Posts tagged linguistics
Posts tagged linguistics
Laurence Berg, Canada Research Chair for Human Rights, Diversity and Identity, disagrees with the
idea that PC language and policies are oppressive. Why? Because he doesn’t really believe that PC policies existed in the first place.
“What [they]’re calling the ‘PC movement’ I would call a social movement by marginalised people and the people who support them,” he said. “[A movement] to use language that’s more correct—not ‘politically correct’—that more accurately represents reality.”
Berg is referring to a way of thinking that many of us students were too young to catch the first time around. For us, the term ‘politically correct’ survived the 90s, but the term ‘human rights backlash’ did not. Will Hutton, former editor-in-chief for the UK publication the Observer, described in his column how the term ‘PC’ was never really a political stance at all, contrary to popular belief. It was actually perceived by many as a right-wing tactic to dismiss—or backlash against—left-leaning social change. Mock the trivial aspects of human rights politics, like its changing language, and you’ll succeed in obscuring the issue altogether.
Berg believes this is what political correctness is all about: “The term politically correct is a reactionary term,” he said. “[It was] created by people who were worried by [social] changes…that affected their everyday understanding of the world in ways that pointed out their role in creating or reproducing dominance and subordination.”
According to Berg, the indignation people feel against PC ideas reflects the discomfort we feel when language and politics begin to pull away from the dominant values we grew up with—in other words, white, middle-class values. It’s no small coincidence that the concept of political correctness originated in the 80s and 90s, just after human rights concerns and visible minority groups started getting real attention in politics and the media.
Berg explains that in its original context, PC was a pejorative term used by people who felt they were losing something. Exactly what they were losing is very hard to describe, especially to them. But many sociologists and historians today have come to a consensus on what they call it: it’s a loss of privilege—and in terms of race, a loss of white privilege.
This is fantastic and also helps explain why whenever I hear someone use the term “PC,” I sort instantly shut down and dismiss what they’re about to say.
Seriously, if you’re one of those people who says “I’m not PC/I hate how liberals want us all to be politically correct,” we aren’t friends.
The comments are as important as the post. A thoughtful discussion of disturbing and destructive trends in the “social justice blogosphere”. Particularly the act of viciously attacking and dogpiling people who don’t deserve it. The author and many commenters have taken part in this practice and are looking for alternative, deeper ways of dealing with issues. Also touches on the misuse of the otherwise completely valid idea of the tone argument. Where it is misused in ways that allow people to justify acts that are unjustifiable for reasons that have nothing to do with tone. Highly recommended, as this is one of the more nuanced discussions of the matter I’ve seen.
The crux of my disagreement here is that sometimes engaging someone makes them think that their “opinion” or “point of view” is just as valid as anyone else’s, and that is not the case.
Especially when the “debate” is your inherent worth as a human being.
What I have seen in a lot of bubbles of society is that everyone outside that bubble becomes reduced to a debate, an idea, an “other” that the people IN the bubble discuss and debate what “should be done” about them. Basically, this metaphor is meant to illustrate the privilege that elevates white people, abled people, allistic people, straight people, cis people, et cetera, and makes them feel entitled to decide who “deserves” rights and who does not.
This is not a valid argument.
And not for one second do I want anyone to think that this is a valid argument. Debating people’s humanity is not a valid argument.
The thing is, these beliefs are linked to emotions; they are emotionally held beliefs that people who are privileged will cling to desperately in order to continue to oppress people; to talk over them, to tell other people what they should do, how they should speak, and to limit the ways in which they interact with people who are actively oppressing them.
My “tone” since we are discussing the “tone” issue, is consistently punitive, sharp, and often condescending, because when a person cannot be engaged on an intellectual level (since there IS no intellectual basis for their argument), a sharp verbal
“slap” is what is necessary to correct the behavior.
In our society, the lack of accountability, the lack of negative reaction to unacceptable behavior, is extremely alarming to me. When there is a large negative reaction to something you’ve done that is hurtful, dehumanizing, and oppressive, it sticks with you on an emotional level. It is an emotional argument. It corrects confirmation bias and bypasses psychological justification that people wrap around themselves in order to feel like they are “Good People”, that their actions and words are justified, and that as long as they are stating their ideas “rationally” they must of course always come out ahead. When all of society and media is skewed in order to support that kind of thinking, the verbal “slap” must be all the harder in order to counteract that.
