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  1. #31
    Senior Member two cents's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    Language evolves. In this case, I think the expansion is useful. What the broader range of "politically correct" statements have in common is that they are made with the primary goal of not offending someone else, whether that sacrifices truth, accuracy, and benefit or not. In general, it is good not to offend people, but that cannot trump all other concerns the way it often does.

    I equated political correctness with holding back from speaking truth to power. You seem to have misunderstood it as the opposite.

    What the two have in common is the emphasis on avoiding offense at all costs, and above all goals. This usually fixates on what specific words you use rather than the meaning you have to convey, let alone how you actually act toward the affected group. The words don't even have to be slurs. After all, insults are insults, whether based on someone's membership in a marginalized group, or any other quality. Many people, for instance, consider "African American" the only "correct" way to refer to Americans of African heritage. Never mind "nigger" - generally regarded as a slur - even black, colored, and negro are off-limits. But which is more offensive:

    "Negroes have been sorely oppressed throughout much of American History."

    "African-Americans are just lazy, and predisposed to rely on welfare and handouts."

    No, this expansion is not useful. It's like expanding the use of the word "bread" to include bananas. You still need a word for bananas, because while both are starchy, they are nothing alike in other ways, and the distinction is useful. Words DO mean things, and misusing them alters your meaning.

    So, people collectively agreed that it's a bad thing to marginalize and persecute individuals based not on their personal qualities or actions but on membership in a persecuted minority. They came up with a term "political correctness" to designate avoiding doing that in everyday speech.

    The reason this is a useful term is because it designates a specific category of speech/action which people have collectively decided is NEVER OK. This is different from offending people in general. People can get offended at just about anything you do or say, or even at something you are. That doesn't make their feelings of offense automatically reasonable or put you automatically in the wrong / make you worthy of condemnation.

    So inflating the term "political correctness" to mean "never offending people for any reason whatsoever" is not useful or reasonable. You are building a straw man and raging against it. People who rope in political correctness to demand a right to never be offended are doing the exact same thing, just from the opposite side. The point is, nobody has the right to never be offended, not even members of persecuted minorities (for instance, you can feel free to insult a black person so long as you refrain from using racial slurs, because doing so points to you having a problem with them personally rather than their race in general, so you are being politically correct while doing it). That doesn't mean it's acceptable to join in on the persecution of minorities. If you insist on conflating these things, you basically undermine your own ability to argue against stupid and entitled individuals because you've already conceded that they are apparently asking for the exact same thing as persecuted minorities who don't want you to use slurs against them.

    Yeah, I missed the word NOT in there. Excuse me, what I meant was "NOT speaking truth to power is the exact OPPOSITE of what political correctness means". But thank you for carefully avoiding my point that speaking truth to power has nothing to do with political correctness or lack thereof. Powerful people are not a persecuted minority, therefore you can offend them to your heart's content without being politically incorrect.

    Now, I'm not sure which USA you live in, but the one I'm living in still considers "black" to be an acceptable term to designate people of African descent. There is even a voiciferous opposition AMONG blacks against the term "African-American" as othering, condescending, and an example of "euphemism treadmill".

    The examples you give, however, "Negroes have been sorely oppressed throughout much of American History." and "African-Americans are just lazy, and predisposed to rely on welfare and handouts." are BOTH politically incorrect. One because it uses the word "Negro", which is considered a slur because of its historical use, and the other because you are using a harmful and untrue stereotype in order to vilify an entire group of people regardless of their personal merit.

    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    This is the bottom line. If a name or an adjective bothers you, state your preference simply, without accusation or assuming malintent. Similarly, if someone makes a courteous request along these lines, respect it much as you would call someone by the name they prefer.
    It's funny to hear you say this in the same post as railing against political correctness. Apparently, on the one hand, you are willing to respect a person's preference for how to refer to them if they state it to you personally. However, if you have it on good authority that an entire group of people has a preference on how members of that group DON'T want to be addressed, you considers this an invalid/unreasonable demand. Somehow I doubt that you are actually so obtuse that every black person needs to march up to you and request that you don't refer to them as "nigger".
    And that's my two cents on the subject.

