Thursday, January 31, 2013

Non-word of the day: “race”

The French Constitution stipulates:

La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale. Elle assure l'égalité devant la loi de tous les citoyens sans distinction d'origine, de race ou de religion.

But now the French President, François Hollande, wants to suppress the phrase that guarantees equal treatment to every “race”. -- What, does he wish to introduce racially invidious policies?   No no no, au contraire.   Rather, he wishes to suppress the word “race”, to deny the very existence of the fact itself.


Absurd, you smile.   But similar doings are afoot, this side the Atlantic.
The other day, NPR broadcast a longish segment about the Civil War era, in which they refused to use the word slaves, using instead the circumlocution enslaved people.  I think I shall write them an indignant letter, saying that the phrase is very offensive, and that we should only ever say “Americans With Enslavement” (AWEs).

[Update 27 September 2013]  That euphemism comes from the political-correctness side of the aisle.  For a euphemism from the opposite camp, we turn to Mauretania, where slavery is still very much alive, though its existence is denied by the government:

Da die genaue Zahl der versklavten Menschen im Land unbekannt sei, könne die Regierung behaupten, Sklaverei existiere nicht. Die Behörden sprächen vielmehr vom Phänomen der «Gens de Maison».

Für psychologisch tiefgreifende Krimis,
in pikanter amerikanischer Mundart,
und christlich gesinnt,
klicken Sie bitte hier:

[Update 17 Oct 13]  India also a major offender:

For a related case, cf. this:

[Note: You must be at least 86 years old to access this post.  Honor system, now...]

[Update 8 Oct 2013]  The leading Swiss newspaper, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, offers a quite informative politico-linguistic picture, of the knots that German speakers are tying themselves into, to refer to “gypsies” without giving offense:

For another word forbidden in parts of Europe -- too sensitive for me to dare write down -- click here.

[Update 17 November 2014]   The Spanish cognate for ‘race’ is raza.  Hispanic activists have long referred to themselves, pridefully, as La Raza.  For this,  they get a pass;  no-one whispers so much as a murmur.    Can you imagine if German-Americans were to refer to themselves as Die Rasse ??   (Once again, the goose-sauce must not splatter the gander.)
And, fait-divers:

India tops global slavery index with 14.3 mn people enslaved

[Update 1 Feb 2015]  P.C.  editors execute some delicate steps, in dancing around the subject.  Thus, a headline in this morning’s New York Times -- specifically from its Review section, a hotbed of politically-correct headlines (which sometimes ill-match the content of the actual article):

Closing the Math Gap for Boys

Immediately, this accomplishes three things:

(1) Reinforcing the doctrine that our first educational priority is not to raise an educated generation, ready to meet advancing challenges, but to scumble any too-conspicuous distinctions in achievement and ability among groups.
(2) Implying that girls are better in math than boys.
(3) Highlighting extra services aimed specially at males (who do not generally, as a group, benefit from affirmative action), and directing our attention to that lamentable gender, and away from race for a change.

The editors hope that you will stop reading right there, taking away with you only points (1) - (3); the intrepid might read as far as the subhead, “A tutoring program in Chicago lifts test scores”  (Worthwhile Canadian Initiative).

Only … If you actually read the article, the premise evaporates.  The cohort being tutored here, are not boys, as such, but “African-American and Latino boys”.   As for whether (cohort for comparable cohort) there exists any “math gap” between the genders, we are offered to evidence one way or the other;  we learn merely, that apples pass more naturally into pies than do oranges (“The average reading and math scores of eighth-grade black boys  are barely higher than those of fourth-grade white girls”).

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