The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a memo to its employees this month stating it would no longer be using the word “field” in reference to areas of expertise due to its roots in slavery.
The University of Southern California’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work sent a letter to its employees this week saying it too will cease utilizing the phrase “field work” and other iterations of the reference due to its ties to slavery.
The letter reads, “This change supports anti-racist social work practice by replacing language that would be considered anti-Black or anti-immigrant in favor of inclusive language. Language can be powerful, and phrases such as ‘going into the field’ or ‘field work’ may have connotations for descendants of slavery and immigrant workers that are not benign.”
The Michigan DHHS memo echoes the same ideas, saying, “While the widespread use of this term is not intended to be harmful, we cannot ignore the impact its use has on our employees.”
The memo continued, “Establishing shared language is essential to our collective progress,” adding that employees should instead use the terms “community office,” “local office,” and “community or local staff.”
The letter from the Dworak-Peck School went on to explain, “This change supports anti-racist social work practice by replacing language that could be considered anti-Black or anti-immigrant.”
“Phrases such as ‘going into the field’ or ‘field work’ may have connotations for descendants of slavery and immigrant workers that are not benign.”
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: HISTORY.COM
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