Ethnicity and Race
Many people have intersecting identities and may choose not to share all of those identities in your communications. When possible, it is strongly recommended that you ask people how they prefer to be described, and which identities they would like to include. As a brand communicator, it is also important to consider context. Is noting someone's characteristics or identity relevant to your piece?
The Associated Press Stylebook carefully and intentionally crafts guidance for the communication of race-related issues. It is imperative that our brand communicators familiarize themselves with the most up-to-date recommendations needed to cover this topic with thoughtful consideration, precise language, accurate narratives, and deep sensitivity. Below are general AP recommendations. You can find the AP's full guidance under "race-related coverage" in the AP Stylebook.
Avoid broad generalizations and labels; race and ethnicity are one part of a person's identity. In all communication, strive to accurately represent the world, or a particular community, and its diversity through the people you quote and depict in all formats. Omissions and lack of inclusion can render people invisible.
Consider carefully when deciding whether to identify people by race. Often, it is an irrelevant factor, and drawing unnecessary attention to someone's race or ethnicity can be interpreted as bigotry.
Language around ethnicity and race is evolving. Miami University brand communicators may need to make decisions, based on necessity and audience, on terms that differ from or are not covered by the AP's specific recommendations. This list is not all-inclusive; it can serve as a framework by which to consider other words.
General Terms to Know
No hyphen. Acceptable, but not preferred, for an American Black person of African descent. Be advised, the terms are not necessarily interchangeable. Americans of Caribbean heritage, for example, generally refer to themselves as Caribbean American.
When possible, refer to a person's country of origin or follow the person's preference. Kenyan American or Nigerian American.
American Indians, Indigenous, Native Americans
Always capitalize these terms when referring to the original inhabitants of the U.S. Use Indigenous when referring to the original inhabitants of any place.
- Aboriginal leaders welcomed a new era of Indigenous relations in Australia. Bolivia's Indigenous peoples represent some 62% of the population.
American Indians and Native Americans are both acceptable terms in general references for those in the U.S. when referring to two or more people of different tribal affiliations. For individuals, use the name of the tribe; if that information is not immediately available, try to obtain it.
- He is a Navajo commissioner.
- She is a member of the Nisqually Indian Tribe.
- He is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.
Some tribes and tribal nations use member; others use citizen. If in doubt, use citizen. In Alaska, the Indigenous groups are collectively known as Alaska Natives.
First Nation is the preferred term for native tribes in Canada.
Indian is used to describe the peoples and cultures of the South Asian nation of India. Do not use the term as a shorthand for American Indians.
When using the word tribe or tribal, always capitalize if used in reference to a specific tribal nation, even if the name of the tribe is not stated.
- Myaamia students attend Miami University as part of the Myaamia Heritage Award Program. To date, 95 Tribal students have graduated from this program.
When using the word tribe or tribal, but not referring to a specific tribal nation, it does not need to be capitalized.
When possible, refer to a person's country of origin or follow the person's preference.
- Filipino American
- Indian American
Black(s), white(s) (n.)
Never use either term as a singular noun. For plurals, use phrases such as Black people, white students, Black faculty, white peers.
- Miami's geography class developed a revitalization plan to help Hamilton's Black community.
- 64% of white students took the survey.
- The grant targets Black faculty while white professors are helping to develop the initiative.
Preferable to African American. Use the capitalized term as an adjective in a racial, ethnic, or cultural sense: Black students, Black culture, Black literature, Black studies, Black colleges.
Black Lives Matter, #BlackLivesMatter
A global movement launched after the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin with a goal to eradicate systemic racism and white supremacy and to oppose violence committed against Black people.
Either Black Lives Matter as a noun or the Black Lives Matter movement is acceptable. BLM is acceptable on second reference.
Some respond to the Black Lives Matter movement by saying "all lives matter" or "blue lives matter," the latter in reference to police officers. Neither is a formal movement, so lowercase and enclose in quotes.
A term that Mexican Americans in the U.S. Southwest sometimes use to describe their heritage. Use only if it is a person's preference.
No hyphen for terms such as Italian American and Mexican American. Used when relevant to refer to an American person's heritage. The terms are less common when used to describe non-Americans, but may be used when relevant: Turkish German for a German of Turkish descent.
