Michigan’s Health Department Bans Use Of Term ‘Field Worker’

Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services says the words “field worker” will no longer be used in agency communications. The department confirmed the news while also claiming that the term is closely knitted with descendants of slaves.

According to a memo, the department said that employees and stakeholders have expressed their concerns about the term’s supposed racist connection.

Director of the Department’s Children’s Services Agency Demetrius Starling and Director of the Department’s Economic Stability Administration Dwayne Haywood wrote the memo. The memo’s letterhead includes Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer (D.), who in 2021 authorized “implicit bias training” for all health professionals in the state.

“While the widespread use of this term is not intended to be harmful, we cannot ignore the impact its use has on our employees,” the memo reads. “Establishing shared language is essential to our collective progress.”

This decision is being made on account of the nullifying traces of racism in every society. Michigan is not the only entity seeking to avoid the word “field.” The University of Southern California’s school of social work recently announced the removal of the term from its curriculum, stating the need to “reject White supremacy” as its reason.

“This change supports anti-racist social work practice by replacing language that could be considered anti-Black or anti-immigrant,” an email from the university’s education department said.

The university also added that phrases such as “going into the field” or “field work,” as commonly used in learning environments, may be linked to slavery and immigrant workers. These changes are widely regarded as a part of healthy practices in which some words are deemed insensitive or inappropriate, given the associated history.

Earlier in 2016, Yale University had stopped referring to residential college heads as “masters.” The university cited that the term was “associated with the ownership of slaves.” Likewise, last December, Stanford University compiled and published a harmful phrases list that features words like brown bag and blackballed.

Language revision also extends to President Biden’s administration. The White House’s 2022 budget proposal used the term “birthing people” in place of mothers.