‘Language and how we use language determines how we act’

November 11, 2018

She is Ntozake Shange. Her seminal choreopoem, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf,” nominated for a Tony in 1975, is a work of artistry and challenge. She has died.

I knew her as the older sister of my high school classmate, Wanda (now Ifa Bayeza). She was Paulette Williams. In this time of daily, open hate, the passing of this exertive influencer not only made me cry, it made me think. She once said, “I’m a firm believer that language and how we use language determines how we act, and how we act then determines our lives and other people’s lives.” Her words, well beyond just these few, are timely and resonate.

I suggest, in response to the heinous acts that we’ve come to know of over the past few days, and those that may still be kept from us or are yet to come, we return to and review our own daily words. You might want to look up the word “hate,” as well as its derivatives in the Urban Dictionary. It says, a “hate fact” is a matter of truth, fact, or reality that supports an argument based on stereotype or prejudice. Sound familiar?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation notes that hate is not a crime in and of itself. After all, we’ve all hated broccoli, schoolwork, an impolite posting, and/or being unheard. We may respond with an “I hate this,” usually mean an “I don’t like this,” and often find our words received in silence. Words are clearly more important than that, or should be.

Do we hear those who hate before their words determine their acts? Perhaps if we make the concerted effort to simply listen to and hear our words, and share our daily bread in community, we’ll find that “the Rainbow is Enuf.” Isn’t it?

Ted Killmer


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