A Politically Correct Lexicon

Joel Bleifuss in In These Times:

PcTo help me parse what’s PC and what’s not, I had help from people attuned to the nuances of words, particularly those that describe race, ethnicity and sexual identity. Rinku Sen is a 40-year-old South Asian woman. She is the publisher of Colorlines, a national magazine of race and politics, for which she has developed a PC style manual. Tracy Baim is a 44-year-old white lesbian. She grapples with the ever-evolving nomenclature of sexual identity and politics as the executive editor of Windy City Times, a Chicago-based gay weekly. Lott Hill is a 36-year-old white gay male who works at Center for Teaching Excellence at Columbia College in Chicago. He interacts with lots of young people—the font from which much new language usage flows.

African American: In 1988 Jesse Jackson encouraged people to adopt this term over the then-used “black.” As he saw it, the words acknowledged black America’s ties to Africa. “African American,” says Hill, is now “used more by non-African-American people, who cling to it because they are unsure what word to use.” Sen says, “African American” is favored by “highly educated people who are not black. Whether one uses ‘black’ or ‘African American’ indicates how strong your social relations are with those communities.” And Chris Raab, founder of Afro-Netizen, says, “People who are politically correct chose to use African American, but I don’t recall any mass of black folks demanding the use of African American.”

More here.

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