Ethics Quote Of The Week: Prof. William Jacobson

“The incessant attempt to turn race-neutral phrases into racial testing grounds is part of a larger political war in which race agitators seek to turn everything into a discussion of race all the time in every sphere of life…Equating the race-neutral phrase “brown bag” used in the context of bringing lunch to work with some esoteric past-practice of inter-black skin tone testing is so ludicrous that it may have revealed a chink in the armor of the language police, which can be exploited by the vast majority of Americans of all races and colors who just want to get on with the conversation.”

—–Prof. William Jacobson, deriding yet another outbreak of mind-numbingly ridiculous political correctness word-censorship, an edict against using the term “brown bag” in Seattle, and the unwelcome return of one of the all-time silliest imaginary offenses, a CNBC reporter being criticized for using the phrase “chink in the armor.”

My family thanks you, Prof. Jacobson. This could have been me. And might yet...

My family thanks you, Prof. Jacobson. This could have been me. And might yet…

I (and my loving family, which really, really likes me) need to thank Professor Jacobson, the author of the blog Legal Insurrection, for writing his post about this topic—one I truly hate—-before I learned myself about the “brown bag” memo and especially the unwelcome sequel to the Jeremy Lin “chink in the armor” controversy. For one thing, after a long and infuriating day of traffic jams and car trouble, had I read the reports of these embarrassments to the human species in straight news accounts, some aneurism deep in my brain might well have popped, killing me on the spot. For another, he invested such obvious contempt and exasperation in his excellent post that I don’t have to risk death by working myself into a head-exploding rant-producing fury to do this continuing outrage justice. Jacobson pretty much knocks this hanging curveball right out of the park.

Among other things, he links to his discussions of previous examples of perfectly good, innocent and useful words, idioms and phrases that have been attacked by political correctness fanatics (which, unfortunately, includes a disturbingly large percentage of U.S. Democrats), including such “offensive” terms as black list, “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” rejigger, Providence Plantations, Black Friday, gobbledygook, illegal immigrant, undocumented immigrant, and master bedroom. Inexplicably, the professor left out the grandaddy  of them all and my personal favorite, “niggardly,”  the perfectly good word meaning “stingy” the use of which  once got a supervisor in the D.C. government fired, and which spawned Ethics Alarms’ indispensable Niggardly Principles, 1 and 2. He also chose to omit the long list of various words and phrases MSNBC’s Chris Matthews has declared as racist, including urban, “monkeying around,” welfare, food stamps, and even Chicago, but these are cynical “gotcha’s,” devised to show that every opponent of President Obama is secretly motivated by racial hate.

“Brown bag,” “chink in the armor,” and the rest are different in kind, proof of the metastasizing of excessive sensitivity into ideological bullying and intimidation. If a term like “brown bag” can show racial insensitivity, than anything can, and the safest course for any non-political correctness devotee—“progressives” all–is simply to shut up, fulfilling the left’s fondest dream. Here’s the laughable (or aneurism-inducing, but no, I’m fine, really…fine) argument for banning “brown bag, ” from the Seattle official who came up with it, via NBC News:

“‘For a lot of, particularly, African American community members,’ he said, ‘the phrase ‘brown bag’ does bring up associations with the past when a brown bag was actually used, I understand, to determine if people’s skin color was light enough to allow admission to an event or to come into a party that was being held in a private home.’  Scholarly research and touchstones of African-American popular culture show that [he] is right. In a 2006 book, Audrey Elisa Kerr, a professor of African-American literature at Southern Connecticut State University, documents reports throughout the 20th century of the use of paper bags by African-American fraternities, sororities, churches and social clubs to determine whether a potential member was light-skinned enough to be socially acceptable.”

Jacobson’s response (mine would have been “ARRRRRGGHHHHHH!!!!” followed by a thump and silence) is…

“Who knew this?  Who knows this? And if true, what does that have to do with the term brown-bagging as it relates to bringing food to work in a, um, brown bag? Is there any evidence that people actually are offended by the phrase?”

But the good professor knows, as I do, that genuine offense has nothing to do with this or any of the Left’s indignation and cries of insensitivity at the use of normal, neutral, expressive language. It is a power ploy and an effective one, breeding fear and self-censorship into public discourse, designating special status as delicate wards of the state for Democratic constituencies, real or desired, and feeding the politically useful myth that whites, men, conservatives and critics of Democratic policies are inherently racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic bigots.

I have more to say about this topic, but my face is getting red and I’m starting to hallucinate. You can read previous posts on it here, here, here, here, here, here…oh yes, and here, and here too, when you think about it, also here, here….boy, looking back, the fact that I’m still breathing is a miracle. It’s also a miracle we have any free speech left at all without having to submit to a Progressive Potential Offense Panel. That time may come yet, if the Mad Left gets its way.

Read Prof. Jacobson’s whole post.

I owe him big time.

__________________________________

Sources: Hot Air, Legal Insurrection. NBC News

30 thoughts on “Ethics Quote Of The Week: Prof. William Jacobson

  1. I wonder how long of a list will be put together before people finally get fed up with this breach of free speech? I know from first hand that some people consider the word ignorant to be racist.

  2. ‘Audrey Elisa Kerr, a professor of African-American literature at Southern Connecticut State University, documents reports throughout the 20th century of the use of paper bags by African-American fraternities, sororities, churches and social clubs to determine whether a potential member was light-skinned enough to be socially acceptable.”’

