Regressive Monday. 1. University tells students what phrases they can and cannot use

James Madison University (JMU) is in Harrisonburg, Virginia, not far from Washington, D.C. It  is, I believe, the intellectual home of Jason Rosenhouse, author of the estimable EvolutionBlog, and I wonder what he thinks about this report from Law Newz.  What’s happened at JMU is that “student leaders who participated in freshman orientation” (presumably those responsible for such orientation) were given a 7-page guide of “dumb things to say”: phrases that are awkward, unwise, or could be construed as bigoted or as microaggressions.

The guide, called “35 dumb things well-intentioned people say: Surprising things we say that widen the diversity gap by Dr. Maura Cullen”, is online here, and of course was first revealed by a right-wing site, The College Fix. (When will Leftist papers start taking notice of the Speech and Behavior Police proliferating in American and UK universities?) The Fix reports this:

The list was apparently derived from Dr. Maura Cullen’s book 35 Dumb Things Well-Intended People Say: Surprising Things We Say that Widen the Diversity Gap.

The existence of the handout was first revealed by The College Fix.  James Madison University spokesman Bill Wyatt told the online news outlet “this was just an exercise, prior to orientation, to get our volunteers to understand how language affects others. The list was not distributed to our first-year students nor were the volunteers instructed not to use the phrases.”

However, some of the JMU orientation handout materials obtained by the website appear to contradict some of Wyatt’s claims.  A document titled “Building an Inclusive Environment” that was included with the list of phrases handout pointedly reminds orientation leaders that they have a duty to “create a safe an inclusive environment for your first year students” and instructs them to use the list of phrases “as a resource to help accomplish this goal.”  The document also instructs orientation leaders to “take some time to reflect on your prejudices and biases, and how that might affect your interactions with students.”

And here’s the list of phrases to be avoided:

1. “Some of my best friends are …”
2. “I know exactly how you feel.”
3. “I don’t think of you as …”
4. “The same thing happens to me too.”
5. “It was only a joke! Don’t take things so seriously.”
6. What do ‘your’ people think.”
7. “What are you?” or “Where are you really from?”
8. “I don’t see color” or “I’m color blind.”
9. “You are so articulate.”
10. “It is so much better than it used to be. Just be patient.”
11. “You speak the language very well.”
12. Asking black people about their hair or hygiene.
13. Saying to LBGTQ people “what you do in the privacy of your own bedroom is your business.”
14. “Yes, but you are a ‘good’ one.”
15. “You have such a pretty face.”
16. “I never owned slaves.”
17. “If you are going to live in this country, learn to speak the language!”
18. “She/he is a good person. She/he didn’t mean anything by it.”
19. “When I’ve said the same thing to other people like you, they don’t mind.”
20. Calling women “girls, honey, sweetie pie” or other familiar terms.
21. When people of color say, “It is not the same thing.”
22. When people of faith say, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
23. When white men say, “We are the ones being discriminated against now!”
24. Referring to older people as “cute.”
25. Asking a transgender person, “What are you really? A man or a woman?”
26. Referring to the significant other, partner, or spouse of a same gender couple as their “friend.”
27. “Why do ‘they’ (fill in the blank) always have to sit together? They are always sticking together.”
28. “People just need to pick themselves up by their bootstraps.”
29. People with disabilities are “courageous.”
30. “That’s so gay/queer. That’s so retarded.”
31. “I don’t see difference. We are all part of the same race, the human race.”
32. I don’t care if you are pink, purple or orange, I treat all people the same.”
33. Asking a transgender person, “Have you had the operation.”
34. Saying to a Jewish person, “You are so lucky to have ‘your’ Christmas spread over a week!”
35. “Here’s another book on political correctness.”

Now I agree that nearly all of these phrases are not ideal things to say, and many are downright offensive. The student guidesheet explains why. I’ve chosen four that I think are less offensive than others:

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-10-41-10-am screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-10-42-02-am screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-10-43-37-am screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-10-44-08-am

The ones that bother me most are the ones that find offensiveness in statements like “I don’t see color” or “we’re all the same.” To me, that was once the ideal of an egalitarian society, and so it was to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who wanted people judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I suspect that Dr. King would have approved of being able to overlook someone’s ethnicity or race and treat everyone as equals.

