A message on semantics from the Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Society

Stacey Franciamore, Editor-in-Chief

The Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Society is a society within the Speech Communication Studies and Communication Sciences and Disorders departments that focuses on diversity and its role in communication. Their goal is to bring awareness to culturally and linguistically diverse issues and contribute to best practices.   


The group aims to educate students on the importance of providing quality services to an increasingly diverse population.  


“The group is beneficial because it’ll help you serve patients of color and deal with any type of diverse client,” Speech Communication Studies Professor Louis Bankston said. “It also helps students of color and diverse students navigate their way through Iona and through a profession that is predominantly white.”  


Given the racial climate and the uprising of Black Lives Matter, CLDS feels inclined to educate students on the critical role language plays in culturally diverse issues 


“We want to start a conversation on campus and inform people on the right terms to use,” senior and member of CDLS Anarita Dennis said. “The goal is just to educate people because a lot of them aren’t aware or just don’t know where to go.” 


CLDS has provided a message highlighting the importance of semantics in communication and defining terms that are not well understood or at times misused: Black Lives Matter, White Privilege and Institutional Racism.  




Semantics play a huge role in how we perceive communication from others. It can often lead to statements and messages being misunderstood. Often, those who are opposed to the message will take a simple statement and attempt to redefine its intended message to justify their position or mischaracterize the communicator. With racial tensions reaching a boiling point (again) in the United States and worldwide, the CLDS would like to define and clarify a few terms so that all may move forward and take personal responsibility by combating racism.  

What does Black Lives Matter mean? 

Black Lives Matter is a movement in which its mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power  to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the states and vigilantes (blacklivesmatter.com)  “It wants to bring about change in the government, schools, homes, legal systems, communities, and institutions” (Frank, M “The Hill”).  

What Black Lives Matter does NOT mean 

Black Lives Matter does not dismiss or minimize the struggles of other communities of people of color (such as Black Americans, Africans, Asians, Native Americans, Hispanics, West Indians, East Indians, Middle Easterners, Pacific Islanders). But it is evident that Black people in America are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than their white counterparts (Roper, W “Racial Inequality: Black Americans 2.5x More Likely Than Whites to Be Killed by Police”). 

What is White Privilege? 

White privilege can best be defined as the advantages a white person or someone of a lighter skin complexion may have compared to a person of color. White privilege can be seen almost as a “built-in” advantage (Collins, C “What is White Privilege, Really”) 

What White Privilege is NOT  

White privilege is not taking away from the struggle and is not saying that everything a white person has accomplished is unearned. White privilege is not saying one’s life is inherently good, it just means that none of the problems they may have faced are caused because of the color of their skin. It does not mean your life will be good because you are white but it will never be bad because you are.  

What is Institutional Racism? 

Institutional racism originates in the operation of established and respected forces in the society, and thus receives far less public condemnation than individual racism. (Carmichael, Hamilton, “Black Power: Politics of Liberation”) It has historically led to discrimination in criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power and education, and religion (Harmon, Mandavilli, Maheshwari, Kantor. NY Times). 

What Institutional Racism is NOT  

Institutional racism only occurs through the policies and directives of an institution and does not occur solely through the actions of an individual, although individuals may be involved. While individual racism is often identifiable because of its overt nature, institutional racism is less perceptible because of its “less overt, far more subtle” nature (Carmichael, Hamilton). 


For more information about CLDS, please email [email protected]