In the latest round of “bad racist words” to eliminate from the news cycle, the New York Times is back at that most liberal endeavor of censorship. In reading through the list though, one thing stuck out to me:
Another once widely accepted and even encouraged phrase, person of color, is going the way of “colored people,” to which, according to national editor Marc Lacey, it is simply “too close.” The stylebook says of the phrase, “Except in direct quotations, the expression is too self-conscious for the news columns. Substitute a term like minorities or, better, refer to specific ethnic groups — black and Hispanic authors, for example.” (source)
Now, it may not seem like it at first glance, but this is actually quite a development.
For years now we have been told to use the phrase “people of color” when speaking about non-Whites. Social Justice Warrior types have even made it into an acronym—POC—which they use all the time. (As an aside, I imagine all their heads will explode when they find out the term is now considered racist.)
The term is roughly equivalent in scope to the word non-White, and there is a reason for that:
The whole project of melanosupremacy depends on contrasting White people to all non-Whites. It depends on driving the ideal that there is a difference in character between White people and all non-Whites. Its whole foundation is built on the ideal that White people, among the races of the earth, are unique: uniquely evil and uniquely inferior in character; uniquely guilty, and uniquely worthy of being degraded, denied racial consciousness and pride, and viewing their racial identity with nothing but shame.
The power of non-Whites in society, and the exploitation of Whites through use of this White guilt weapon, depends wholly on the ability to argue that Whites as compared to non-Whites are unique, and that there is something valuable to be gained in understanding by that comparison.
The new rules undercut this foundation. By arguing that it is better to refer to each non-White group individually, they severely limit the power of any racial contrast they may try to set up. Saying, for instance, that “Black and Hispanic authors” have a hard time breaking into the industry, is not the same as saying that people of color have a hard time breaking into the industry.
The former leads a reader to think of the reasons why these specific groups might not be as often successful, whereas the latter leads a reader to conclude that (1) the cause of the discrepancy is race based, and not due to other factors which might correlate with specific races, and (2) that White people are doing better than non-Whites and are the cause of non-Whites not doing as well.
In other words, a White guilt message can be given more linguistic power when set up with this contrasting language, than with language that does not create a racial dichotomy.
Melanosupremacy does not work if White people are not viewed as unique. Viewing White people as worse than some non-Whites, and not worse than others, ruins the whole project, because they cannot then argue for denying to White people alone the rights and privileges they give to all other groups. They are the equality people after all.
While I am not suggesting that this subtle change in direction means that the left has in any way ceased to think of Whites as uniquely bad, I do think that the language is worth mentioning. It may after all, be a harbinger of bigger things to come. At the very least, it is likely to give us one more inch in the fight as the culture wars continue.