Things are different now. It’s considered offensive to say that you don’t see color. Why? Because, with identity politics, color is considered part of a “life experience” that cannot and should not be dismissed.  But what are you supposed to say if you’re really color-blind in this way? “Yes, I see your color and I am a bad person for being a racist and discriminating on that basis?” The “dumb” statements almost force one to recriminate oneself for bigotry.

My main objection, though, is this: colleges should not be in the business of telling students what or what not to say in the interests of amity. Is it really “free speech” for a college to pass out handouts like this, and police language in a university?  I don’t think so.  It’s the College of Life that will teach students what things foster good social interaction and what things don’t. Here James Madison University is not just acting in loco parentis, but in loco societas (pardon my Latin).

If free speech is truly to be valued in a university, they should not issue guidelines about what or what not to say. After all, where are JMU’s instructions about not calling Jews “kikes” or Mexicans “beaners”? Shouldn’t the students know that, too? Of course they should, but they learn it from interacting with others, not as a diktat handed from above.

And if you think this is a good idea, go read about what happened a year ago when Harvard University tried to foist “social justice placemats”, showing Officially Approved Words and Behaviors, on its students. Here’s what they looked like:



  1. Publilius
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I’m not a Latin expert, but I suspect we’d need the genitive case, so “in loco societatis.”

    • Lurker111
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

      Even simpler:

      “Here James Madison University is not just acting in loco parentis, [it’s just acting loco.]”


  2. ploubere
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    This was a guide given to student leaders who do freshman orientation? I assume then that there is no penalty for using any of these phrases, they seem to be suggestions to help the leaders with their talking points to avoid unintentionally offending anyone. If that’s the case, it does seem somewhat heavy handed and patronizing but doesn’t rise to the level of censorship.

    • Stephen
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      I suspect this project began with the best of intentions but rapidly mutated into its own parody.

      Seems to me it’s ok to notice color. The problems are caused by the folks who never notice anything else.

      I’m surprised #22 was even on there. Hey we non-religious folks can start being offended too! Things ARE better!

      Do kids now even know what bootstraps are? Isn’t there something rather Victorian about that expression? If you really try to lift yourself by your own bootstraps you’re going to fall on your butt.

      • ploubere
        Posted October 11, 2016 at 12:54 am | Permalink

        I still don’t know what bootstraps are. And I’m too lazy to google it.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted October 11, 2016 at 2:06 am | Permalink

          Ever heard of ‘booting’ a computer? ‘Boot sectors’ on drives?

          The whole vast terminology derives from ‘bootstrapping’ which is a reference to ‘pulling oneself up by ones bootstraps’ (laces) – an old phrase which embodies a paradox because in reality you cannot do that. Early computers faced a similar paradox in that, in order to start running any sort of program, they had to be already running a program of some sort. Hence the term.

          Its use (probably) also owes part of its origin to an ingenious science fiction time travel story (computer nerds were also sci-fi geeks) by Robert Heinlein, “By His Bootstraps”, wherein the protagonist, arriving in a strange empty city by means of a time machine, and finding that matters have been arranged by a mysterious stranger, goes back in time to arrange that he will arrive as planned and eventually realises that the mysterious stranger was him. (It’s actually more complicated than that, but very neatly plotted and well written).


          • SA Gould
            Posted October 11, 2016 at 6:08 am | Permalink

            Though I am familiar enough with the term, your explanation of “bootstrapping” was far more entertaining (and informative)than anything Google would have given me. So, thanks!

  3. eric
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Thematically, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with training young volunteers to consider the perspective of their audience and choose their words carefully. Pedagogically, I think its a bit naïve on the administration’s part to think the orientation volunteers are going to be able to remember a list of 35 things not to say. I’m not a teacher, but to me this seems way too detailed and ‘in the weeds’ for an effective volunteer training device.

    • mordacious1
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Most people, when given a list of 35 things not to say, will, in order to save effort, just not speak with any of those people. Which is exactly what we don’t need. Telling people to watch what they say around “certain other people” just reduces communication between the parties involved.

