Stanford University has released a guide to eliminate “harmful language.” I haven’t read it. It must be pretty extensive as it has 10 “harmful language” sections: ableist, ageism, colonialism, culturally appropriative, gender-based, imprecise language, institutionalized racism, person-first, violent and additional considerations.
Among the words the university urges people to avoid is “American.” People are instead urged to use “U.S. Citizen” because “American” typically refers to “people from the United States only, thereby insinuating that the US is the most important country in the Americas.” The Americas, the index notes, comprises 42 countries.
Well . . . the United States is the most important country in the Americas. Or if it isn’t, what is?
Anyway, this guide reminds me of a couple of things. George Orwell used to say “If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
And Salman Rushdie has said, “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” That’s a strong one because Rushdie has literally put his life on the line for it.
And here I’ll add my own admonition: Don’t traffic with anyone who considers it important to control the way other people speak.