A person from, or whose ancestors were from, a Spanish-speaking land or culture. Latino or Latina is often the preferred noun or adjective. Follow the person's preference. Use specific identification when possible, such as Honduran, Puerto Rican, or Mexican.
Often the preferred noun or adjective for a person from, or whose ancestors were from, a Spanish-speaking land or culture, specifically from Latin America. Follow the person's preference. Use specific identification when possible, such as Columbian, Cuban, or Guatemalan.
A Lusophone is someone who speaks the Portuguese language either as a native speaker, as an additional language, or as a learner. As an adjective, it means "Portuguese-speaking." The word itself is derived from the name of the ancient Roman province of Lusitania, which covered most of modern-day Portugal.
Capitalize when used to refer to the original inhabitants of a place.
- Oklahoma's Indigenous peoples represent a large portion of the population.
Do not assume a student's country of origin. Also ensure that, when referring to international students, the scope is broader than students who traditionally matriculate from China.
International students are defined also as "non-immigrant" visitors who temporarily come to the U.S. to take classes or take online courses virtually from anywhere in the world. They are not undocumented immigrants or refugees.
people of color
Never use "person of color" for an individual, and never use "POC" as an acronym. Acceptable when necessary in broad references to multiple races other than white:
- We will hire more people of color.
- Nine playwrights of color collaborated on the script.
Be aware that many people of various races object to the term for various reasons, including that it lumps together into one monolithic group anyone who isn't white.
Be specific whenever possible by referring to, for instance, Black Americans, Chinese Americans, or members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
- "The poll found that Black and Latino Americans are bearing the brunt of the pandemic's financial impact," not "people of color are bearing the brunt of the pandemic's financial impact."
- "Most of the magazine's readers are Black women," not "most of the magazine's readers are women of color."
A term that describes an ethnolinguistic group of the diverse population from Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, the area that usually forms Central Asia.
Identifying Miami Students
When identifying students by group, there are many nuances that account for the language that we use within communication materials. Please become familiar with the differences in how Miami communicators should refer to our students and be mindful of how your division can better and more accurately portray these groups. Generally, these terms are not interchangeable and portray specific definitions.
When looking at these terms, determine whether its use is truly needed to convey your message, and why.
Refers to the low representation rate of racial, ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic groups relative to their representation in the U.S. population. Traditionally, this term is used to identify the lack of African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino(a), and Native American/Alaskan Native groups within career fields such as STEM.
In specific instances, other groups may be considered underrepresented. For example, in a female-dominated industry, males may be considered underrepresented.
Avoid using underrepresented as a blanket term.
At Miami, underrepresented only applies when referencing students in relation to career fields or programs with further clarification based on U.S. population statistics.
- The Ohio Department of Higher Education awarded Miami University nearly $600,000 to help improve Ohio's workforce development capacity by supporting underrepresented students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
- The student organization "Advancing Women in Entrepreneurship" wants to help future female founders succeed in the startup space where they remain underrepresented in the distribution of global venture capital funding.
Refers to students who lack sufficient resources to satisfy basic needs — like food, housing, clothing, medical care, and school materials — during university study. This group of students is also at high risk of discontinuing their education due to external factors.
At Miami, under-resourced applies to students who come from low-income backgrounds.
- The Cost of Poverty Experience is a simulation that offers participants a glimpse into the lives of low-income individuals and families living in our community. It also shows the role that the broader community plays in their interactions with under-resourced families.
Refers to students who are disadvantaged due to institutional, structural, or societal obstacles, and those who have historically been excluded from full participation in society or its institutions.
At Miami, underserved applies to first-generation and LGBTQ+ students, and students with accessibility needs. Minority and multicultural students at Miami also fall under this category.
- Miami students created accessible face masks for their disability studies project in order to bring awareness and resources to an underserved population.
- In an attempt to reach what she considers an underserved market, Miami student Kamilah Dotson, who identifies as a woman of color, pitched her company, KCD Cosmetics, during the RedHawk Launch Accelerator. Her beauty line includes extended shades for various skin tones.