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On the origin and use of words

For too long, western culture was influenced, and often dominated, by dominators. Imperialists, men who invented the idea of white supremacy and developed systems of caste and race that were designed to subjugate women, Black people, indigeneous societies, people of color and others that didn’t fit a narrow mold of who could have power and privilege.

The damage continues, and the cultural artifacts of this period persist. Anyone who uses language has to be aware of the impact of words as well as their origins and meanings.

The genocide, dehumanization and persistent disrespect shown to so many native peoples is completely unacceptable, an indelible mark of shame wherever it occurred and continues to occur. And when those injuries are compounded by insults like calling the fans of a baseball team with a racist logo a ‘tribe’ it makes it even worse.

But the word itself? It appears in the Bible more than 300 times. It was used to describe the lost tribe of Israel long before Columbus. And it’s a useful way to describe groups of people who care about each other, respect each other and work together. That’s the way I use it and always have. I have no desire at all to belittle, hurt or offend and I try to be clear and precise in how I use the word. My book is about leadership and connection, not division or derision.

It’s a painful time for so many people, particularly those that have traditionally not been heard. I’m hopeful we can find ways to see and respect each other and to build healing and possibility into our shared future.

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