Language is a powerful weapon.
There is a reason Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s adage “the pen is mightier than the sword” still rings true today, almost 180 years later.
The language that we use, the words that are tossed about in the community, and the turns of phrase chosen by the media all have a powerful impact on individuals and society as a whole.
There are so many words or phrases that are now taboo, spoken only in the fringes of society, unacceptable in public.
On the inside of the media, it is understood how important words are.
The gravity that can be inflicted with a misaligned sentence, or a phrase that leaves itself open to misconstruction.
Like a whipcrack, the words from a recent current affairs television program ripped through the air.
Sunday Night on the weekend aired a segment on what it deemed to be an “African gang crisis” in Melbourne.
With choice phrases and carefully chosen footage, the city’s – and indeed the country’s – African, specifically South Sudanese, residents were thrown into the one basket.
The program used “political correctness” as a scapegoat as to why the issue had not been addressed on a wider scale.
On a different medium, a response was brewing, led by lawyer Maker Mayek on Twitter, armed with the hashtag #NotMyAustralia.
Mayek led the tag into the social media platform’s trending atmosphere while the television program aired.
While the response of support shown for the Sudanese community across the country was strong, it can be feared that the damage has already been done.
The Sudanese are not the first race to face such discrimination in Australia. It’s highly likely that they won’t be the last.
Just because it is not the first or the last time, does not make the situation OK.
Isolating a sector of the community through fear mongering and racial profiling has never created a harmonious society.
It serves to do quite the opposite, to drive a wedge further between “mainstream” Australians, and those who already feel marginalised because of their backgrounds.
For every step we take towards a multicultural country, we take a side step every time we permit broad strokes to be made under the umbrella of race.
Language is a powerful weapon, and should be wielded with extreme caution.