If you use the term “vulnerable population” to describe an audience you serve, Rashad Robinson has a word of advice for you: don’t. Robinson, the President of Color of Change, was the opening speaker at the Southern California Grantmakers conference in Los Angeles on September 20th. The theme of the conference was “Narrative Power: Reframe Stories, Redefine Culture,” and Robinson had some reframing of his own in mind.
Search the word “vulnerable” on Thesaurus.com and the most common synonyms listed include defenseless, weak, and liable. Are those terms that you would want to be associated with? And I’m guessing that the people we’ve been labeling as such would be equally offended. Robinson recommends that we should stop denigrating these people and soft-peddling the systems and policies that have placed them in challenging circumstances. Instead, he recommends, call them what they are: exploited or targeted. The conversation that proceeds from there, Robinson promises, will be very different, but much closer to the truth.