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stansmith View Post
    I find the influence of White privilege, as well as the idea that people are a 'product of their own environment' a bit overrated, especially when it's used to excuse self destructive, even immoral behavior as some sort of reasonable reaction to it. It's certainly a factor, but you have to do your own part regardless.
    Would you mind expanding on this, in particular to do with white privilege?

  3. #33
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by two cents View Post
    No, this expansion is not useful. It's like expanding the use of the word "bread" to include bananas. You still need a word for bananas, because while both are starchy, they are nothing alike in other ways, and the distinction is useful. Words DO mean things, and misusing them alters your meaning.

    So, people collectively agreed that it's a bad thing to marginalize and persecute individuals based not on their personal qualities or actions but on membership in a persecuted minority. They came up with a term "political correctness" to designate avoiding doing that in everyday speech.
    Expansion of the term as I described is more like expanding the term "bread" to include more than Wonder Bread. The kind of marginalizing and persecution you describe already has many words that refer to it: discrimination, and the more specific sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, gay-bashing, and so forth. "Political correctness", as I have seen it in actual usage, refers mainly to speech, with a focus on perceived offense vs. actual content, which I why I presented the examples I did.

    Quote Originally Posted by two cents View Post
    The reason this is a useful term is because it designates a specific category of speech/action which people have collectively decided is NEVER OK. This is different from offending people in general. People can get offended at just about anything you do or say, or even at something you are. That doesn't make their feelings of offense automatically reasonable or put you automatically in the wrong / make you worthy of condemnation.

    So inflating the term "political correctness" to mean "never offending people for any reason whatsoever" is not useful or reasonable. You are building a straw man and raging against it. People who rope in political correctness to demand a right to never be offended are doing the exact same thing, just from the opposite side. The point is, nobody has the right to never be offended, not even members of persecuted minorities (for instance, you can feel free to insult a black person so long as you refrain from using racial slurs, because doing so points to you having a problem with them personally rather than their race in general, so you are being politically correct while doing it). That doesn't mean it's acceptable to join in on the persecution of minorities. If you insist on conflating these things, you basically undermine your own ability to argue against stupid and entitled individuals because you've already conceded that they are apparently asking for the exact same thing as persecuted minorities who don't want you to use slurs against them.
    The collective decision you refer to is hardly universal. Substantive discrimination persists in many forms and settings, and the consensus on proper terminology is limited, tenuous, and often localized at best. Political correctness does not cover every form of offense; it focuses on the offense taken by (or often on behalf of) people in marginalized groups due to matters of speech and reference. This interpretation of the definition may be unfamiliar to you, but prevails in the three US regions where I have lived. This just goes to show how little consensus there really is on definitions, however much most of us may agree on the need to promote equality.

    Quote Originally Posted by two cents View Post
    Now, I'm not sure which USA you live in, but the one I'm living in still considers "black" to be an acceptable term to designate people of African descent. There is even a voiciferous opposition AMONG blacks against the term "African-American" as othering, condescending, and an example of "euphemism treadmill".

    The examples you give, however, "Negroes have been sorely oppressed throughout much of American History." and "African-Americans are just lazy, and predisposed to rely on welfare and handouts." are BOTH politically incorrect. One because it uses the word "Negro", which is considered a slur because of its historical use, and the other because you are using a harmful and untrue stereotype in order to vilify an entire group of people regardless of their personal merit.
    In "the USA I live in" as you put it, many people do consider "African-American" as the only acceptable term, though actual black folks are rarely put out by being called "black". When the topic comes up, those espousing "African-American" are often criticized as putting political correctness over effecting substantive change: IOW, arguing over superficialities instead of making a real difference. The second of my examples is not politically incorrect, it is factually incorrect. The first contains the term "negro", which now is considered politically incorrect. These examples highlight the distinction I am trying to make, between superficiality and substance, feeling and fact.

