“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.”
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.