Why You Shouldn't Call Homeless People 'Bums'
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Politics and Activism

Why It's Important for Society to Stop Using the Word "Bum"

Many of us are just one cut-off source of income away from being right there in their shoes.

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Why It's Important for Society to Stop Using the Word "Bum"

Over the past half-century, the United States has made great strides in reducing or even in some cases eliminating entirely the use of derogatory names or slurs. Progress on race, gender, religion, and sexual identity has given minority and unprivileged groups the acceptance many never thought they would experience.

However, there is one group that on any given night comprises more than half a million of our fellow Americans that have been left out — those who cannot even afford a roof over their head. The homeless. Or, as some might say, "bums."

Communicating. It's something we do every single day. The words we choose to use mean everything. Out of a language with more than 170,000 of them, with every breath, we have the ability to inspire or the ability to destroy. While some see nothing wrong with the slur and might claim "political correctness" or assert that society has simply gotten too sensitive, I would argue that the use of the word "bum," even by those who use the word subconsciously and without any intended malice at all, should be a reminder that no matter how great we think we are, we're still living in an imperfect society that all-to-often would rather be content with a culture where looking down on the less fortunate is easier than taking a step back to examine the circumstances that might have led them to be there in the first place — simply because facing the reality makes us uncomfortable.

It's easier just to call them "bums" and literally look the other way — all the while ignoring the fact that many of us are just one cut-off source of income away from being right there in their shoes. Some can't even afford shoes. It's uncomfortable to imagine that in the United States, the richest nation in the history of all mankind, there are more than half a million people living in conditions hard for many to imagine. But it's time to start trying to imagine. I'm not saying any single person has all the answers. I'm not saying any single person has the magic words to say that will right all the wrongs in the world. But we can all chose our own magic words that might be a good start.

In some cases, choosing what words not to say can be even more important. This is one of those cases.

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