    Quote Originally Posted by two cents View Post
    It's funny to hear you say this in the same post as railing against political correctness. Apparently, on the one hand, you are willing to respect a person's preference for how to refer to them if they state it to you personally. However, if you have it on good authority that an entire group of people has a preference on how members of that group DON'T want to be addressed, you considers this an invalid/unreasonable demand. Somehow I doubt that you are actually so obtuse that every black person needs to march up to you and request that you don't refer to them as "nigger".
    It is simply viewing people as individuals, and recognizing that words have no meaning other than what we infuse them with. You wouldn't want me to make other blanket assumptions about blacks, for instance: that they are less intelligent, or like fried chicken, or are good at basketball; even though at least some will have these qualities (just like whites). Yet you want me to assume they all prefer to be referred to in the same way. If every "Robert" I ever met wanted to be called "Bob", I might reasonably expect the same of the next Robert I meet. If he wants to be called "Robert", however, I will go along as a matter of personal courtesy. That's the only right or wrong here: whether you respect an individual's preferences, or not. You can assume you know this based on trends, or other people you know, but it is exactly that: an assumption.
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  4. #34
    Senior Member Qre:us's Avatar
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    There can be a 1000 and 1 ways of saying something. The one that you choose, says something, too.

  5. #35
    Senior Member two cents's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    Expansion of the term as I described is more like expanding the term "bread" to include more than Wonder Bread. The kind of marginalizing and persecution you describe already has many words that refer to it: discrimination, and the more specific sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, gay-bashing, and so forth. "Political correctness", as I have seen it in actual usage, refers mainly to speech, with a focus on perceived offense vs. actual content, which I why I presented the examples I did.
    What you have seen in "actual usage" is people misunderstanding the term. They are the exact same people you have a problem with, the ones who misinterpret a variety of cues like the use of politically correct language, or anti-discrimination laws, or efforts by companies and politicians to not alienate potential customers or voters in any way, to mean that they have a right to never be offended. They are, of course, incorrect. Instead of pointing out to them that they are incorrect, you instead concede that their mis-interpreted observations are correct. From there the argument devolves into "It's ok to offend people!" - "It's not ok to offend people!". This will never be a productive argument because it is sometimes ok and sometimes not ok and it mainly depends on how and why you are offending them and why they feel offended, and there are some gray areas in there. It's the particulars of a situation that matter. Otherwise you'll just be throwing anecdotal evidence at each other all day and never come any closer to understanding or agreement or change of any sort.

    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    The collective decision you refer to is hardly universal. Substantive discrimination persists in many forms and settings, and the consensus on proper terminology is limited, tenuous, and often localized at best. Political correctness does not cover every form of offense; it focuses on the offense taken by (or often on behalf of) people in marginalized groups due to matters of speech and reference. This interpretation of the definition may be unfamiliar to you, but prevails in the three US regions where I have lived. This just goes to show how little consensus there really is on definitions, however much most of us may agree on the need to promote equality.
    Wait, so apparently there IS a specific, agreed upon, definition of political correctness (and you are apparently aware of it). Even more interestingly, you agree with the need to promote equality, which is the point of the exercise.

    No, it's not universal (otherwise there'd be no racists, sexists, homophobes, etc). It's pretty close, however: you will face a lot more and worse social pushback for using racist slurs than you would for calling any given person an asshole. It goes with the promotion of equality thing.

    Also, having specific terms for people who are chauvinist against a specific group is not the same as having a blanket term for instances of such chauvinism.

    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    In "the USA I live in" as you put it, many people do consider "African-American" as the only acceptable term, though actual black folks are rarely put out by being called "black". When the topic comes up, those espousing "African-American" are often criticized as putting political correctness over effecting substantive change: IOW, arguing over superficialities instead of making a real difference.
    Yeah, you mean the same folks who misuse "political correctness" to insist that no one should ever offend anyone are the ones getting their panties in a twist about using a term to refer to a group that the members of that group themselves don't mind? Imagine that. Maybe someone should spell things out to them. They'll be the same ones throwing around racial slurs if you persuade them political correctness is a bad thing, since they clearly can't tell the difference between discrimination/persecution and hurting someone's feelings.

