American Elephants

Troublesome Words, Troublesome Ideas, Re-examined. by The Elephant's Child

There are more troublesome words that are troublesome because they represent extremely troublesome ideas.  Let’s start with “affirmative action.” This was beautifully explained a number of years ago by John R. Searle, professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley.

Also, affirmative action had a disastrous effect.  We created two universities during affirmative action.  We had a super-elite university of people who were admitted on the most competitive criteria in the history of the university, but then we had this other university of people who could not have been admitted on those criteria, and who had to have special courses and special departments set up for them.

Now affirmative action meant two completely different things.  When it first started out the definition was that we were going to take affirmative actions to see that people who would never have tried to get into the university before would be encouraged and trained so they could get admission.  I was all for that — that we were going to get people into the competition.  What happened though, and this was the catastrophic effect, is that race and ethnicity became criteria, not for encouraging people to enter the competition, but for judging the competition.

Diversity is another troublesome idea.  It too, is based on flawed ideas of race, ethnicity and gender, and a mistaken understanding of humanity.  The assumption is that the white majority in the United States is too racist and too prejudiced to associate willingly with people of different skin color or from different parts of the world. The corollary assumption is that associating with people with different skin color or from different parts of the world will somehow improve the group. The real assumption is that the most important thing about a person is his/her skin color and/or country of origin. And that assumption is nonsense.

My alma-mater is very proud of their diversity.  They recruit students from all over the world, and carefully represent them all in photographs.  In the meantime, the college has stamped out most diversity of thought with speech codes, and they finally got rid of the last Republican on the faculty.  Let’s imagine John, who is a very dark-skinned African-American and Gunnar who is a red-headed Viking who was born in Norway. Both are the children of American military men who had the experience of growing up on military bases around the country, and best friends because they have so much in common.  Sally and Juanita have known each other since they were born at the same hospital when their mothers became friends. Marcus and Othmar are passionately interested in chemistry and share study time and lab notes.  There are unlimited things that ordinary people share, and the least important are probably skin color and ethnicity. Two students from India may share nothing except their country of origin — but come from different cultures and have different outlooks on life.

Political correctness says that you must not offend. No Polish jokes, no jokes about any ethnicity. No jokes about race.  No gay jokes.  We have the TSA to subject airline passengers to the most offensive and intimate searches, but they must not pay any special attention to young Muslim men with one-way tickets, because that might be ethnic profiling. If a licensing bureau insists that Muslim women must remove their head covering to be photographed for a drivers’ license, you are opening a whole politically incorrect can of worms. It is perfectly fine for Occupy people to chant slurs against Jewish bankers and rich Jews, but for Democrat members of the Black Caucus to make up slurs that were supposedly shouted by members of the Tea Party— yet heard by no one present — is completely understandable. But just why is it important that no one be offended? I have been offended many times, but I thought it was simply an ordinary part of learning how to cope with life.

Tom Sowell efficiently disposed of the idea of “homelessness.”

We confuse ourselves with the misuse of language, for example “the homeless.” Groping for what the people in the streets have in common, we choose to focus on the fact that they have no permanent address —yet that may be the least significant fact about them.  They are out-of-control alcoholics, drug addicts, mentally ill, down on their luck, or out of a job.  If the semantics were accurate or useful, then shelter would solve the problem.

Bruce Thornton took on the idea of multiculturalism in Plagues of the Mind.

In spite of what we are led to believe by its apologists, Multiculturalism is not about respecting cultural differences or the diversity of ethnic groups in America.  Multiculturalism is instead a melodramatic tale of the wickedness of the West and its role in destroying the peaceful paradises in which other peoples (usually “of color”) lived before Europeans and then Americans came along to inflict on them racism, sexism, slavery, colonialism, imperialism, homophobia, technology and environmental degradation.

That pretty well sums it up.


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