April 30, 2003

Mental meanderings on political correctness

It is funny how you get these ideas that there is something you want to share, but really do not know if it is right to do so. I was reading a post from Professor Volokh (wow, I did spell that right, but had to look back just to make sure) where he was discussing a story from the The Telegraph. It concerned a controversy in which trainee teachers are told not to use the word "brainstorming," as such is offensive to epileptics. Of course, according to the story, epileptics were not offended by the word, but were offended by being asked if they were offended by the word. But I digress.

My point concerns Professor Volokh's discussion of whether the correct term was "Native American" or "American Indian," being that neither was literally correct. I do not remember when, but I remember once being told that such people found the term "Indian" to be offensive because they were not Indians: they did not come from India. "Native" was disliked because it connotates lack of civilization. My own preference has always to refer to such people as "Indigenous Americans" or "Indigenous Peoples." I prefer the latter term, as they are also members of many differing tribes, each having differing beliefs and customs. The term "Peoples" connotates more than one civilization. I might use the former term to differentiate between the indigenous peoples of the Americas and those from Australia, New Zealand or Africa.

However, at this late hour, I am very unsure if I have ever discussed this topic with any descendant of the original citizens of our continent. I might be totally off-base . . . Maybe someone can let me know. It might be possible that my just thinking about how not to offend people whose customs and beliefs I admire greatly offends them. My luck goes that way sometimes. Maybe it is time for me to go to bed.

Posted by Tiger at April 30, 2003 12:37 AM