Ron Radosh

Political Correctness Run Amok

We all know about the hazards and follies of political correctness. But this time, the powers that be in Seattle, and it seems New York City as well, have gone way too far.

The Office for Civil Rights in Seattle, a Fox News report informed us last week, instructed city workers about no longer using terms that some people in Seattle might deem offensive.

I wondered when first reading this if they were talking about scores of white employees using the N word. No, that’s not it. The words they are complaining about include the following: “citizens” and “brown-bag lunch.” Not to be outdone, New York City’s Department of Education warned about such dangerous words as “dinosaurs,” “birthdays,” and, last but not least, “Halloween.”

Now that I know you are busily trying to discern what could be wrong about using such words, let the good city fathers tell you. A member of Seattle’s Civil Rights Commission, Elliott Bronstein, readily explained in an interview with a local TV news program. “Citizen,” he explained, insulted the many people in Seattle who were there illegally and, hence, not citizens. Therefore, all those living in the area must be called “residents.” Well, I somehow think they don’t really mind, because as long as they can get driver’s licenses, a free public school education for their children, and all the benefits real citizens have, I don’t think they give a hoot about what they are called.

But don’t dare call a lunchtime meeting and announce that it’s a “brown-bag lunch,” unless you wish to be brought up on charges of racism and perhaps lose your job for offending African-American colleagues. You see, Mr. Bronstein explained, for many African-Americans, “the phrase brown bag does bring up associations with the past when a brown bag was actually used…to determine if people’s skin color was light enough to allow admission to an event or to come into a party that was being held in a private home.”

And you thought it referred to carrying your lunch in a small brown bag, didn’t you? If that is your response, you clearly are a racist. Well, it seems somebody better tell gourmand Brooke Newberry at The Savory. Yes, last week she provided  a new recipe for “a brown-bag baguette sandwich.” The shame! Moreover, it calls for the use of goat cheese and fennel, clearly two ingredients used only by white elitists who are members of the corporate rich, all of whom by nature are racist. We all know these folks would never carry their lunch in a brown bag unless Gucci made it. So to use this in the recipe’s title is to use a hidden code word that is meant to let her audience know she is writing for fellow racists. I think all readers should immediately phone the NAACP and demand a campaign against her.

As for New York, pity those poor youngsters who are at the age when they want to rush down to the Museum of Natural History to go see the dinosaur skeletons. Suddenly, New York City is concerned with the rights of religious fundamentalists, for whom the word “dinosaur” conjures up thoughts about evolution, and hence might offend them. As for Halloween, religious Jews do not celebrate it, and to Jehovah’s Witnesses, it “suggests an affiliation to Paganism.”

So New York City officials say that in prohibiting these terms in schools, they are not guilty of censorship, since they are only carrying out “normal procedure.” And birthdays, it seems, create “unpleasant emotions” for those students whose birthday is not the same day as the fellow student whose parents brought in cookies to first grade for students to share as they sing Happy Birthday at lunchtime.

I hope, God forbid, that the mother did not put those cookies in a brown bag! Then her little darling will be guilty of double jeopardy, or three sins, if her or his birthday falls on Halloween.

I’m only happy that in my childhood we didn’t have civil rights divisions in education departments and at City Hall in New York City.