VOLOKH at law.ucla.edu
Thu Feb 26 14:15:10 PST 2004
Several reasons. First, because of doubt that in fact many people find
it insulting -- and not just find that it conveys an ideology with which
Second, because there really aren't that many great synonyms for certain
terms, at least ones that won't have their own negative connotations.
Substituting "African-American" for "black," for instance, changes the
literal meaning (African-American refers only to American blacks; someone
who would discriminate equally against American blacks and Nigerian blacks,
for instance, isn't biased against African-Americans, but against blacks).
It also changes the connotation, because it often sends a subtle message
that the speaker is endorsing the claim that "African-American" is the
better term. (I realize that using "black" may send the opposite message;
but the speaker may choose to send one message rather than the other.) Nor
do I see many particularly clear and short synonyms for "Judeo-Christian."
Third, because some speakers are reluctant to change their own speech
simply because others insist that it be changed, unless the speaker is
himself persuaded that there's something wrong with it beyond simply some
Fourth, because some people are offended, and sometimes even disturbed
or insulted, to be told to change what they say when their statements are
not intended to be insulting, and ought not be reasonably interpreted as
Fifth, because the list of words or phrases to which some people have
raised some objections -- "black," "American Indian," "Filipino," "Jew" (as
a noun meaning "someone who is Jewish"), "Mormon," "fundamentalist,"
"handicap," "spokesman," "seminar," "Hispanic," and many more -- is very
long. People who once took the view that Step describes as to some of those
words may be rightly annoyed at being told to edit their speech again and
again, for no reason other than "many individuals find it disturbing or
Sixth, because acquiescing in such insistence encourages still more such
demands in the future, many of them just as ill-founded. These demands
actually publicizes potential causes for grievance, and may lead some people
to be offended even by terms that they would otherwise have ignored
(Judeo-Christian being a case in point).
Seventh, because by publicly refusing to go along with such insistence
that one change one's speech simply because some others command it, one can
do what one can to stem this tendency to purge more and more words from the
vocabulary -- or at least to express one's view that this tendency is
Step Feldman writes:
Personally, I am a largely non-observant Jew, and for most of my life, I was
untroubled by the term, Judeo-Christian. Only when I started devoting
substantial time to researching the history of separation of church and
state did I change my attitude (because, to me, the meaning of
Judeo-Christian had changed).
Finally, I do not understand why one would continue to use the phrase,
Judeo-Christian, after realizing that many individuals do find it disturbing
or insulting, especially when the speaker or writer could probably more
precisely state what he or she intended to convey.
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