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Thoughts on Political Correctness

 
 
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 07:27 am
@ebrown p,
The second sentence in your last paragraph is actually a sentence fragment--you didn't complete your thought. In fact, i think Thomas chose cleverly, because colored people has been for some time considered offensive, but now "people of color" is accepted. That was a wise example for him to have chosen.

After your last post, E_Brown, i wonder why you bothered with this thread at all.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 07:31 am
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
My basic principle is that rights go two ways... You have the right to be offensive, then I have the right to be offended.

Sure, no problem.

Quote:
Members of a society have the ability to change society (and this is not implicitly a bad thing). In this case the words are not banned, but they become generally understood as insulting.

Then tell me, what changes in society caused "negro" to currently being insulting, "African American" to be non-insulting, and "black" to be somewhere in the middle?
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 07:34 am
@Thomas,
Thomas, you are right that words have meanings... and this is often the source of offense. Let's look at other examples.

Using "Queer" (meaning unnatural and odd) to refer to homosexuals has a very clear purpose. If you don't want to make a statement that homosexuality is odd, you can use the word "gay" or "homosexual".

Then there is the phrase "Welfare Queen". The message here is that large numbers of people on welfare are living wealthy lazy life (not to mention the racial component of this stereotype). The issue here is that the stereotype, backed up by the phrase paints a false image. The reality (i.e. statistics) says this word isn't prevelant enough to exist... but the political message behind the word is powerful.

I don't want these words banned at all.

But I also want the ability to say to take offense. If someone uses these words, I will challenge them on their meaning.

People taking offense will, over time, change the language by removing some words, seen as offensive by many, from common use.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 07:41 am
@Thomas,
Quote:

Then tell me, what changes in society caused "negro" to currently being insulting, "African American" to be non-insulting, and "black" to be somewhere in the middle?


African-Americans gained a voice through the civil rights movement. Part of this movement consisted of creating a positive identity that was respected. Discussions over language, including the terms "Negro" and "colored" were certainly part of the civil rights movement.

In my mind it is a good thing when members of a minority community can define their own identity... the terms in commonly used to refer to them is a part of this.
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 07:42 am
@ebrown p,
Queer, as is the case with nigger, is treated as though it were a word which can only be used by the special interest group involved. I can think of no more political a condition than that. The word gay has been so pre-empted, that it no longer means what it did before it was politicized.

The overwhelming majority of people who receive federally subsidized "welfare" payments are white, and live in rural areas. For you to allege that the term "welfare queen" has racial connotations reveals a good deal about your own attitudes, and also suggests that you don't have a firm grasp on reality with regard to public assistance. If there are indeed "welfare queens," they will overwhelmingly be white. This--claiming that there is a racist component--is a classic example of the politicization of a term, on the part of people mostly on the left.

And yet you claim you have no use for the term politically correct. How quixotic of you.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 07:57 am
@ebrown p,
Quote:
In my mind it is a good thing when members of a minority community can define their own identity... the terms in commonly used to refer to them is a part of this.


This is so stupid. People of aboriginal descent in this country call themselves "Native Americans," as though the rest of us who are native to this continent are somehow not native Americans. That's bullshit. Additionally, the "Native American" identity is rife with complete horseshit myths about them which do a disservice not just to history, but which actively hinder their integration into the society in which they must inevitably live. They claim to live in harmony with the land. This ignores that the megafauna of the Americas disappeared immediately after the appearance of humans, just as they did everywhere else--the "Indians" were no different in that respect. It ignores that deadfalls of dozens or even hundreds of animals was a common hunting technique of these people, after which the unused portions were left to rot.

"Native Americans" claim not only to have lived in harmony with their environment (despite the evidence to the contrary), they claim to have lived in harmony with one another. There is more than ample evidence that they constantly made war upon one another. The Arawak lead Columbus on to the "Greater Antilles" (Hispaniola, Cuba, Jamaica, etc.) because they thought they would be useful allies to protect them from the Caribs, who considered Arawaks to be edible livestock. Bernal Diez, who was present with Cortes during the "conquest" of New Spain, counted the skulls in the base of the pyramid of skulls at Tenochtitlan, and came up with a figure of more than a million human sacrifices at that spot alone. The Iroquois, in their obsessive war against the French in Canada, decided to ruin the fur trade for the French by exterminating the Indian tribes of the Great Lakes basin. They succeeded in exterminating the "Cat People," about whom we know almost nothing because they were wiped out, and the only references to them come from the survivors of the tribes around them. The Hurons, linguistic and cultural first cousins to the Iroquois, lost 70% to 80% of their population. The Potawatomi were driven from southern Michigan to southern Illinois. The Illinois tribes were driven south from their homes just to the west of where Chicago now lies, all down the length of the Illinois River (which empties into the Mississippi opposite St. Louis), and across the Mississippi. I could go on and on about this, but rather than that, why don't you look up the Beaver Wars sometime.