    Uh, wait a minute. This was done at “African-American fraternities?” Huh? Wouldn’t that make it okay? As in Jay-Z saying black people calling each other “nigger” has neutralized the term and “made it theirs?” as reported in the Don Lemon “five things” piece? Sorry Professor Kerr, you lost me there. Is she saying black people shouldn’t use the term “brown bag” any more? Is it okay for white people to use it? Even white Hispanics like George Zimmerman? White Blacks like President Obama?

    I’m just looking for a little internal logic here.

  3. Michael Eric Dyson, another drooler from Georgetown and far-left freak patrol MSNBC,, falls back on this feigned racism of language time and time again.
    Usually when someone calls him out on his BS.

    What a joke some of these people are.
    Seriously.

      • True. If you control the language- not just by peer pressure, but by actual laws- you control also the means of expression under any circumstances as well as the thought processes of growing children. These ploys have long since gone beyond any question of public civility. This is nothing less than an extra-constitutional expression of despotism. The insane policies pioneered in many schools by the teachers’ unions are now reaching out into the body politic… and with the same purpose in mind. Thought control via word control.

        • This is my concern with the likes of “gay marriage.” I much prefer “civil union.” Marriage has been something done by a heterosexual couple in order to have children and raise them within society. Two gay guys can’t have children without a third party carrier. Two lesbians can’t have children without external assistance. To call their union for legal rights purposes (something with which I have no problem) gay marriage is illogical and does violence to the language. And this illogicality will be exploited now and in the future to advance other crazy stuff.

          • Marriage has been something done by a heterosexual couple in order to have children and raise them within society</cite

            It's also something that has been done by heterosexual couples with no intent or ability to have genetic kids. Your argument is pure rationalization.

            "Gay marriage" is just allowing gays into marriage. You're the one being Orwellian here.

            • Hogwash, Tiggy. The purpose of marriage is to bring a man and a woman together in a secure, sanctified union in order to establish a natural environment for raising children. Your denial of the nature of marriage is likewise one of the nature of Mankind itself and is thus irrational… at best.

              • Whatever you claim the purpose of marriage is, the reality of marriage is that post-menopausal women get married all the time without even a blink from the religious. The religious also don’t campaign to stop the government from allowing marriages of people who intend to remain childless.

                Your argument is an extremely blatant example of special pleading.

    • That was a new one on me, Jeff. The official name of the Mini-State is Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations. Why is that now deemed offensive? And to whom? I can only assume that the term “plantation” is now verboten as it hearkens to the slave era? A plantation is a large farming concern that is privately owned, is largely self-sufficient and employs a full time labor force… not necessarily indentured. The weird thing is that some Louisiana plantations were owned by free black men- with slaves!

  4. “‘For a lot of, particularly, African American community members,’ he said, ‘the phrase ‘brown bag’ does bring up associations with the past when a brown bag was actually used, I understand, to determine if people’s skin color was light enough to allow admission to an event or to come into a party that was being held in a private home.’ Scholarly research and touchstones of African-American popular culture show that [he] is right. In a 2006 book, Audrey Elisa Kerr, a professor of African-American literature at Southern Connecticut State University, documents reports throughout the 20th century of the use of paper bags by African-American fraternities, sororities, churches and social clubs to determine whether a potential member was light-skinned enough to be socially acceptable.”

    Bullshit. Fucking BULLSHIT.

    I consider myself an expert on the topic of “shit that people find offensive”, and I have never – not once – even heard this being hinted at.

    This fucker made this up.

  5. I think Professor Kerr has played the “I am offended” card. She must know what she’s talkin’ about. She’s a professor right? 😉

  6. One phrase I no longer use, except in circumstances like now, to explain my attitude about not using it, is “rule of thumb.”

    I don’t care if the origin of that phrase as it was explained to me, about 12 or so years ago, is a complete myth. Incontrovertible evidence that the phrase did NOT originate as it was explained to me, STILL would not persuade me to start using it again. And no: I am not going to provide links or that explanation.

    I am just going to say, in my typical wordy way, I do not and will not use that phrase. Nowadays, I use the phrase, “general rule” instead. That’s just me; I am not going to insist that anyone else cease to use that phrase. Nor will I even bring up the fact that I don’t use that phrase anywhere else, except here, or in one-on-one conversations – and even then, I deliberately will not bring it up in follow-up to someone who uses it around me. When someone else uses it, it doesn’t offend me. It doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable about that person, or about their choice of words. It doesn’t make me feel all righteous and superior and correct and justified-in-scolding, in I-know-better-than-you, let-me-teach-you-a-thing-or-two,-you-inferior-human corrective fashion.

    But, I could not utter that phrase without feeling literally, face-flushingly, eye-wateringly, throat-tighteningly, fist- and jaw-clenchingly uncomfortable. Again, that’s just me.

    Anyone who wants to know more about the origin of that phrase, go research it yourself. It’s been easy enough for me to make the adjustment to using the alternative phrase that I AM comfortable with. If I’ve been suckered for 12 years by a person afflicted with pathological pettiness, or whom herself has been suckered by language-use control freaks, I don’t care. I trusted that person then, and trust her now, and would still trust her even if I was shown that I was lied to, or mislead, or given a repeated urban legend without her knowing it, for whatever reason, about this particular thing. Just the thought of the phrase being associated with particular conduct in history (as it was explained to me), and mentioning that to me just ONCE, was enough for me to be persuaded to stop using the phrase FOREVER. Your attitude may vary; that’s OK with me.

    But as one who desires to continually improve his ethics, and who hopes to enable others similarly motivated, I am compelled to share this much. If I thought it would help, I would try to organize “citizen brown-bag” seminars for voluntary attendance by Seattle city employees, just to share my attitude about that one phrase – and about efforts in Seattle to censor use of “citizen” and “brown bag.”

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