By: Sarah Keir
May 14, 2018
Stigma: Language Matters was an event sponsored by the Community Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Morris (CCSHM) that emphasized the importance of language, especially in law enforcement. This event encouraged law enforcement and other attendees to break the cycle of stigma by recognizing that language can quickly become internalized, which can negatively influence the behaviors of people. A significant part of this event was doing a role playing skit, where one person played a civilian and the other was a police officer. In the first skit, the officer did not ask questions effectively, and tension, along with volume rose, showing that not finding out the whole truth continues the stigma and does not get anyone anywhere. The second skit showed an officer asking questions and understanding the full situation, then using effective speaking skills to resolve the issue. After the event, the Chief of Police of Boonton Township stated how influential it would be to bring the role playing of this event to the recruits in the police academy, so they can truly see the importance of empathizing with people and asking questions before assuming the worse in someone.
Another important language stigma that was mentioned was about marijuana. Often, people say “It’s just pot” or “It’s going to be legalized anyway”, which also creates a stigma cycle. By having this mindset, it lowers the perception of risk of marijuana. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just marijuana. Recently, there has been a large trend of dealers lacing marijuana with cocaine and opiates to create the same addictive traits.
Overall, this event had a great turnout and CCSHM looks forward to working with the community and law enforcement to sponsor more of these events.