

Today's racial stratification continues to benefit white people over all other communities. There is no inherent superiority to being born white. Racism creates race. It is important that racial categorization in medicine recognizes that it is not physiognomy that contributes to health disparities, but, largely, systemic racism. When analyzing race-based health outcomes it is crucial to move away from unfounded eugenicist assumptions and toward uncovering the real reasons for health disparities between white patients and BIPOC communities.

Black

When referring to racial, ethnic, or cultural terms, we capitalize Black, but we don't capitalize white. Why? Black is a shared, global identity and community that celebrates surviving white supremacy; it is a feat deserving the dignity and visibility of capitalization. But just as it's vital to chip away at white supremacy through language and to acknowledge the legacy of racism, it is important to distinguish that the Black community does not ultimately define itself in relation to whiteness. Black signals pride for the community's humanity in and of itself. In our context, it is important to spotlight Black humanity because that can improve cultural competency, and, eventually, health outcomes.

It is important to note that within the shared Black identity, there is diversity. The Black identity includes multiple other communities, ethnicities, and cultures, spanning every continent. It is therefore recommended to follow personal preference for self-identification.

A note on preference: We acknowledge that this term can change depending on the latest consensus in the Black community. As we follow the community’s lead, it is important to always ask what an individual prefers.

Other appropriate terms: African American

AAPI

This is the term we use when referencing people of Asian or Pacific Island descent, specifically within the context of the U.S. The Asian continent and Pacific Islands include over 45 countries. While many AAPI communities in the U.S. have shared histories, cultures, and more, we recognize the critique of flattening all of the communities into one umbrella term because it evokes racism against Asian and Pacific Islanders, which typically generalizes and stereotypes disparate communities as a monolith.

When possible, we refer to a person’s country of origin or follow the person’s preference.

Additionally, we know that health disparities can range widely depending on where one falls in the spectrum of AAPI, which includes culture, ethnicity, immigration status, socioeconomic standing, colorism, speaking English as a second language, or speaking languages other than English in the context of living in the United States, and more. Depending on public health data, we may specify or widen the scope of AAPI communities.

A note on preference: As we follow the communities’ lead, it is important to always ask what an individual prefers.

Other appropriate terms: Asian American, API (Asian and Pacific Islander), and country-specific terms like Taiwanese American or Native Hawaiian

Latine/x

This is the term we use when referencing people who have roots in Latin American countries. The previous term generally and widely used was Latino, however, due to criticism around the gendered “o” at the end, a more inclusive, gender-neutral “e” was swapped in. Latinx is also commonly used, though it has received some criticism for being a less “organic” extension of the Spanish language. Violet chooses to use Latine/x however we acknowledge that this could, can, or will evolve as culture and conversations change.

A note on preference: As we follow the communities’ lead, it is important to always ask what an individual prefers.

Other terms that are appropriate: Latinx, Latine

Indigenous peoples of the Americas

This is the term we use when referencing people who first lived on the lands currently referred to as the United States of America. When possible, we try to specify specific tribe names. Of note, when referring to tribes from Alaska, Violet uses the term Alaska Native.

As we continue to occupy tribal lands, colonialism’s toll perpetually causes trauma. Violet acknowledges that its headquarters reside on the Lenape’s territory in Manhattan.

A note on preference: As we follow the communities’ lead, it is important to always ask what an individual prefers.

Other appropriate terms: Native American, American Indian

Disabled

This term refers to people who are not provided the same level of resources and advantages in society because they may have developmental disabilities like Deafness and cerebral palsy; neurodivergent disabilities like autism and ADHD; or other disabilities like muscular dystrophy and autoimmune conditions.

Violet prefers to use Disabled (Disabled person) rather than a person-centered approach (person with a disability) because of an increasing push by community advocates away from person-centered language and to acknowledge that disabilities are caused by a society that isn’t equipped or built for Disabled people. However, some people may choose to use a person-centered approach (person with a disability) as a self-identifier. Every person will have a different preference. Violet also capitalizes Disabled.

A note on preference: As we follow the communities’ lead, it is important to always ask what an individual prefers.

Other appropriate terms: Person with a disability

Neurodivergent

This term describes people who experience life in ways that are not supported by society. Their neurology processes internal and external stimuli in measurably different ways than the baseline norm set by clinical standards and perpetuated by societal norms and institutions, such as schools and the workplace. People with neurodivergence are made to feel different since they’re largely unsupported by a society benefiting from an alternative lived experience, codified as neurotypical. Despite neurodivergent lived experiences being just as valid, people with neurodivergence are made to feel threatened if they won’t or can’t mask their differences because they could be rejected and their very wellbeing could be at stake in a world that widely permits ableism.

To establish person-centered care, we have to be culturally congruent by assuming differences in all people, instead of homogeneity.

A note on preference: As we follow the communities’ lead, it is important to always ask what an individual prefers.

Intersectionality

A term coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s to describe the way that multiple systems of oppression interact in the lives of those with multiple identities.  Intersectionality looks at the relationships between multiple identities and allows us to analyze social problems more fully, shape more effective interventions, and promote more inclusive advocacy amongst communities.

A note on preference: As we follow the communities’ lead, it is important to always ask what an individual prefers.

Culturally diverse communities

We use this term when referencing communities other than white, heteronormative, cisgender, neurotypical, and able-bodied. Culturally diverse communities are usually described as “marginalized”, “minority”, or “disenfranchised”. At times, these qualifiers are accurate, but using those negative words constantly can imply that there is something inadequate or alienating about the community. Upskilling cultural competence demands internal reflection about who disenfranchises a community rather than assuming a community is inherently falling behind. After all, a community doesn’t just happen to be marginalized; they are intentionally exploited and/or discriminated against. Let us focus on the unique attributes of communities and celebrate diversity, and critique cultures of white supremacy and colonialism.

A note on preference: As we follow the communities’ lead, it is important to always ask what an individual prefers.

Notes on this guide:

  1. This guide is not—and will never be—the ultimate authority on terms or language.
  2. This guide was created with input from queer, Disabled, and/or BIPOC individuals.
  3. This guide is not an exhaustive list; we use this internally to create consistency when writing articles or education.
  4. This guide is not meant to be a dictionary; there will be many terms here that do not include a definition.
  5. We’re always learning and evolving as culture grows, and this guide will consistently evolve too.