Almost nothing of the contemporary image of "Native Americans" is accurate. For chrissake, people in this country think "Dances with Wolves" was historically accurate!

One of the biggest objections, and most cogent objections, to the deployment of political rectitude since the late 1960s has been that in defining their own identities, minority communities make a lot of **** up, and do so in the attempt to gain political advantage.
H2O MAN
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 07:59 am
@ebrown p,

There is no such thing as an African-American!
There are Americans with different shades of skin color, but we are all Americans!

Once you insert the hyphen and put another nationality or ID ahead of "American" you are a racist bigot.

0 Replies
 
The Pentacle Queen
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 08:05 am
@ebrown p,
In England it's a little different I think.

I agree with you, Thomas, in the fact that meanings evolve and change, yet that simplifies it kind of, I think. Words are not imbedded with one meaning only, they carry many more connotations than simply what is signified.
For example, 'coloured person,' can be used in the non-offensive descriptive manner you suggest, and more often than not is. Yet the term 'coloured' is also a western-centric term, where white people are taken as a norm and it is other cultures who have 'race-' a denial of the fact we have it also, and in fact are also colored.
I don't know what I think about this, after all, in Western society, it IS more common to find white people... therefore the language represents the situation to a certain extent.
I don't know if I agree, ebrown of your definition:
Quote:
The term "political correctness" is simply speech that some (but not all) people find offensive. I don't see that the term has any real value.

It is correct to a certain extent, but is also more, you seem to define language as an expression of 'inner consciousness' which is outwardly expressed in language. Yet, how can we think, if not in language?
In england, outrage was caused when bakeries were told they must rename gingerbread men 'gingerbread people' an idea which is totally ridiculous, as there is no offense caused in the gingerbread man being exclusively male just as little red riding hood is female. The whole thing is stupid and has made political correctness a laughing stock. These terms do not need to be changed, yet I believe some do.
How can we promote a society in which men and women are both equal, if terms of power are exclusively male? For example 'chairman.'
The point of political correctness is to change the terms so they are not biased towards one particular side. This does not inhibit our ability to express certain ideas though, we can still state if we think that men are more apt to handle positions of power than women, we are still able.
I think it comes down to whether you define language as constructing or representing reality... [some thought on this needed].


0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 08:23 am
@Setanta,
Set,

The alternative to "Native American" is the word "Indian". Would you like to comment on the appropriateness of this term?

I guess you are correct that minority communities "make stuff up" for "political advantage". But so what. Society also makes stuff up, and the stuff that general American society has made up about Native Americans is far more damaging.

I assume you agree that Native Americans should have a voice in society (regardless of whether their ideology matches your understanding of history or not). Having a voice on what you are called, and having the ability to take offense when you are not respected is a part of this.

My sister-in-law is a Native American. If you use the word "Indian" around her she will politely correct you (I have never seen her make a big deal about it though). I don't see the gain of not respecting her wishes on the matter-- and I tend to use the term "Native-American" in common speech. No big deal.

She would be fully capable of arguing her own view of the history of Native Americans with you.

H2O MAN
 
  0  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 08:28 am
@ebrown p,
\

Use African-American around me and I will politely correct you.
0 Replies
 
revel
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 08:35 am
Well, I am honestly confused. What is the latest non offense word to use for blacks? I have to admit that is one that changes more often than any other. If you don't use the word Jew how else to do you describe a Jew? Someone of David descent? I don't have a problem with the term Native Americans or even African Americans or any other term. I can't imagine getting offended over the word "disabled"; I am disabled. What other word could you use which wouldn't sound a hundred time worse? I think sometimes the context and tone and who is speaking has to be taken in consideration rather than maybe an uncouth word gone out of style.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 10:27 am
@ebrown p,
Quote:
The alternative to "Native American" is the word "Indian". Would you like to comment on the appropriateness of this term?


Yes, ethnologists and historians long used the term Amerindian, until the political rectitude police got all over their case about it. The point, which you seem content to ignore, is that all of us who are born on this continent are native Americans. For a detailed response to this silliness, see the qutoed entry from Wikipedia below.

Quote:
I guess you are correct that minority communities "make stuff up" for "political advantage". But so what. Society also makes stuff up, and the stuff that general American society has made up about Native Americans is far more damaging.

