Thanks for your question. The really short answer is that regardless of your intention, using the word ‘articulate’in reference to well-spoken Black children has a racist impact.
As I explained in the article, the history and context of a word does not change because you use it with positive intent, or even because you have used it correctly.
For example, If you had students that you knew were sexual assault survivors and you were teaching about what tornadoes do to land, you might think twice about using the phrase “the tornado ravaged the countryside” because that word, ‘ravaged’ might have a different impact on sexual assault survivors. Mind you, you did not use the word with the intention of bringing up memories of rape, but the impact is the same regardless.
As a teacher, you are in a position of authority over your students. As a white woman, you hold power over your students of color. You cannot divorce these identities from your intentions.
That impact your words have matter. Telling a black student ‘you are articulate' has a different impact than you saying ‘you did a great job!’ This impact is shaped by your history and identity as well as the history and identity of your students.
There are lots of ways to express how proud you are of your students without perpetuating racist stereotypes.
If you choose to continue to use the phrase ‘articulate’ in reference to students of color you are saying you don’t care about the racist impact your words have on your students of color.
Instead, why not take the opportunity to discuss your word choice with your students, to inform them that you are no longer going to use this word because of its racist impact and have a real conversation about racially charged words and their historic context.
There is no shame in making mistakes and growing from them. But if you persist in your course of action knowing what you do now, you can’t say you are making a mistake, you have to own that you are choosing to disregard the impact of your words.
I would love to hear what you decide, and how it works out for you and your class.
Thank you for reading the article and engaging with it in this way.