My Language, My Choice: Words Mean Things – Facilitator's Guide

In 2012, Pacific Lutheran University launched the My Language, My Choice (MLMC) campaign.

MLMC was a passive poster campaign that advocated for individual responsibility and action in our language, word choice, and usage. PLU students, faculty, staff, and alumni are photographed tearing up a word or phrase they choose not to use. Participants also provide context as to why they choose not to use the particular word or phrase, thus stressing the importance of taking responsibility for the impact we have on others.

As we continue to assess our diversity and equity commitments and efforts to actualize our mission of valuing diversity as intrinsic to the vitality of learning, resilience, and growth, the My Language, My Choice: Words Mean Things (WMT) campaign emerged.

The My Language, My Choice: Words Mean Things campaign focuses on taking responsibility for the words we use, understanding their meanings, and using words appropriately and in context. The campaign aims to give folks the tools needed to explore how we experience words in our everyday lives. While there are many words and phrases that deserve intentional examination, understanding, and dialogue, the words we’re focusing on for the first round of the campaign are Anti-Blackness, Anti-Racism, Decolonization, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). Using definitions as well as dialogue, PLU staff, faculty, and alumni will explore the history and meaning of these words in context.

At the heart of the WMT campaign is individual responsibility, personal choice, and investigation into how our choices may impact others, regardless of our intent. There are three major components to the campaign: LEARN, CLAIM, and DIALOGUE.

Recognize that words mean things

We choose the words that we use to communicate with others. These words can be experienced differently given their context—and, intentionally or unintentionally, they can have a negative impact on others. We must have the courage to LEARN in public.

Understand your impact

We must be cognizant that our actions have positive and/or negative consequences. Our decisions and our language impact those in our communities, so we must CLAIM and take ownership of the impact that we have on others.

Take responsibility

We must acknowledge the power of our words to celebrate, praise, comfort, and honor others. But our words also have the power to demean, offend, belittle, and hurt. It is our responsibility to DIALOGUE with others, in order to continue our growth as an inclusive community.

The My Language, My Choice: Words Mean Things campaign would not have been possible without the vulnerability and courage of our Pacific Lutheran University alumni, faculty, and staff who shared their personal and academic relationships and stories around Anti-Blackness, Anti-Racism, Decolonization, and BIPOC.

Sponsored by Pacific Lutheran University and the Office of Diversity, Justice, & Sustainability