Request for member withdrawal

Salikoko Mufwene s-mufwene at UCHICAGO.EDU
Thu Jan 21 16:16:45 UTC 2010

Bill Palmer wrote:
> And it seems so bizarre for a bunch of whites (I'm assuming here,
> obviously)
> to decide what is offensive to those of African descent.
I am a foreign-born black/Black and I wouldn't dare make some of the
comments that Tom has made about terms for African Americans. It's a
matter of respecting the feelings of the referents, who could actually
retaliate with terms that are offensive to some of us. People decide
what terms are offensive to them and how they prefer to be referred to.
The emotions associated with particular terms change with time (we
learn/teach this in introduction-to-linguistics classes), while some of
the terms remain locked in historic phrases and the like. Speaking a
language appropriately entails learning when a term may offend
individuals associated with it, and good communicative skills tell you
when to make comments publicly and when not to, unless you are brave or
stupid enough to defy social norms. I think this is the gist of what
people have been condemning in Tom's verbal behavior. It seems to me
that he is so proud that he offends even while he may intend to
apologize. Whether or not Tom should be removed from the list is less
important to me than pointing out that he has been insensitive to
feelings of some people. It's a matter of being civil and he has not. I
think the point has been made and we all have better things to worry
about. I am writing now because I don't think it is a righteous
whites'/Whites' thing. It's a matter of common sense.


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