Talking About Coronavirus: Centering Language around Inclusion, Empowerment, and Justice


As the number of COVID-19 cases multiplies across the country, it is increasingly important to step up our advocacy for the communities and individuals most vulnerable – not just those with underlying health conditions, but communities of color, immigrant communities, incarcerated communities, and low-income communities. That starts by being conscious about our language and messaging.

We recommend using a VPSA (Value, Problem, Solution, Action) format when talking about the coronavirus and its response, and centering your language around inclusion, empowerment, and justice:

  • Value: When it comes to addressing COVID-19, we are all only as safe as those members of our community who are most at risk. We are all in this together, and therefore must make sure our messaging around this virus and its containment avoids racist, xenophobic, and biased thinking. We must also remember to upload the value of calmness in the face of crisis, which is something that everyone benefits from.
  • Problem: While the coronavirus does not discriminate against race, ethnicity, nationality, or socio-economic status, stigma and misinformation do. Racist, xenophobic, and unscientific language and messaging – rooted in fear and misinformation – has been circulating during this outbreak, both among the public and within the Trump administration. If left unchecked, this will create a culture of fear that hinders efforts to contain and stop the virus.
  • Solution: As social justice leaders and communicators, it is our job to calmly and directly push back against the fear and stigma surrounding COVID-19 with powerful language of inclusion, empowerment, and justice. This will help us be allies to communities of color, immigrant communities, low-income communities, and incarcerated communities, who are likely to be disproportionately affected by this pandemic and the narrative surrounding it.
  • Action: We must continuously call out messaging based in fear and misinformation for the racist, xenophobic, and implicitly biased language that it is – particularly when coming from the Trump administration and the media. We must work together in collaborative conversation to make sure that communities and populations most at risk are receiving the attention and services that they deserve, and that they are not being stigmatized when those services are provided. We must also remember to always use language that is based in justice and equity.