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Re: apples, upper-class people could rely on the skins of their apples being clean (because they bought better-quality ones and because their houses had maids who kept them clean and didn't have manual workers arriving home covered in filth from their work), so they just bit into the apple.

Middle-class people, who had reliable clean water, washed their apples and then bit into them.

Working-class people peeled them because that was a sure way of removing the (potentially dirty) skin.

By LeCarré's time, the working-class had had clean running water long enough that they were starting to move to washing rather than peeling apples, but that took a long time.

My parents were born in 1944, and my (raised working-class) father peeled apples while my (raised middle-class) mother did not, though my father changed over in the 1980s.

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Fascinating!

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Interesting. I'm small town E. Texas 1942 vintage and I grew up with pealed apples were for children and grown ups (or only men?) ate them unpeeled.

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It's quite common in China for people to peel grapes.

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Apparently in Mae West's time as well.

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I wonder if that also didn’t have something to do with dental health (presumably worse in working classes in Victorian times). Peeled, and especially cut, apple is much easier to chew.

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It may have, but both my parents cited concerns about the cleanliness of the peel as their reason. That doesn't mean that dental health wasn't a major factor, of course.

It was/is also a tradition and a signifier of class, but you'd never say that unless you are consciously trying to change class (as the character in the novel is doing).

My grandfather was a train driver (we don't call them "engineers") back in the days of steam and would presumably have arrived home covered in soot in need of a bath - which would mean soot everywhere, however carefully my grandmother would have cleaned.

Incidentally, if you've ever picked apples fresh from the tree, they tend to accumulate a sticky layer over the skin which needs to be washed off before you eat them (not always, but often). They are, of course, washed before being sold now, but they probably weren't in Victorian times, so the maid (or whatever servant) would wash them before putting them out on the table in an upper-class household, while a middle-class household would expect you to wash your own apple before eating it, which was my mother's practice.

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Jan 18, 2023·edited Jan 18, 2023

“They are, of course, washed before being sold now”

Not in the US they’re not, and I suspect not in the rest of the world either. Sure, they look nice and shiny, but that’s because they’re sprayed with a food-grade wax during packing.

When I was a teenager, I worked for a large apple company that had dozens of orchards in the town where I grew up as well as in the surrounding towns. I worked in the orchards some, but mostly in the packing plant which had enormous refrigerated rooms where bins of apples were stored during the harvest and a packing line where the apples were sorted by size, graded by appearance, and manually packed into boxes for shipment. The packing line began with a open tank of water with a hydraulic platform where a wooden bin of apples would be lowered to float out and be picked up by a conveyor consisting of plastic cups - each cup on a pivot and weighted at one end. The plastic cups would tip out their contents at different points, depending on the weight of the individual apple, onto conveyor belts eight or so inches below. After coming out of the water the apples were sprayed with a quick drying wax from overhead nozzles.

One of my jobs was to retrieve bins of apples from the refrigerators with a forklift and line them up near the water tank for the guy who operated that station. The water in the tank was changed…not all that often. The apple bins had come in from the orchards, where they had been sitting on the ground while being filled by the Jamaican pickers. The orchards, between the trees, were mostly longish grass, trimmed two or three times during the growing season, but inevitably some bins came in with soil caked on parts of their skids as well as other contaminants both on the outside and inside of the bins: contaminants like apple leaves, stems, insects, and the occasional dead field mouse.

Even on the days when the packing line started with clean water, after cycling a couple dozen bins through the float tank, the water would be pretty muddy and by the end of the day the water had taken on the color of coffee with too little cream.

Wash your apples, people.

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Yes, we were rich enough to get lots of sugar before modern dental care (even just toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc) so we had terrible cavities and rotten teeth through the nineteenth century

But we had NHS dentistry from the 1940s and actual oral health is pretty good these days (though it's been in crisis for a few years now and I suspect it is declining). We don't do anywhere near as much cosmetic dentistry as the US, but that's also true for much of the rest of Europe. As long as they're not rotten, a few teeth at funny angles isn't much of a deal.

Somewhere around 2010, UK oral health was better than the US - but Obamacare has improved it for poor Americans and the decline of NHS dentistry has damaged a lot of poorer Brits, so it may have turned around in the last few years.

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There's a stereotype of Brits having *ugly* teeth, because NHS dentistry doesn't go in for orthodontics to anything like the extent that is normal in the US. But our actual oral health is AIUI pretty good, or at least comparable to peer nations.