  4. caprid
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    So how it was explained to me is that the ability to “not see color” is a distinctly caucasian advantage in America. That is to say, a black person is not able to treat everyone the same because they themselves are not treated equally. To tell minorities that you don’t think they’re any different from you is in a way bragging about how your experience is the basis by which everyone should live.

    • Posted October 10, 2016 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      I think that a black person is quite able to treat everyone the same. And I know some who do.

  5. Rita
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I think the only people who can legitimately say, “I don’t see color” are those who have no eyesight. Anyone else who says it is probably lying. And the implication is that it isn’t a problem for the person saying it, so the problem doesn’t exist.

    • Flemur
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      About 8,000 people in the US have achromatopsia and don’t see color.

    • GBJames
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      The pedant in me can’t help it….

      It doesn’t require total blindness, just the absence of functioning cones. If you have just rods that work you see the world in black and white.

    • eric
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Yes, exactly. Regardless of how it was originally intended, the phrase “I don’t see color” now carries with it the implication that the speaker doesn’t see any good reason for why the victim should be complaining. Its used as a type of “yes, but…” excuse.

      It also (IMO) is a phrase associated with political ‘know-nothings’. AFAIK the social science data we have supports the conclusion that we all have some implicit biases. Claiming you ‘don’t see color’ is basically telling the world that you think all that sciency stuff must be wrong because your gut says you don’t have any such biases.

      • jay
        Posted October 10, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        This is the use of poison to shut down speech.

        It’s the same vein as those who scream ‘racism’ when religion or even politics is criticized. Not seeing ‘color’ is the only rational approach, no one should be given different treatment based on ethnicity. That becomes a never ending whirlpool which gets ever deeper.

        I notice this a lot in diatribes by liberal Democrats. Much the way young adolescent boys (particularly) seem to be able to turn every sentence into a sexual connotation, the above groups can see every statement by a conservative or Republican (not necessarily the same thing) as a ‘dog whistle’ racist remark. In many of the cases, the only dogs responding to the whistle are the complainers (who truly do not have any access to ‘know’ what people are actually feeling).

        And don’t you dare mention personal responsibility.


        35. “Here’s another book on political correctness.”–apparently they have set themselves up as the only people to judge what is offensive. I find the whole social lecturing deeply offensive.

        9. “You are so articulate.” –huh?

        18. “She/he is a good person. She/he didn’t mean anything by it.” —huh? that’s offensive?
        15. “You have such a pretty face.” –“you have an ugly face” is not on the list, however. Maybe that’s ok

        • eric
          Posted October 10, 2016 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

          This is the use of poison to shut down speech.

          What, “I don’t see color” is the poison, or the response “that phrase itself carries nasty implications” is the poison?

          If you’re arguing the latter, then I would respond (to the speaker, the rhetorical ‘you’) that you are very welcome to keep speaking. Please, speak more about how you don’t see color, and how you got to that enlightened state. You can even use my shovel.

          Not seeing ‘color’ is the only rational approach, no one should be given different treatment based on ethnicity.

          The problem is, human minds aren’t entirely rational. Even when you think your treatment is unbiased in regards to ethnicity, it probably isn’t. Many many studies have shown this. Example: change a name on a resume and nothing else, it gets different treatment.
          So our choices are not “treat everyone equally,” vs. “treat people inequally.” Our choices are “try and identify where we are treating people inequally and take that into account when we make decisions,” vs. “don’t try and find out where we are treating people inequally, instead just ignore it when we make decisions.”

          That becomes a never ending whirlpool which gets ever deeper.

          No, that’s just the slippery slope argument. Applying fixes where one thinks they are needed is not the same thing as committing to an eternal cycle of inequality. Part of the whole self-reflect-and-fix cycle is that you do more self-reflections in the future, to see how the situation has changed. At some point that might show fixes are no longer necessary. But in order to figure that out, you have to do the actual self-reflection; you can’t just pretend no such problems exist.

      • Bill
        Posted October 10, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

        “Yes, exactly. Regardless of how it was originally intended, the phrase “I don’t see color” now carries with it the implication”


        Good to now that leftists like yourself already know ahead of time what the person saying or making that statment true intentions are.

        “the social science data we have supports the conclusion that we all have some implicit biases.”

        Indeed. I’m specially allergic to fascists like yourself trying to shut down and police others speech.