I assume you agree that Native Americans should have a voice in society (regardless of whether their ideology matches your understanding of history or not). Having a voice on what you are called, and having the ability to take offense when you are not respected is a part of this.

My sister-in-law is a Native American. If you use the word "Indian" around her she will politely correct you (I have never seen her make a big deal about it though). I don't see the gain of not respecting her wishes on the matter-- and I tend to use the term "Native-American" in common speech. No big deal.

She would be fully capable of arguing her own view of the history of Native Americans with you.


I see no reason to assume that contemporary views of Amerindians are "far more damaging" than the historical myths they have set up for themselves. In fact, there is a surreal attitude that Amerindians have lived in some sort of Edenic harmony with their environment (not true) and peace and brotherhood among themselves--which is precisely the myth which Amerindians have forwarded. What is more damaging is that the insistence on the myths, and the attacks on what are described as stereotypes have lead to an unwillingness in the Amerindian community and among their supporters to face deeply ingrained problems such as drug and alcohol abuse, and spouse and child abuse in their communities.

Having "a voice" in society is achieved through political unity. Amerindians show no more political unity now than they did in the past. As for what they are called, that can hardly be seen to establish a beneficial position for them in society. Insisting upon the use of the false term "Native American" will not end drug and alcohol abuse, it will not end spouse and child abuse, and it won't give them any political power.

Your sister-in-law has some Amerindian blood? How much? At what point does someone cease to be an Amerindian and is sadly obliged to admit to being European? The terms here are ambiguous in particular when it comes to identifying individuals.

As for any controversy about using the term Native American, you might be enlightened by reading this part of the Wikipedia article on "Native Americans":

Quote:
The term Native American was originally introduced in the United States by anthropologists as a more accurate term for the indigenous people of the Americas, as distinguished from the people of India. Because of the widespread acceptance of this newer term in and outside of academic circles, some people believe that Indians is outdated or offensive. People from India (and their descendants) who are citizens of the United States are known as Indian Americans or Asian Indians.

Criticism of the neologism Native American, however, comes from diverse sources. Some American Indians have misgivings about the term Native American. Russell Means, a famous American Indian activist, opposes the term Native American because he believes it was imposed by the government without the consent of American Indians. He has also argued that this use of the word Indian derives not from a confusion with India but from a Spanish expression En Dio, meaning "in God".[90] Furthermore, some American Indians question the term Native American because, they argue, it serves to ease the conscience of "white America" with regard to past injustices done to American Indians by effectively eliminating "Indians" from the present.[91] Still others (both Indians and non-Indians) argue that Native American is problematic because "native of" literally means "born in," so any person born in the Americas could be considered "native". However, very often the compound "Native American" will be capitalized in order to differentiate this intended meaning from others. Likewise, "native" (small 'n') can be further qualified by formulations such as "native-born" when the intended meaning is only to indicate place of birth or origin. A 1995 US Census Bureau survey found that more American Indians in the United States preferred American Indian to Native American.[92] Nonetheless, most American Indians are comfortable with Indian, American Indian, and Native American, and the terms are often used interchangeably.[93] The traditional term is reflected in the name chosen for the National Museum of the American Indian, which opened in 2004 on the Mall in Washington, D.C..

Recently, the U.S. Census Bureau has introduced the "Asian-Indian" category to avoid ambiguity when sampling the Indian-American population.


Your sister-in-law can argue to her heart's content. When it comes to facts such as that the Caribs ate the Arawak, that the Arawak lead the Spaniards to the Greater Antilles in hope that they would be protected by them, that events such as the Beaver War took place--it is not a matter of "views," it is a matter of record. The principle reason for European ascendancy over the aboriginal inhabitants of these two American continents was not technology, as the historical myth usually runs, it was organization. Spaniards, Frenchmen, Englishmen, Dutchmen--they all came into this hemisphere much better organized than were the aboriginal inhabitants. That allowed them to gain the upper hand in any situation in which they were able to survive at all. Cortes marched on Tenochtitlan with fewer than 500 men, but he arrived there supported by literally thousands of Indian allies. That political fragmentation continues to this day. Rather than doing anything useful for themselves politically, Amerindians continue to make up stories about their own personal "dream time," and to wax angry and stridently vocal about things like "Native American," or the "Tomahawk chop" of Atlanta Braves fans. Not a very impressive record of social and political self-help.
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 11:00 am
Geez, you guys have no idea how galling it is to have to agree with Setanta, but he is so right here, I felt honor bound to say it. There are black people, brown people, descendants of more indigenous populations etc. who have thrown off the mantle of victimization and accomplished themselves in magnificent ways. We are seeing one of those in the process of being installed as President of the United States as we speak here. To assume that all do, however, is ludicrous and it is stupid to use political correctness to prevent taking note of that.

