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Thoughts on political correctness - Nothing to See Here

Feb. 13th, 2007

09:43 am - Thoughts on political correctness

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The following is a paragraph from an article, "Don't be an annoying white person at work":

I find this interesting. I mean, I can certainly see how saying "wow, you're articulate!" with an incredulous tone might be bad, regardless of the colour of the skin of the person you're talking to ... but I find the idea that it is not ok to compliment somebody because the colour of their skin may change whether that compliment is seen at face value or as an insult is really unfortunate. :(

Specifically, the Barak Obama thing seems odd. I suppose perhaps there was something about how Joe Biden (whoever he is) said it, but ...

I have, myself, specifically mentioned that I think he's really articulate. Not "articulate for someone with that skin tone"!!! Articulate for anybody. He's a bloody bright guy, who knows how to clearly state what he intends, and doesn't muddle it deliberately or unintentionally with BS or noise. He's articulate for a politician. He is a breath of fresh air. This is by no means an insult to him or anybody in any way congruent with him. Heck, it's not even an insult to politicians in general (though I could insult them if I tried).

I think it's unfortunate that there is an implied "compared to <group being insulted>" that isn't there being heard.

Of course, I'm not really dissing the article. The article is about avoiding being seen as racist, not about whether one is actually being racist. I guess maybe it's good advice. :/

Current Location: 806
Current Mood: blahblah

Comments:

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From:mavjop
Date:February 13th, 2007 06:07 pm (UTC)
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:P
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From:wendelina2
Date:February 13th, 2007 07:28 pm (UTC)
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The history in the US is such that such a ... form of praise having a very different meaning is not at all surprising. Remember, we used to treat some races as basically two-footed cattle.

And, while we'd all like to think that the civil rights movement got rid of such feelings of superiority on the part of the white majority, it's just now true, sadly. While -acting- on those feeling in an official capacity is outlawed, there's no way to prevent people from -having- such feelings.
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From:wendelina2
Date:February 13th, 2007 07:29 pm (UTC)
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er, it's just not true.

Apparently I can't type today.
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From:anemone
Date:February 13th, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC)
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Does that mean you can't say anything good or bad about someone who's black? Isn't there a practical problem there? (Using "black" instead of "African-American" because I'm not sure the second can be applied to Obama.)

I once saw Tony Blair in a debate. I'm not saying I agree with his politics, but I felt like the man could speak. I thought to myself "Why can't I have that in my leader?" and felt sad that my country's current represenative can barely form a coherent sentence, let alone argue in public. I don't think I'd feel cheated in that way if Obama was our president.
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From:mavjop
Date:February 13th, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
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It does seem like there's a practical problem there.

Quite. I think it would make me quite happy if Obama were president.
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From:mavjop
Date:February 13th, 2007 08:12 pm (UTC)
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It occurs to me that this is sort of like an alternative version of what Tom Lehrer said in his song, "Smut":
    When correctly viewed,
    Everything is lewd.
    I could tell you things about Peter Pan,
    And the Wizard of Oz,
    There's a dirty old man!
If you're looking for a double entendre, whether it be smut, or insult, or evidence to support any point of view you hold ... if you look hard enough, you'll find it.

It's impossible to so unmistakably convey precisely what you mean and no more than what you mean without saying absolutely nothing (and then someone'll think you're lookin' at 'em funny).

Does this mean we should all say nothing?
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From:urox
Date:February 13th, 2007 08:18 pm (UTC)
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I think the problem comes from the varied usage of "articulate". The most common meaning is that one is able to enunciate. Not much praise there at all.

However, the meaning which I think *most* people are associating with Obama is that he is extremely effective with getting his ideas across and communicating sincereness with them as well.

I read an article in the SF Gate about Obama's response mentioning Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton also as articulate. But in my memory Jesse Jackson, he always seemed very religious (probably his history of being a minister ;) ) and when someone comes at me sounding religious rather than logical, it just doesn't have as much strength getting me to accept their ideas.

Obama doesn't hide behind god for his views.
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From:mavjop
Date:February 13th, 2007 10:15 pm (UTC)
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Interesting. I think of the typical/common meaning of the word as being:
      adj 1: expressing yourself easily or characterized by clear
             expressive language; "articulate speech"; "an
             articulate orator"; "articulate beings" [ant: {inarticulate}]

... but I do note that you are correct that it can certainly mean "able to pronounce words", "able to enunciate".

I think that being able to enunciate particularly well certainly can be a compliment ("You have extremely good enunciation."), however is doesn't go so far as my usual usage of the word (and interpretation of what others mean when they use the word) ... of being an exceptionally good orator or exceptionally good at getting your ideas across (doesn't have to be public speaking [oration]; can be 1-to-1).

I definitely don't have to agree with the politics or ideas of someone to think they're a good orator or good at making their point.

One can be perfectly logical while accepting certain things on faith. Mathematics is about as logical as you can get, and lemmas are used all the times in proofs. There is very little difference between a stated matter of faith and a lemma in a logical/philosophical discussion. The one big difference is you may go back and attempt to prove a lemma, whereas you likely won't do so with the matter of faith.

I've known some very intelligent, very logical, and very articulate religious people.

Interesting point though. I had not really thought about the alternative definitions of "articulate".
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From:urox
Date:February 13th, 2007 10:30 pm (UTC)
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"I've known some very intelligent, very logical, and very articulate religious people."

I never said that religious people weren't. I am saying that I am skeptical of religious beliefs as the basis of arguments since you can't argue with a religion.
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From:mavjop
Date:February 13th, 2007 10:40 pm (UTC)
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Oh, totally agree. If you don't share the beliefs of the person making an argument and if those beliefs are the foundation (lemmas) of the argument, then of course you don't have to be swayed by their argument.

That said, you can still listen to them and note have respect for the fact that they explained very well (i.e. being articulate) what their reasoning was for getting from point A (lemmas) to point Z (conclusion), and that their logic was sound, given A, even if you don't accept A as a starting point, and thus do not accept their conclusion, Z.

What I'm trying to do is separate "clarity of expression" along with use of logical argument, and "ability to sway me to their way of thinking". The former is being articulate. The latter may require the former (or may rely on charisma), but is by no means an absolutely necessary product of the latter.
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From:urox
Date:February 13th, 2007 10:56 pm (UTC)
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But I *don't* want to listen to someone where I disagree with the premise or lemma. That's the foundation of a straw man argument.
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From:mavjop
Date:February 13th, 2007 11:54 pm (UTC)
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That is an acceptable attitude. Your not listening doesn't change the fact that their argument may be articulate and/or logical, though.
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From:anemone
Date:February 14th, 2007 11:12 pm (UTC)
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You can't argue with non-religious axioms either. We all have axioms.
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