    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    The second of my examples is not politically incorrect, it is factually incorrect. The first contains the term "negro", which now is considered politically incorrect. These examples highlight the distinction I am trying to make, between superficiality and substance, feeling and fact.
    Things can be incorrect in many ways. The second statement's factual correctness is beside the point -- of course it's factually incorrect. It also invokes a racist stereotype, which makes it politically incorrect. If you said that all black people had wings, well, that would be factually incorrect and politically neutral. You are trying to create a distinction where none exists. Being politically correct does not require ignoring facts or saying outright falsehoods. Saying that blacks make up only 12% of the population of the US but 37% of the prison population is factually correct and therefore also politically neutral, whether or not it seems to imply an extra-high prevalence of criminality among black people.


    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    It is simply viewing people as individuals, and recognizing that words have no meaning other than what we infuse them with. You wouldn't want me to make other blanket assumptions about blacks, for instance: that they are less intelligent, or like fried chicken, or are good at basketball; even though at least some will have these qualities (just like whites).
    It doesn't quite work that way. Treating people as individuals IS the intended point of political correctness. NO, words have meaning outside of what you PERSONALLY infuse them with -- there is a consensus of word use by populations, it's called language. That's how you know "water" means that wet stuff coming out of your tap. Political correctness is intended to alter word use and the use of stereotypes, such as the ones you have just trotted out, in order to alter the cultural landscape at large to the point where no one thinks these things. The idea is that when everybody keeps saying these things they keep being reinforced. So they need to stop being repeated like a broken record. That is the ultimate purpose of political correctness (sparing some people's feelings in certain ways is only a slice of the pie).

    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    Yet you want me to assume they all prefer to be referred to in the same way.
    They do. Or, rather, they don't want you to call them "Negroes" or "Niggers" or "Coloreds". Furthermore, they want you to stop trotting out that fried chicken crap. How do I know this? Well, I've discussed it with some black people personally. I've heard and read many other black people state the same thing. I can also imagine how sick each and every one of them is of every dude thinking he is being witty and trotting that shit out. Since they are a persecuted minority (and I am not), I think it's fair that I assume that the people telling me these things know of what it's like to belong to that minority (while I don't) and tell me how not to perpetuate the problems they deal with every day.

    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    If every "Robert" I ever met wanted to be called "Bob", I might reasonably expect the same of the next Robert I meet. If he wants to be called "Robert", however, I will go along as a matter of personal courtesy. That's the only right or wrong here: whether you respect an individual's preferences, or not. You can assume you know this based on trends, or other people you know, but it is exactly that: an assumption.
    Here's the problem with your example: being called "Robert" is a completely neutral fact and has never been cause for persecution. So, no, you can't make any assumptions about any given Robert's preferences for the form of their diminutive name. I'm willing to bet that if every single Robert you ran into was mistreated for being called "Robert", and if, furthermore, that mistreatment involved referring to "Roberts" as "Bobs", things would be very different. And since this persecution would uniformly apply to any Robert, it would also change how every Robert feels about being called Bob. So no, not all assumptions are equal: some are much more likely to be true.
    And that's my two cents on the subject.

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by skylights View Post
    Would you mind expanding on this, in particular to do with white privilege?
    I'm swallowing my words here a bit. As an ethnic minority, I'm well aware of the fact that I have much more opportunities at my disposal than the vast majority of people living in my parents' country do, and although there is a disparity between what a White middle class person can do and what a minority of a lower socioeconomic class can do, I don't think it's an excuse for the destructive, self-perpetuating behavior that a small portion of the latter population exhibits. A lot of it is completely self-ascribed, although some would prefer to blame it on 'the system'. Then again, I can acknowledge the severity of things like racial profiling, which can certainly make many people feel as if the system is against them...there are better ways to deal with that though.

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stansmith View Post
    I'm swallowing my words here a bit. As an ethnic minority, I'm well aware of the fact that I have much more opportunities at my disposal than the vast majority of people living in my parents' country do, and although there is a disparity between what a White middle class person can do and what a minority of a lower socioeconomic class can do, I don't think it's an excuse for the destructive, self-perpetuating behavior that a small portion of the latter population exhibits. A lot of it is completely self-ascribed, although some would prefer to blame it on 'the system'. Then again, I can acknowledge the severity of things like racial profiling, which can certainly make many people feel as if the system is against them...there are better ways to deal with that though.
    I'm slightly (read:very) intoxicated, so please forgive me if this sounds ridiculous. But ~

    That's quite all right. I feel much the same as a female. There are some opportunities that are more open to women and some longstanding prejudices that are limiting and hard to address. More and more often lately I am feeling like the "sins of the father" fall on the son and the son has to choose to overcome it. It's almost like you have to make a self-sacrifice to heal the world. It's not fair but it's how progress is made. There's something poetic about it.