Likewise there are people of mostly light skin/European descent who refuse to help themselves and rather choose to be predators of and/or leeches on society.

In the end the color of skin does not change the fact that we are all people, good, bad, and everything in between who make good choices, bad choices, and who deserve praise and criticism for who they choose to be.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 11:35 am
Quote:
In my mind it is a good thing when members of a minority community can define their own identity... the terms in commonly used to refer to them is a part of this.


So who in the minority community gets to decide what word to use?

True story: When I first moved to Oregon there was a girl who worked for me who used the term "colored". I took her aside and explained that people found that term offensive and asked her not to use it. She looked at me like I was crazy but said "okay".

A few days later her boyfriend came to meet her for lunch. He was black.

When I got to know him better, I asked him about it. He said he preferred the term colored because we all have a color. He wasn't black, he was dark brown; I wasn't white, I was light tan; we were both colored. He thought that once white people realized that they weren't transparent (including his girlfriend, who still divided the world into colored and white) that we could all just be colored and then nobody would have to be anything. He was on a quiet crusade.

Should he get to decide?

Shewolf prefers being called Black to being a hyphen-American.

Should she get to be the voice?

I'm willing to bet whoever came up with African-American was some white guy somewhere and not a member of the minority community at all.

Does anyone know where the term origionated?
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 12:29 pm
Interesting editorial in my paper today:

Quote:
T he nation's new attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., grew up in Queens, but his father and maternal grandparents emigrated from Barbados.

The new senior adviser at the White House, Valerie Jarrett, was born in Iran and spoke French and Farsi before coming to the U.S. to complete her prep education in Massachusetts. The administration's new political director, Patrick Gaspard, was born to Haitian parents in what was then the Congo.

And this country's 44th president was born in Hawaii to a Kenyan and a Kansan -- my father was "black as pitch, my mother white as milk," Barack Obama writes in "Dreams from My Father" -- and spent his formative years in Jakarta, Honolulu and Los Angeles.

On the occasion of his inauguration, then, is it possible that we can retire the clumsy, catchall tag -- "African American" -- that deigns to describe them all?

I ask without knowing who is more determined to hold on to it among those who believe the phrase bestows status, victimhood or cultural identity.

........

But the arrival of a black man at the White House is also an opportunity for all of us to reflect not only on what we call one another but how we think of each another. The time is long overdue, I think, to shelve the distancing devices -- our grandparents' birthplace, our parents' prejudices -- and celebrate our common destiny . . . as Americans.


Read the whole thing at: http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/steve_duin/index.ssf?/base/news/1232412929103111.xml&coll=7
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 12:32 pm
I'll just post an anecdote.

I was in the London underground, in 1977, with a very pretty Italian girlfriend, and she was pick-pocketed by a small band of youths. When we went to the police station to denounce the deed, the policeman asked (for some obscure statistic purpuse, I suppose):
"Were they coloured?"
As we left the police station, my girlfriend seemed sad:
"I somehow knew he was going to ask me that question", she said.
How odd, I thought. Her answer was: "Three of them were coloured, the other was black".
She had lived most of her life in Apartheid South Africa.
0 Replies
 
Mame
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 12:48 pm
Interesting article:

“African-American”: meaning what, exactly?

One of my favourite stories illustrating the fragility of US race relations is that of Trevor Richards, a South African who emigrated with his parents from Johannesburg to the States in 1998. Six years later, at his school in Omaha, Nebraska, fifteen year old Trevor (with the help of two classmates) nominated himself as a candidate for their school’s annual “Distinguished African-American” award. The result was complete uproar. The school freaked out, everyone got their knickers in a knot, and Trevor and his two classmates were suspended. Why? Because Trevor is white.

Everyone knows that when someone says “African-American” here, they mean “black”. If you’re going to use such an ultra-politically correct term then, how refreshing it is to see it being treated with a suitably pedantic response. Trevor was born in Africa, and spent nine years of his life in Johannesburg before starting the US citizenship process. In what way, then, is he not an “African-American”? The fact that he is arguably more African than any of his presumably American-born black classmates obviously struck a nerve. The school and some of its students were insulted by Richards’ nomination, labelling his actions as “offensive”. Closer to the truth, I am sure, is that people felt threatened when he challenged the notion that someone is only African if they are black. So let’s call a spade a spade: if the award was for black people only, it should have been called the “Distinguished Black Student” award. No doubt the school did not want to be seen as racist, but if anything, the only thing racist about this story is that only the 56 black people in his school at the time were eligible. Can you imagine the outcry if it there was a “Distinguished European-American” award?