        • eric
          Posted October 10, 2016 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

          I am not at all trying to shut down speech. As I said to Jay, I would be more than happy if you want to say you don’t see color. Please, go on, tell us why you think you’ve overcome this bias, or why you think its not wise or necessary to consider implicit biases.

          I’d much rather people who don’t think biases should be addressed or considered say it, than leave me wondering who amongst my peers is thinking it but not saying it. Let your flag fly, dude.

          Good to now that leftists like yourself already know ahead of time what the person saying or making that statment true intentions are.

          Oh please, you don’t think double meanings exist? Dogwhistles? “I don’t see color” is such a transparent dogwhistle that Stephen Colbert used it in his running joke caricature for years.

  6. E.A. Blair
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    The explanation for #35 is amazingly ironic – an instruction not to say something that mentions how frustrating it is to be told what to or not to say.

    • Taz
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      This is the one that bothered me the most. Saying there’s too much “political correctness” is shorthand for a very common and legitimate viewpoint. They have no business summarily declaring it off limits.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 10, 2016 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        It struck me as totally self-serving. “Do not criticise this book”. It may be full of bullshit but it’s sacred bullshit and not to be questioned.


  7. Flemur
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    That list is retarded.

    “Surprising things we say that widen the diversity gap by Dr. Maura Cullen”

    Wouldn’t widening the “diversity gap” increase diversity?

    Cullen is “The Diversity Speaker”, so creating or maintaining obsessions with sex, race, etc, are good for business.

    The stories linked at the bottom of the CollegeFix page are more disturbing than this list.

    • eric
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Its an odd turn of phrase, granted, but no. Diversity gap = a gap in diversity = a less diverse campus. Basically making the point that if the school’s first line representatives offend incoming students from a specific ethnic group, other members of that group are less likely to want to attend that school…so orientation volunteers, please try not to offend the incoming students, because we want students from all ethnic groups to find JMU a welcoming place.

      As for maintaining obsession with race, well, she *is* arguing that we should consider race, sex, etc.. when we talk to people so that we don’t drive them away unintentionally. Is that what you consider maintaining an obsession? Because IMO it would be a complete mistake to think racism and sexism will go away if we just stop considering it. Implicit biases are, after all, implicit.🙂

      • Flemur
        Posted October 10, 2016 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

        Is that what you consider maintaining an obsession?

        No. What I meant was the recent, especially collegiate, obsession with hurt feelings over race and sexuality is pathological, oppressive and creates problems rather than solving them. It divides people, and, like affirmative action (which is racism in action) it treats people differently based on their race, etc.

        It’s a self-perpetuating scam.

        I went to a high-school (~1970) which was next to an army base and pretty near the Mexican border, and we had plenty of mestizos and blacks and Asians and there were never any racial issues that I ever heard of. I “saw” race but never thought much about it because…nobody was obsessing over it. It didn’t come up. It wasn’t an issue. It wasn’t even interesting. There weren’t any problems. We were civilized. (Well, at least in that aspect…) My Filipino friend, who looked like Jimi Hendrix and whose dad survived the Bataan Death March, didn’t hold that against our mutual Japanese friends. The fact they were Filipino and Japanese didn’t come up. It was about as important as someone’s shirt color.

        I really don’t think racism and sexism are serious issues for 99% of the people who go to college, until the college tells them that racism and sexism ARE serious issues and that the students themselves are either biased racists or victims who need “safe spaces” and special treatment. I think it’s disgusting and pitiful.

        • eric
          Posted October 10, 2016 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

          I really don’t think racism and sexism are serious issues for 99% of the people who go to college

          Even if you think reported sexual harassment rates are inflated due to loose definitions, I expect many people would disagree with your 99% number. See this. Now, consider the assault rate for men: that’s likely an undercount, not an overcount, since men don’t generally want or like to report being assaulted by other men. But even that rate is 6x higher than your 1% rate…and I think we can probably very reasonably assume that whatever the harassment rate for men is, the rate for women is higher.

  8. rom
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    I am a little bewildered here. Taking the example “I know how you feel.” This was not unusual to be heard when my sixteen year old died, nine years ago. Sometimes it was even said by parents who had lost their own. I was definitely sensitized to this bit of nonsense. But as time passes and even back then, I realize no harm was meant.