  8. #38
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by two cents View Post
    What you have seen in "actual usage" is people misunderstanding the term. They are the exact same people you have a problem with, the ones who misinterpret a variety of cues like the use of politically correct language, or anti-discrimination laws, or efforts by companies and politicians to not alienate potential customers or voters in any way, to mean that they have a right to never be offended. They are, of course, incorrect. Instead of pointing out to them that they are incorrect, you instead concede that their mis-interpreted observations are correct. From there the argument devolves into "It's ok to offend people!" - "It's not ok to offend people!". This will never be a productive argument because it is sometimes ok and sometimes not ok and it mainly depends on how and why you are offending them and why they feel offended, and there are some gray areas in there. It's the particulars of a situation that matter. Otherwise you'll just be throwing anecdotal evidence at each other all day and never come any closer to understanding or agreement or change of any sort.
    I disagree with any kind of discrimination and prejudicial action. I have no patience, however, with people who get wrapped around the axle about relatively trivial and superficial concerns, when there are far more serious related matters requiring attention. This seems to be at the root of our disagreement. You are defining political correctness to include everything people do to combat discrimination and prejudice. I am defining it, based on my experience of its usage, in a much more limited way as I already explained. This more limited definition focuses on what I consider a minor part of the problem relative to the other much more serious aspects of discrimination that remain.

    Quote Originally Posted by two cents View Post
    Things can be incorrect in many ways. The second statement's factual correctness is beside the point -- of course it's factually incorrect. It also invokes a racist stereotype, which makes it politically incorrect. If you said that all black people had wings, well, that would be factually incorrect and politically neutral. You are trying to create a distinction where none exists. Being politically correct does not require ignoring facts or saying outright falsehoods. Saying that blacks make up only 12% of the population of the US but 37% of the prison population is factually correct and therefore also politically neutral, whether or not it seems to imply an extra-high prevalence of criminality among black people.
    I am calling this out specifically because the factual correctness of statements is never beside the point. It always is the most important part of the point. Ideally statements are both factually correct and courteous. If something is factually incorrect, no amount of polite language or conciliatory expressions will compensate. If it is correct, the language, whether offensive or not, does not change that truth. In either case, the form of expression is secondary to the content.

    Quote Originally Posted by two cents View Post
    It doesn't quite work that way. Treating people as individuals IS the intended point of political correctness. NO, words have meaning outside of what you PERSONALLY infuse them with -- there is a consensus of word use by populations, it's called language. That's how you know "water" means that wet stuff coming out of your tap. Political correctness is intended to alter word use and the use of stereotypes, such as the ones you have just trotted out, in order to alter the cultural landscape at large to the point where no one thinks these things. The idea is that when everybody keeps saying these things they keep being reinforced. So they need to stop being repeated like a broken record. That is the ultimate purpose of political correctness (sparing some people's feelings in certain ways is only a slice of the pie).
    By your own explanation here, political correctness tells us NOT to use the commonly accepted term for something, because that is offensive to (presumably a majority of) the target group. Changing attitudes and debunking stereotypes through this sort of linguistic engineering just doesn't work, however, and tends to create resentment and confusion. Definitions, and more importantly connotations, will evolve over time as more people adopt a new usage, but this cannot be forced. Stereotypes change by showing people how they fail to correpond to reality. This happens best through direct encounters with people in the subject group who provide living evidence of the stereotype's falseness.
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  9. #39
    Senior Member cafe's Avatar
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    It really depends on what is meant by that term. Usually when people use it, it's because they want to have a free pass to be careless and insulting without dealing with the social stigma their assholery deserves.
    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
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    pretty sure the only people on this planet who give a shit about political correctness are xxFP's

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