Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Joyce Carol Oates knows words, and last week she blasted the PC police for suggesting that words like “picnic” and “you guys” be banned.
In a social media post, Oates ripped a student-prepared “Oppressive Language List” at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. “What is strange is that while the word ‘picnic’ is suggested for censorship, because it evokes, in some persons, lynchings of Black persons in the US, the word ‘lynching’ is not itself censored,” the author of “A Garden of Earthly Delights” wrote Thursday.
She also noted that the term “trigger warning” has triggered some, who now want it banned.
what is strange is that while the word "picnic" is suggested for censorship, because it evokes, in some persons, lynchings of Black persons in the US, the word "lynching" is not itself censored. https://t.co/S9tLADalNQ
— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) June 24, 2021
“Picnic” suddenly disappeared from the list, but before that, a university-sponsored website said the word “has been associated with lynchings of Black people in the United States, during which white spectators were said to have watched while eating.”
Other targeted words and phrases include suggestions to say “friends” instead of “tribe,” “give it a go” instead of “take a shot at” and “content note” instead of “trigger warning” — the latter because “the word ‘trigger’ has connections to guns for many people.”
In another post, Oates mused about how to enforce the rules. “What sort of punishment is doled out for a faculty member who utters the word ‘picnic’ at Brandeis?–or the phrase ‘trigger warning’?” she asked. “Loss of tenure, public flogging, self-flagellation?”
Instead of “you guys,” which is considered gender-specific, speakers should say “Y’all, folks or folx, friends, loved ones, people,” the list suggests.
Brandeis spokeswoman Julie Jette said in a statement, “The list is in no way an accounting of terms that Brandeis students, faculty or staff are prohibited from using or must substitute instead. It is simply a resource that can be accessed by anyone who wants to consider their own language in an effort to be respectful of others who may have different reactions to certain terms and phrases,” The New York Post reported.
The language police have taken aim at other words and phrases. While the Oxford Dictionary defines the phrase “low-hanging fruit” as “a thing or person that can be won, obtained, or persuaded with little effort,” one professor said last July that the phrase is racist.
“For African-Americans, if you say ‘low-hanging fruit,’ we think lynching,” said Mae Hicks-Jones, an adjunct faculty member of Elgin Community College in Illinois.
“Grandfathered” is also racist, she said, according to a report in The College Fix. To Hicks-Jones, the phrase “grandfathered in” is reminiscent of a grandfather clause, which privileged white people’s right to vote over that of black people during the Jim Crow South.
Then there’s the “Masters” golf tournament. Rob Parker last month wrote a Deadline piece headlined “We’ve Lived with ‘The Masters’ Name Long Enough.”
“Augusta National was built on grounds that were once a slave plantation and was the property of a slave owner. And according to a 2019 New Yorker piece about the course, it’s believed that enslaved Blacks were housed on the property,” he wrote.
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