Stop Calling Minorities – “Inner-city” and “Urban”


Who woke up one morning and decided that it was a good idea to refer to minorities and low-income people as “inner-city” and “urban”?

Not cool.

I suppose I was in third grade when I learned that the word “inner-city” literally referred to the center of a city, and “urban” as an area within or in close proximity to a city.

Nowhere in my adolescent education (and the dictionary for that matter) did I observe the terms “urban” and “inner-city” used in a way to refer to African-American, Hispanic and other minority communities as those terms are often used today.

Sure I get it, well-intentioned people want to avoid using words that can be perceived as offensive to certain cultural and socioeconomic groups because, as many have witnessed recently in the media, news of people caught saying inappropriate words travels at eye-blink speeds (just ask Paula Deen).

But really, what’s wrong with saying…?

What is so horrible about saying minority or economically disadvantaged community? Every minority community I can think of in the U.S. has established the appropriate (politically correct) terms that people should use when referencing their specific community. For instance, most people should know to refer to people of Asian descent as “Asians” and not “Orientals.” The Asian-American community has long deemed the term “Oriental” as inappropriate.

If people are merely using the buzzwords “inner-city” and “urban” as generic, catch-all phrases in-lieu of the appropriate and accurate term to refer to culturally diverse and/or low-income groups, those individuals definitely need to get with the program. As citizens of a culturally and economically diverse country, it is imperative that we take time to understand how to properly address our neighbors that may not look or live like us.

 The irony:

What really makes this interesting is that the business community often criticizes the government for not being grounded in reality. And yet corporate executives cannot consistently fix their mouths to say words like “Hispanic”, “financially distressed” or “minorities.” And please do not think that I am unfairly targeting African-American, Hispanic and economically challenged communities. The truth is, about 99.9% of the time I hear “inner-city” and “urban” being used in a business setting, it is in reference to those cultural and socioeconomic groups. In complete contrast to the corporate community, I have heard politicians do a far better job at referencing these groups of people by their acceptable term – not cop-out buzzwords like “urban people,” which is often code for Black and Hispanic people regardless of whether they live in city or rural areas.


The business community simply needs to pull up their proverbial “big-girl panties” and start using the widely accepted terms that are associated with minorities and low-income people.

To be frank, it’s rather pathetic that certain individuals place the fear of saying the wrong thing above having a proficiency of language that will afford them the freedom to use the correct terms.

So fear not business world – no one is going to punish you for saying “minority community” and “economically challenged neighborhood.” Like all business buzzwords, the use of “urban” and “inner-city” needs to experience a quick death. Or at least when those words are being used the way today’s business community employs them – the wrong way.



A Champion’s Cause:

“No one sat me down and taught me this stuff. I had to learn it all on my own by bumping my head and watching others do the same…so I freely give away all that I know to help others just like me.”

- Steele A. Champion

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11 comments on “Stop Calling Minorities – “Inner-city” and “Urban”

  1. Erin Salvi says:

    Good one. People who use URBAN for minorities = Stupid

    • Steele A. Champion says:

      LOL Erin. Probably not stupid but more like willful ignorance or fearful. Thanks for your feedback and keep visiting for more great content

  2. james says:

    Steele, I’ve heard people use those two buzzwords as well as “diverse neighborhood” to mean the neighborhoods that predominantly have minority residents. What a day we live in where people are afraid to say the truth. Glad you’re drawing attention to this practice

    • Steele A. Champion says:

      James – you are absolutely fair in that fear is driving this foolery. I’m happy to draw attention to this because it is a cop-out. I appreciate your feedback and keep checking back for more great content like this. – Steele

  3. Tessa Fair says:

    I think it has more to do with today’s media and that every time you look up someone is being ridiculed for saying an offensive word. So we live in a culture where people just want to play it safe by using, in your own words “catch-all phrases,” to address people of diverse origins. I make it a habit to say the correct term when addressing minority people (as I am one myself) but I understand the dilemma of those that are not sure what to say. At the end of the day, I agree that we as a society should do a much better job at being correct instead of just politically correct. Great post – sharing this one with some of my coworkers.

    • Steele A. Champion says:

      Tessa – thanks for sharing this article. I’m glad you enjoyed it and I agree with you on all fronts. “Political correctness” is robbing the world of authentic dialogue. – Steele

      • Bob says:

        Thank you for the education. I went to your site specifically for this education. However, please be careful of your somewhat pompous tone. There are wonderful people who are simply not educated in what is the proper way to address people. When people want to do and say the right thing, and and are criticized because they simply are not in the know, they tend think ‘well, I guess anything I say is wrong anyway, so why try’. They may go as far as resent the very people we want to respect. For instance, if I used “Big Girl Panties” I would be destroyed by my wife and the women I work with for being sexist. And I would have no reply. When I read “Black and Hispanic people”, I cringed because it should have been “People who are Black and Hispanic”. I have a daughter with Down syndrome and know never to say Down Syndrome children, or Autistic Children, or Black and Hispanic people. It should always be people first. Describing someone as a Down Syndrome child is completely different than saying she is a child with Down syndrome. She is a child first and foremost. By describing the people first we remind ourselves that we are all essentially the same.
        But I never would use a term like pathetic to correct you. We are on the same side. It’s a changing world and those of us who want to do and say the right thing should not be chastised when our efforts fall short. With that said, thanks for the education.

        • Steele A. Champion says:

          Hello Bob,

          Great points indeed sir and I will definitely keep that in mind. I also think “we are on the same side” in that you can empathize with those terms that often dehumanize humans. I just want to note that my criticism is directed towards those individuals who do not take the time to educate themselves on the appropriate way to address those that are not of the majority and/or of unfortunate circumstances. Again, I really appreciate your feedback and have taken your words to heart. Best regards, Steele

  4. Amy says:

    Steele, In the process of writing an article for work and wanting to find a phrase for “economically disadvantaged youth” (thank you) – I came across your post. I can appreciate your differentiation of me – taking the time to educate myself – vs the individuals who do not take the time. As a Jewish queer woman in a same gender/same sex relationship I encounter both and I absolutely hear your frustration. In my work environment, I also encounter plenty of derogatory language regarding many identities and I do what I can to address it. I also appreciate Bob’s comment above, and want to second it. What helped me most was that you didn’t just write, “don’t say _____” and instead helpful added, “say ______.” Thank you.

    • Steele A. Champion says:

      Hello Amy,

      I apologize for the delayed response. Thanks for reading my article and I’m glad you found it helpful. Hmmm, “economically disadvantaged youth” is actually a very good description because as of now, there’s no underlying assumptions associated with it unlike the term, “urban” which typically is a references to minority populations.

      I hope that as a society we can do better, myself included, with how we describe each other. It’s about knowledge (Bob’s reference above) and respect.


  5. Lynette says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU AND THANK YOU. As an African American it sickens me to hear these terms. We all need to wake up and stop using them.

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