I know it’s not that simple. As I wrote in my previous post, the issue of minority rights is huge here, and people are extremely sensitive about it. Everyone is at pains not to be seen as discriminatory for fear of punishment or retribution. But the folly of political correctness is that it loves black and white classifications in a world that is a million shades of grey. I love when I am confronted with an official-looking form here that asks me to tick whether I’m Asian, African etc. I tick “African” every time, because what else am I? My family has been in South Africa for 320 years; nowhere else is my home. Some may argue that the term “African-American” refers to people whose family is originally from Africa, and that mine is originally from Europe. But at the end of the day, aren’t we all from Sterkfontein anyway?

I suppose the other thing about the term “African-American” is that it feels slightly condescending. It’s perfectly ok to say I am white here, so if I were black, how is that different? Using “African-American” feels like a euphemism, which implies that black people should be ashamed to say they are black. And that goes directly against all that political correctness aims to achieve. As historian Jacques Barzun said, “Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organises hatred.” Especially in a racial context, it encourages stereotypes, and further entrenches the illusion that we are on opposing sides.

Although modern America was built largely by the immigrant, today there is distinct national pride and unity in the fact that one is simply “an American”. What’s ironic is that although minority groups strived for decades for this equality, today terms such as “African-American” only serve to further entrench the divide they so fervently sought to eradicate.

When I tell people I’m South African, I often get the response: “Yeah, but you’re white. I mean where are you really from?” To that, my response is, “Well, you’re American, but where are you really from? I bet my ancestors have been in South Africa longer than yours have been here.” It’s a pointless argument though, because the whole issue is so subjective. I feel that I am certainly no less African than a black American who has never even set foot on the African continent. I may originally be from Europe, but I am first and foremost a born-and-bred South African. Perhaps the deeper issue here is that a black American should not consider themselves to be “African-American”, but rather should recognise that they are simply, like the rest of their fellow citizens around them, an American."

FROM: http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/catherineparker/2008/06/27/“african-american”-"-meaning-what-exactly/
0 Replies
 
H2O MAN
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 12:51 pm

President Obama is technically bi-racial, half black and half white and we are
fairly certain he is an American so let's just call him that and be done with it.
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  4  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 01:27 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta, your tangent about which Native Americans ate whom is completely off target.

You, being completely ignorant of my sister-in-law, knowing only what I said in two lines, have no way of knowing how much "Amerindian" blood she has, or what her knowledge of history is, or how much she would agree with your view of history, or anything else. You are arguing at a strawman.

I was making a very simple point. My sister-in-law (who happens to be not only nice, but quite knowledgable) prefers the term Native American. I see no reason why I shouldn't respect her.

On a social level, I think that respecting each individual is a fine idea.
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2009 02:38 pm
@ebrown p,
Quote:
Setanta, your tangent about which Native Americans ate whom is completely off target.


No it's not, it bears directly on that part of the contemporary historical myth that all Indians lived in brotherhood.

Quote:
You, being completely ignorant of my sister-in-law, knowing only what I said in two lines, have no way of knowing how much "Amerindian" blood she has, or what her knowledge of history is, or how much she would agree with your view of history, or anything else. You are arguing at a strawman.


There is no straw man involved at all, for as much as you may not like facing the truth. I made no assumptions about how much Amerindian blood she has, i asked you. And it then pointed out that historical fact is not a "view," it is a part of the historical record. Without regard to the level of her knowledge of history, those things i mentioned are a part of the historical record, and her "view" does not change that.

Quote:
I was making a very simple point. My sister-in-law (who happens to be not only nice, but quite knowledgable) prefers the term Native American. I see no reason why I shouldn't respect her.

On a social level, I think that respecting each individual is a fine idea.


As a matter of fact, i am already on record in this thread as approving such courtesy. At the same time, you are apparently willing to sacrifice your respect for my desire not to be burdened with the phony exclusivity of the Native American label to a desire to accommodate your s-i-l's wishes. That's fine by me, it certainly won't upset me. But i'm sure as hell not going to agree with you taking a sanctimonious, "holier than thou" position on such a basis. It seems to me that, for all your protestations, you are eaten up with a slavish attitude toward political rectitude.
0 Replies
 
 

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