    Also as I lost my belief in free will, paradoxically I learnt to be more accepting of my sensitivity and the supposed lack of sensitivity in others.

    None of those phrases mentioned are meant to be offensive in any way (at least most of the time). Whether we are responsible or not for our own sensitivity, it does not do any harm to take on some of that responsibility, no matter how illusory it might be.

  9. Christopher
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    The Right wants to wall off Mexico from the US, the Left wants us to wall ourselves off from each other.

  10. Posted October 10, 2016 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    “Some of my best friends are regressive leftists. So I don’t think of them necessarily as being total idiots, well not really.. I don’t care if they are pink, purple or orange, I treat all dingbats exactly the same.

    Hey -it was only a joke! Don’t take things so seriously.”

  11. SA Gould
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I am outraged- OUTRAGED!- that only one tip directly addressed old people. (#24.) I hate to be called “Hon” by everybody. What about my pain?

  12. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    With an awful lot of them it is hard to imagine anyone ever saying them in a normal conversation. Who would say “I have never owned slaves”? (The vanishingly small number of US college students who have actually owned slaves are hardly likely to brag about it!).

    • mikeyc
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      I have heard the phrase and I think it is the context in which I heard it that they are referring to. In arguments (there are never conversations, only arguments) about reparations to black Americans for slavery and Jim Crow, I have heard (or read) people say something like; “I have never owned slaves, so why should I be held responsible?”

      It is in those contexts I think the phrase comes up.

      • Posted October 10, 2016 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

        And I think this is exactly what should be said in those contexts.

  13. Posted October 10, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Social progressives seem to have adopted the belief that speech aesthetics are the core issue of social justice. If we can just compel everyone to talk pretty, then we can pat ourselves on the back for having solved the world’s problems. The whole project is a placebo, it allows social justice worriers to keep busy without having to parse the hard uncertainties and complexities of entrenched social problems. It allows them to indulge in “empathy” (i.e. fantasizing about others’ oppressive experiences) rather than doing actual work. And for many it allows them to have the narcissistic fun of verbally brutalizing another person for saying a wrong thing, while pretending to take the high road of fighting oppressive speech.

    The one thing on that list that bothers me most is “things have gotten better”, because it makes it perilous to acknowledge that something has been working, albeit slowly, and maybe we should try and get a better comprehension of what has really been driving those improvements in spite of so many impediments.

    • Carl
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Very good comment.

      Objecting to “things have gotten better” is positively Orwellian. Not only have “things” gotten better – “almost everything” has gotten better, and over almost any scope of history you choose to examine.

      • Posted October 12, 2016 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        And even if things *hadn’t*, what does one say when they *have*?

        (I for one think that there have been a few things lost as a result of progress of various kinds that we should reclaim, as it happens, but that should be irrelevant.)

    • Denise
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      This is so true.

    • somer
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 10:33 pm | Permalink


    • somer
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

      Part of the basis of the Regressive version of Left is to assume the west is reducible to capitalism, everything about capitalism is bad, “progress” is equivalent to capitalism, consumerism and ever expanding GDP, and that everything was better before capitalism. Whilst I don’t agree with Pinker that the decline of violence is due to the rise capitalism (rather lots of factors) I hate the anti enlightenment tone of regressive progressives.

  14. Merilee
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink


  15. Posted October 10, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Ideological debate is essential to the college experience. My fear is that this is a very generational issue. I’m 37, and I remember having passionate debates with my undergraduate classmates. How will this get better, though? When this current generation has kids, I don’t see the approach of those younger children (re: classroom dialogue) being any different. It’s very sad, because free debate of ideas is so critical to effective participation in government and society.

    Perhaps in this particular case, doing away with orientation would help. If freshmen enter their new college environment with no instruction on what to think or say, maybe they would learn to speak freely and defend their ideas. We can only hope, because the alternative is frightening.

    • eric
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      How will this get better, though?