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Jan 19, 2023·edited Jan 19, 2023

Conversely, we have a stereotype of Americans having weirdly perfect teeth like pod people. It can be actively distracting in Hollywood movies, especially when American actors are playing pre-industrial people who wouldn't have had access to orthodontics. The love interest in Braveheart's dazzling smile forces itself to mind.

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At my first job after college my officemate, who grew up in China, peeled all fruit, including peaches. Thin-skinned fruit (again, like peaches), he'd blanch in hot water before peeling. Same idea - he got used to that, growing up worried about clean water and pesticide contamination and so on.

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I peel peaches because the furry skin irritates my mouth and makes me retch, but that's absolutely personal, not a cultural or traditional thing.

I rarely eat peaches, having a very strong preference for nectarines, for the obvious reason.

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Fascinating! Thx!!

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> I am quite fluent in why we don’t characterize non-white people as “minorities” anymore, and even why affirmatively characterizing them as “people of color” is in favor rather than saying “non-white,” which tends to center whiteness.

This is just my two cents and I am aware that many or even most people at elite institutions may feel the opposite but I pretty strongly think this whole business about “POC” vs. “non-white” or “minority” is completely backwards.

First off almost nobody who is actually a racial minority describes themselves as a person of color. When someone asks me my ethnicity I don’t say “oh I’m a person of color” because that’s a) obvious at first glance and b) not an actual identity that means anything. I say “I’m Indian” or “I’m desi” depending on whether or not the person I’m talking to is also brown.

I think the whole “person of color” thing is actually what elevates whiteness by making it into the default. If some people are “of color” then it implies that other (white) people have no color. The connotation is that being not of color is normal and the default whereas being of color makes you ~different~ (this is probably not phrased in the most eloquent way but it’s 7AM).

I also think that “person of color” as a term for all nonwhites implies a certain sense of shared culture or values that doesn’t really exist. The thing I have in common with a Hispanic guy from El Paso or a Korean woman from San Francisco or an Ethiopian immigrant is that we are all not white, so why not just say that? It also just seems kind of forced to say (again, almost nobody self-describes as a “POC”) and sounds too similar to “colored person” with the words switched for my liking (though I am aware some older black people still use that term as a neutral descriptor because it was the norm when they grew up).

Hence I much prefer the terms “nonwhite” and “minority” when discussing those of us of the darker hue. (Yes I am aware than it principle “minority” could refer to many different types of minority group — racial, religious, sexual orientation — but in practice in America it clearly denotes “racial minority” most of the time.)

https://youtu.be/9TBGPcrZItY

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Jan 18, 2023·edited Jan 18, 2023

I have a good friend, a woman of latin origin who worked at a fancy Manhattan law firm. In a 1:1 a partner gently chastised her for a minor transgression, and mentioned as a woman of color she should be more cognizant of these things. My friend didn't realize she was in a category separate from everyone else and took offense to this.

Just seems kind of wild the old white dudes can still "other" you to your face but now it's in a "progressive" way so it's fine.

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It's strange how terms like "colored" and "oriental" come across as racist, but I can't explain why other than association with an era in which overt racism was acceptable.

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Or even stranger, how "people of color" and "colored people" can be interpreted vastly differently.

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Older folks in my extended South Asian family have a lot of trouble with this too. They'll grasp for words (since English is not their first language) and say "colored people". When I correct them and say, "No, no, you can't say that, it's people of color", they'll ask what the difference is. And all I can really say is "One's really backwards and racist, and the other is very progressive!"

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Why don't you just say that the latter is the preferred term nowadays?

"Backwards and racists vs progressive" seems like an unnecessarily political and judgey framing.

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This is a case of the "euphemism treadmill". John McWhorter has a good episode of his podcast about this phenomenon: http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/lexicon_valley/2017/04/john_mcwhorter_on_euphemisms.html

Basically, when a neutral term for a socially disadvantage group is used over many decades it takes on the negative "overtones" (connotations) associated with prejudice against that group. This is how the term "colored" goes from the being used in the NAACP to being seen as a slur.

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“It's strange how terms like ‘colored’ and ’oriental’ come across as racist…”

I mentioned this in a pas comment on SB: My wife is Korean, i.e., she grew up in Korea and came to the US as an adult. She used to hate* being called Asian, but was totally fine with the label Oriental. She saw Oriental as being more correctly descriptive because she looks far, far more like Japanese and Chinese people than she looks like, for instance, a Tamil.

