People First

Have you ever heard of "people first" language?

It is language that puts the person first, and then their characteristic you are trying to describe, second.

For instance, rather than saying "homeless people," I would say "people who are homeless."

The idea behind "people first" language is just that: first, we are all people, and second, we are that thing by which we or others may identify us.

It's interesting to think of using people-first language when looking at a group of diverse people!

Furthermore, in no way are we just that one thing. When we describe someone as a "homeless person" or a "white person," that can become for us in our minds their defining quality, when in fact, their homelessness or their whiteness is only one single characteristic about them.

People-first language identifies us first by what we have in common, that we are people, human beings. It also does this tricky thing to us that is very subtle. When I say "homeless people," I am in my mind lumping all homeless people in together as a subset of people. However, when I use people-first language, and say "people who are homeless," I first notice that they are people, just like me, and second, that right now they don't have a home.

Even though I've been aware of people-first language for several months, I still often use the less cumbersome "homeless people" wording. It's really easier to say "homeless people." But it has challenged my thinking, to the point where even as I write "homeless people," now I think in my head, they are really "people, who are homeless."

Words matter. Language matters. Do you think a subtle shift into using "people-first" language when you can might begin to change how you view other people? Might a quality you used to see as defining them become what it actually is, only one quality about them?