My First Secret-Decoder Dictionary

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Carrie for guest writing this week’s blog post. Carrie is our white ally who periodically contributes to the blog about disability justice and thoughts on being an ally. This week she writes about being vague with language, which makes her cranky. AND, today is #ThankYouPatrons day! Thank you to all of our Patreon sponsors, you keep the blog going. A heartfelt thank you.

Fakequity is taking next week off to sleep, eat, watch Netflix, and maybe read a book (probably not). We’ll be back in December with some fresh blog posts.

By Carrie Griffin Basas, your virtual influencer, futurist, and psychic friend (and other words that confuse me)


Red panda meme: What did you say? What did you really mean to say?

I suffer through meetings where others are speaking in polite and vague language. As my friends and colleagues note, I have a certain tell when I’m irritated. Going into cranky lawyer mode, I ask people to define something or describe what it looks like. Instead of breaking people’s will to participate in meetings with me, I’ve decided to create a self-soothing dictionary of what people really mean when they can’t define something.

Ally: self-anointed person no one asked to speak for them.

Community: people who were invited to come (or not) and they don’t look like the hosts.

DEI or EDI: “diversity, equity, and inclusion” or “equity, diversity, and inclusion”– used when someone is afraid to break down the components of racism, ableism, xenophobia, sexism, and other forms of oppression.

Disrupt: said something safely snarky and will now return to IG account for the remainder of this meeting.

Engage: sent an email without a relationship or briefly touched that person’s shoulder at a fundraiser. Multiple shoulders= “community engagement.”

Equity: trying to be “fair” while also being unclear about the origins of this issue and the solutions necessary to fix it. Please don’t ask me what I am trying to address but trust me that I am working on it.

Human-centered design: I work with people. Last time I checked, no lemmings were involved in creating my strategic plan, but of course, that would be easier.

Intersectional: it is complicated and I’m not sure how these pieces all go together but that’s cool. Wow, your identity is interesting. What percentage are you intersectional?

Issues: we have a problem, but we refuse to call it a problem. Erin’s speech professor despised the word issues; “People don’t have issues, they have problems.”

Outreach: making new friends with “community” (see definition above).

Race: literally mean a race or competition, like Race to the Top. Or talking about a marathon they just ran. People have a hard time saying the word race as it relates to people.

Special needs: afraid to say “disabled” or “disability.” Let’s right this wrong and use special needs in a sentence that reflects whose special need it is: “Penelope had special needs because she wanted to speak for all disabled people even though she was nondisabled.”

Stakeholdering: getting feedback after we’ve decided what we’re doing. Define stakeholders narrowly as to minimize work. (My friend Catherina pointed out how corporate this term is, as well as it how it ties to issues of land ownership and therefore, colonialism, racial covenants, and other economic justice issues.)

Strategic plan: document encapsulating vague commitments to DEI (see earlier definition) and the community/ies (see earlier definition) that I will engage.

Thought partner: you do the thinking so that I don’t have to. I’ll be sure to quote you in some meeting where others question my expertise to speak to this issue.

Let’s bring all this definitional work together now with an example of a meaningless statement that could be heard in your next meeting:

Through a human-centered outreach and disruptive stakeholdering strategy, I engaged with communitythought partners, and allies to strengthen our DEI strategic planning efforts around such intersectional issues as special needs, race, and equity.

But what if we simply said what we meant?

We need each other as we keep trying to be as human and loving as possible and to go beyond our limited experiences. Let’s blow things up together while celebrating the good stuff, like the fact that you see me and I see you. If I’m not accountable to you, if I don’t meet and honor you where you are, then let me know. I’ll do better. I want to do better.

Carrie Basas works in education advocacy and formerly in civil rights law, specializing in disabilities rights. Formerly she was a law professor impressing upon law students the importance of understanding race and its impact on people. Carrie has a MEd in Education Policy, Organizations and Leadership from the University of Washington. She earned a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School and an Honors B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Sociology/Anthropology from Swarthmore College. However, her biggest claim to fame is some of her fashion weekend wear while hanging with her family and dog.

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Adrienne, Aimie, Ali, Aline, Alissa, Amy, Amy R., Andrea, Angie, Anh-Chi, Annie, Annie G.,  Ashlie, Ben, Betsy, Brooke, Brian, C+C, Caitlin, Calandra, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Casey, Chandra, Chelsea, Chicxs Happy Brownies, Claudia, Cierra, Clark, Colleen, Crystal, Dan, Danya, Darcie, Dawnnesha, Dean, Debbie (x2), Denise, Denyse, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica (2), Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, eve, Freedom, Greg, Hannah, Heather, Heather H., Heidi, Heidi and Laura, Heidi S., Jake, Janis, Jean, Jeanne, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jessica G., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon, JP, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Kawai, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kristen C., Kristen D., Kumar, Laura, Laura T., Laurel, Laurie, Leah, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Lynn D., Makeba, Marc, Maria, Mark, Matias, Matthew, Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Michael, Michelle, Migee, Mikaela, Mike, Milo, Minesh, Miranda, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nat, Natasha, Nathan, Nathan H., Nicole, Norah, Norrie, Paola, Patrick, Polly, Priya, Rebecca, Risa, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Ruby, Sarah, Sarah S., Sarita, Sean, SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Skyler, Stephanie, Stephanie O., Stephanie S., Susan, Tana, Tania, Tara, Terri, Tracy, and Vivian. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check for the most up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. To subscribe see the sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version).