Learning From Our Mistakes to Live Our Mission
As an organization dedicated to ensuring that Latinas and our families can live with dignity, we are committed to making sure that we live up to our values not only in the efforts we lead, but also in the way that we talk about our initiatives.
Words matter. They are a way to help people understand our issues, demonstrate respect and model a nuanced way of discussing complex topics. That is why as a society we have talked about the use of “that’s so gay” to describe something we don’t like and why people are taking on and challenging the idea of what it means to do something #LikeAGirl.
We have really thought about the words we use at COLOR. As an example, when we talk about programs that help to prevent people from having to face unintended pregnancy we don’t talk about the supposed ills of teen pregnancy as far too many others often do. Unintended pregnancy can be tough at any age. We do not want to shame young parents or be part of the stigma that is foisted on young people. Also, we shy away from messages that focus on reducing abortion rates as if this is a negative decision that should be judged. We want to make sure that people are able to become parents when they are ready and when they have the support they need.
Advocating for justice means that we should also act justly and it means admitting our mistakes. COLOR recently sent an email to our network talking about reproductive health care in which we described Colorado’s current status as “lame”. We are thankful to the activists who reached out to remind us that this is not a great way to live up to our values and our mission.
The use of the word “lame” to describe something as being bad or silly is simply wrong. Ableist language like this permeates our movement. We talk about the actions of politicians as “crazy”. We discuss a person being “crippled” by the restrictions that are placed on abortion access.
In the same way that we need to make sure that we look at being gender inclusive in talking about who needs and seeks reproductive health care and abortion, the reproductive health, rights and justice movement has to address the fact that we are using language that disrespects people with disabilities.
We at COLOR are deeply sorry for any pain that we caused in our recent actions, and are committed to doing better in the future both in the words that we use and in our efforts to ensure that the voices and stories of people with disabilities are included in our work. We will continue to educate ourselves and to own up to it when we fall short.