As a society we are obsessed with protecting privileged people’s feelings away and above even the LIVES of marginalized people. Tone policing is about saying, “You must engage with me on the subject of your own oppression under MY terms, on MY time, and accept my logic.” It’s abusive and destructive, and should NOT be engaged with. Causing bad feelings in people who use abusive logic is wholly productive and guilt and shame are what you are supposed to feel when you’ve done something wrong that hurts another human being and denigrates their worth.
This is some kindergarten level stuff, and ain’t no elevated discussion gonna happen between me and someone who think they can tell me who I am, how I function, what I’m like and what my life is like. Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.
The real conversation can only start after the encrustation of denial, justification, and abuser logic has been stripped away.
[Image: A yourecards card reading “I’m a linguist. I love ambiguity more than most people”]
omg this is perfect.
today I’m feeling particularly down (actually this whole week) and I think talking about one of my worst memories, which cycles over and over again in my head always in moments like these, might make me feel better.
so I’m Han Chinese, and I speak Mandarin. I immigrated to the states when I was young.
of course I was always made fun of for not pronouncing words correctly; it’s still irksome to me (might be triggering even, since sometimes this destroys my mood/turns me off completely) when people correct my English to this day. I can’t help it.
so in 3rd grade I had a white teacher I really loved. thinking back on all my teachers I had she was one of the best. reflecting back on this thus makes me especially upset.
we had to call our parents to ask for permission for something, might have been for a field trip. that detail is fuzzy. but what isn’t fuzzy but rather crystal clear and sharp is that when I was calling my mom and speaking in Mandarin, the whole class had turned quiet to stare at me.
then everyone (a class w/majority white kids), and I mean everyone, including my teacher, burst out into laughter.
and out of nervousness and humilitation I peed my pants. ran to the bathroom and stayed there pretty much all day.
and this was back when I was living in poverty and I didn’t want to tell my mom that I had wet my pants because I felt like such a big baby but that meant I couldn’t wash my pants because laundry day wasn’t coming up and I didn’t have many pants to wear so I had to rewear those pants.
next day I come back and kids said “sorry for making you upset, it’s just you sounded funny.”
my natural home tongue language sounds funny but my english also sounds funny. and the implications of what this means will stay with me.
no matter what, this is what I always remember when people, especially white people because most POC I know are trying to regain their own languages or studying a romance language (and quite frankly POC don’t act like this towards me), are so excited and demand me to perform my language for them or when they want me to practice speaking Mandarin with them or when they detail all their hard work in learning Mandarin for business or whatever.
this is so common: my culture is both despised or demonized yet exoticized for consumption while the people who are part of it are treated like circus freaks.
so white folks:
we POC spend a lot of time either consciously or unconsciously rejecting our languages to be more like you, because of this racist systemic bullying, while you’re here making a lot more money than a lot of us and spending it to decorate your resume with “new” languages and going to “foreign” countries as a backdrop to *your* learning experience. i know white people who go to china yearly and/or speak better Mandarin than me when I can’t even afford to go back to visit my own family more than once every 7-8 or so years and it really kills me a little bit when I hear these things.
not to mention how “cool” it is that white people can speak Mandarin but it’s *expected* of me otherwise I’m not really “chinese enough”/”lol you are a banana yellow outside white inside.” Yet I’m “too chinese” when I do practice parts of my culture and my language. whatever the situation demands, whiteness twists.
and recently, i’ve tried to consider this deeply when I’m learning Spanish because I live in Arizona and I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a visibly Latin@ teacher here, teaching a bunch of privileged kids your own language when they are barely making an effort/using it without any consideration of its worth and when you yourself are penalized and suffering from white supremacy for existing as Latin@ and speaking Spanish. I just can’t and I’m just so deeply angry/sorry.
so just…when you’re learning a “new” language white folks (remember, new to who?), you need to understand that this is what POC who already speak these languages face and how intimately language and culture and race tie together.
Because sometimes I actually do write things that are more or less worth reading and as this is an unusual thing, it deserves to be recognised as well.
Can anyone help her out? Reblog, reply, or send me a message. Thanks!