Have you ever taken a moment to consider the impact your words have? If there’s one thing I have learned, both from majoring in English and working at Pipe Dream for three years, it’s that what you say, and how you say it, matters. Language is a powerful tool, and many don’t know how to wield it. As a copy editor, I’ve read a lot of columns and articles; I should know.
But this is not about the correct use of there and they’re or your pesky tendency to write in the passive voice. If you aren’t getting that by now, there’s not much I can do for you. This is about knowing that what you say matters. This is about realizing that when you write and when you speak, someone is listening.
This is about knowing that an editorial in Pipe Dream has the power to enact real change on Binghamton’s campus. I’m constantly surprised to see that people talk about what we publish here and that it makes a difference. I’m proud to say that as a publication, we have changed policies and gotten people thinking about a lot of important topics over the years.
This is also about realizing that using cruel and ignorant words in writing and in speech hinders the ability of others to obtain equality. That, as we’ve addressed over the past few weeks, jumping to racist conclusions about the bombers in Boston, or extrapolating about entire populations based on the actions of a few, is extremely detrimental to the peace and understanding that so many hold dear.
Every time you say something hateful or selfish, racist or misogynistic, you are perpetuating stereotypes and attitudes that people have dedicated their lives to reversing.
These attitudes can be altered, though. You are shaping the future, with every word you utter and every sentence you write. Language can be beautiful and powerful. It can inspire people, make them think, make them question the world around them. It can lead to action. One man said, “I have a dream,” and these simple words inspired a movement. You may not be Martin Luther King, Jr., but your words can still be meaningful, and they can still make a difference.
I’ll finish with a quote that I heard, of all places, on the safari ride at Animal Kingdom in Disney World: “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we are borrowing it from our children.”
You have a responsibility to future generations to put out into the world what you’d hope to receive, and what you’d want for them. Choose your words carefully.