More Than PC
Christopher B. Harbin
Many bemoan the changing norms of appropriate words as we attempt to become more ''Politically Correct'' in the way we refer to others. I remember concerns in seminary with the demands that we use gender-neutral language for God. I understood that God is not and never has been limited by gender. That was not an issue for me. On the other hand, I was used to referring to God with the use of male pronouns and was comfortable with that being a traditional though limited way of referring to God. Slowly, I began to understand how maleness for many people projected disturbing images of God that had nothing to do with the God I knew. Language was but a tactic to move me to a more sensitive place. I was aware there was much more to the issue than following a rule, but learning to adapt to new language standards was cumbersome. The English language was unwieldy for the purposes at hand. I didn't like the imposition, though I was trying to accept its purpose.
So often we become ensnared by cumbersome attempts to use or force the use of newer norms of terms that are less offensive to groups of people. As a linguist, I am well aware that our language is limited in offering appropriate terms for every situation. We speak of Columbus discovering America, while there were millions of people already living in America. Beyond that, he returned to Europe without knowing he had discovered new lands and without having stepped foot on the continent. We still use the term ''Indian'' to refer to the native peoples, though the term references Columbus' understanding that he had reached India. In Canada, the term ''First Peoples'' is used, while in Mexico, we speak of the indigenous people as somehow separate from the population that mixed Europeans with the Aztecs, Maya, and other nations present in the Aztec Empire.
While we struggle with the appropriate terms to apply to the descendants of the people who lived in the Americas pr ...
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