Ethnically or Racially Biased Language
Clearly, ethnic and racial insults are unacceptable in professional writing. Less clear-cut, however,
are the labels that are most acceptable for identifying specific ethnic and racial groups. Following
are some general guidelines.
- Both black and African American are generally acceptable
(although some members of this community prefer one or the other). The phrase
people of color is sometimes used to include other racial groups,
particularly for political purposes. The labels Negro and
colored are generally not acceptable.
- Depending to some extent on regional preference, people with roots in Latin
America refer to themselves as Hispanic, Latino/Latina,
or Chicano/Chicana, or by place of origin (Cuban
American, Puerto Rican). Except for specific audiences or
individuals, Latino is generally acceptable.
- The preference is for Asian or Asian American rather
than Oriental. Again, specific groups may prefer labels based on
country of origin (Japanese American, Korean).
- Native American has gained favor over Indian.
Depending on context, you might more accurately refer to a specific tribe or
- In Canada the official term for local native people is Inuit rather than
Eskimo. Many Alaskan natives also prefer this term.
- Increasingly, people of mixed racial heritage are lobbying to be recognized as such,
rather than being identified by a specific racial designation. Respect such concerns
Another concern is language that may suggest ethnic or racial stereotypes. Avoid unsupported
generalizations about racial or ethnic groups, as well as racially based assumptions about individuals.
With the simple nobility that characterizes his people, Onondaga Indian leader Leon
Shenandoah acted as a spiritual and political advocate for the Iroquois Confederacy until his death
With directness and integrity, Onondaga leader Leon Shenandoah acted as a spiritual and
political advocate for the Iroquois Confederacy until his death in 1996.
Include references to ethnicity or race only when relevant. Avoid using pronouns that assume that "we" are of one race and "they" are of
## Ethnically Biased Language ##
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