Monday, May 16, 2016

Something to offend everyone

Like beauty, political correctness is in the eye of the beholder. What one group or individual finds offensive, another will accept without complaint. A couple of years ago I commented about passing a Navajo high school in Arizona with the big sign out front proclaiming "Home of the Redskins." Meanwhile  the Redskins in Washington take heat for their use of the same nickname.

In The Book of General Ignorance, John Lloyd and John Mitchinson write that the term Eskimo is considered offensive in Canada. The politically correct word is Inuit. But across the border into Alaska, the native people prefer to be called Eskimos. The Intuit people live in Canada and parts of Greenland, not in Alaska, so the term Inuit can offend Alaskans. Even in Canada and Greenland, Inuit can be offensive because some people are more properly Kalaallit (in Greenland) or Inuvialuit (in Canada). Calling all these people Inuit, say Lloyd and Muthinson, is "like calling all black people 'Nigerians,' or all white people "German.'"

Of course, the terms black and white can also offend because people, like moral questions, are not all black or white. Many prefer the term African-American, except that many "African-Americans" are not American at all.

To get back to the Inuits, the word itself means "the people" in the Inuit language. In fact, names of many native tribes mean something similar. Yupik means "real person." Hach Winik means "true people." Kiowa means "principal people." Lenni Lenape means "genuine men." Taino means "the good people." Tonkawa means "the most human of people." And so it goes. In other words, our tribe is better than your tribe.

Maybe it's just me, but I find that idea offensive.

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