      Kids always find away to rebel against their parents’ generation. ‘Hippies produced yuppies’ is the classic example, but I think “Gen Xers produced SJWs” is similar. Or just consider how tattoos have gone from ‘bikers only’ to de rigeur. Even if we do nothing to ‘fix’ the hyper-sensitivity of the current college going generation, I have no doubt they’ll get the same comeuppance in time we all do. Their kids will eschew all body ornament and proclaim asceticism, or develop some other social attitude equally baffling and upsetting to their parents.🙂

      • somer
        Posted October 10, 2016 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

        Yes but its not just the youth – the university administrations are going along with it – also universities produce tomorrows leaders and the structural change done in the meantime -particularly to the manner of teaching in the universities themselves – is too damaging to ignore. Also outside the units the kick back to this sort of thing is the Alt Right, which is not what we want to see in the next generation – both are virulently against calm assessment of evidence and a culture of truth

  16. Posted October 10, 2016 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  17. Bill
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Good to see leftist revealing themselves for the little fascists that they are. Also spare me the “b-b-but i’m leftist and i don’t approve of this. You are in the minority.

    “When will Leftist papers start taking notice of the Speech and Behavior Police proliferating in American and UK universities?”

    When right-wingers decide to do the same to them. Then they will start crying foul.

  18. Vaal
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Since we are talking of things to avoid:

    I nominated this as a list to avoid.

  19. harrync
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    “I don’t see color. People tell me I am white, and I believe them, because I am rich and privileged.” The original Stephen Colbert

  20. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    A list of verboten phrases at a university named for the author of our Bill of Rights. For shame!

    Each of the phrases listed can undoubtedly be used passive-aggressively to convey a slight against the person it’s directed to. But that hardly makes them offensive per se; most are not.

    You give collegians a list like this, the effect will be for them to hear a slight whenever one of these phrases is spoken, even when none is intended.

  21. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    A difficult cousin to #17 is:
    “If you want this job, you need to speak English”
    (which is frequently justified IMO)

  22. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Most of those – at least half – are perfectly legitimate in many contexts.

    If one is going to outlaw any phrases ever used by people in a prejudicial way then we would just have to shut up permanently.

    And FFS, what’s wrong with “I know how you feel”??

    Or #1, “Some of my best friends are…” Now I know perfectly well that a lot of people who have, rightly or wrongly, been accused of …ism have used that phrase. Such accusations are extremely difficult to refute, even if baseless. But it seems to me that, if true, having some best friends who are [the minority in question] is actual evidence for non-prejudice. Denigrating its validity is denying the accused one of his best arguments for the defence.

    I’m sure we don’t need yet another book on political correctness.


    • somer
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

      I agree – many of these comments are innocuous, some depend on the context in which they are used – and for the others it will be neither effective nor appropriate to tell people what to say. Real racists, sexists etc will react against this and those who have a racist etc background are, if they are open to it going to be changed by contact with other people of different backgrounds and views and by exposure to histories of disadvantage (as opposed to rants about the need for active entitlement, or assumption any group is always in need of protection or can’t sometimes do oppression themselves). Also the tendency to add ever more supposedly oppressed minority categories to the list of protected species is also self defeating. And again Haights point about A) the university should primarily be about truth B) social justice is better enabled by truth than ideology

      A university should not be telling people what to say in a big list or heavy handed guidance on what to think and how to converse (like the silly placemat)

  23. Pikolo
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand, and probably never will, how radical feminists managed to turn complements into sexism. What is so offensive about 15?
    We might be away from the greek idea that beatiful minds only reside in beutiful bodies, but telling somebody they look good is as inoffensive as it gets.

    • SA Gould
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

      #15: offensive only because of the way it is often said to passing women who are *not* seeking attention, as as a pickup line (and alleged compliment). Same with “You have a pretty face, why don’t you smile more often.”

  24. Flemur
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    “I suspect that Dr. King would have approved of being able to overlook someone’s ethnicity or race and treat everyone as equals.”

    Well, no.


    Martin Luther King Jr. explicitly supported what’s now called affirmative action

    King: “A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro.”

    “Do you feel it’s fair to request a multibillion-dollar program of preferential treatment for the Negro, or for any other minority group?”

    King: “I do indeed. …”

    Article author: “My bigger point here is: Don’t guess what King would think about our issues. He left a wide paper trail.”


    • somer
      Posted October 10, 2016 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

      Affirmative action had specific goals and redressed real structural disadvantages – it is not completely open ended as with the regressives

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