*She more or less gave up caring, because what’s the point in living your life enraged?

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Jan 19, 2023·edited Jan 19, 2023

That's interesting, because "Asian" is a term I still primarily associate with East Asia / the "Far East", and I believe that connotation is fairly widespread in the US. I don't intuitively think of people from the Indian subcontinent as being "Asian" (and that's not even getting into the rest of the Asian continent).

Also interesting that she associates "oriental" with East Asia specifically, because that is another term with a wide geographic scope depending on the time and place. For example, I've seen Persian-styled rugs referred to as "oriental rugs".

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Yes, in the U.S. "Asian" is generally associated with East Asia, but in the UK it is generally associated with South Asia.

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"...'Asian' is a term I still primarily associate with East Asia / the 'Far East'..."

The US government does not agree with that definition.

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"Colored" I do understand because as Milan mentions, this implies that white is colorless and default. Nonwhite just seems better to me.

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That's really just overthinking it, though. The same would apply to POC, of course, but that's en vogue. Things just fall in and out of favor

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The other big problem with binary labels is that putting white people in a separate category from anyone else could inculcate the idea that white people need to start acting like a coherent racial demographic that needs to promote it's own interests apart from so-called POC.

That would be very bad on the merits but is also counter to everything proponents of equity claim to want.

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This is a point Glenn Loury makes very frequently - keep telling white people that they are a monolithic identity group and some are going to believe you and act accordingly.

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Yep, whenever I see some DEI material talking about making white people "aware of their whiteness," etc., I feel like I'm in a horror movie watching the drunk/stoned teenagers willfully reading from the book of dark magic in the graveyard at midnight.

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There’s a scene in The Jerk where Steve martin’s character learns that he’s adopted and says in horror, “You mean I’m gonna stay this color?!”

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This is a huge problem. Asking people to lean into their whiteness as an identity is one of the stupidest, most dangerous things I can think of. There are WAY worse things than the colorblindness ideal. What next, should we encourage Germans to meditate on their Aryan identity?

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There is SOME value in asking people that do enjoy privileges to bear that in mind when asked to consider extending those privileges to others. But it needs to be done carefully and with the understanding that improving the lives of some people does not necessarily mean diminishing the lives of others. Society is a positive sum game.

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One of my axes to grind with the woke is the abuse of the word privilege. A title of nobility is a privilege. Not being victimized (or being statistically less likely to be victimized) by the state or by individuals very much is not. It’s simply how things ought to be for everyone.

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A thousand times this! What an absurdly counterproductive word to use, almost guaranteed to be misinterpreted by someone who doesn't follow "the discourse", and literally wrong to boot!

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Probably misinterpreted "by someone who actually needs to be persuaded." I think _I_ understood it without "following the discourse," but I was sympathetic to efforts to remove the legacy of slavery/past mistreatment. But I'd still deflect to conversation to how to be persuasive in general, not the word. For example "Black Lives Matter" has been "misunderstood" but I don't think there was a better slogan.

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It's a word. "Relative advantage" would be another. Whatever best gets across the idea (that may not be obvious the first time someone thinks about it.)

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It’s a word that already conveys a certain meaning. Moreover it looks at things backwards. The idea of civil right movement etc is to invite more people into the tent of equal rights , into the mainstream, not to kick people out or to delegitimize it. “Privilege” smacks of luxury and excess. No one on America has *or ever had* privileges by the sole virtue of being white. Some people were discriminated against or had their human rights more or less terribly violated because they were perceived as a racial other. That’s not at all the same thing .

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To me at least, "privilege" refers to an entitlement that follows immediately from a particular status. Golfers who've previously won the Masters have the privilege of wearing a green jacket when the trophy is presented to a new winner. Any prior winner can do that; anyone else cannot. Segregated Pullman cars involved a system of racial privilege: anyone deemed to be white could, ipso facto, sit in the whites-only car; anyone deemed to be black could not.

That's totally different from the phenomenon of differential treatment by police. White people undoubtedly benefit from being less frequently subjected to abusive and degrading encounters with law enforcement. But if you're white and a police officer does treat you in a humiliating manner, you can't complain by saying, "I'm sorry, there seems to have been some mistake: I'm white, you see, and so by rule I should've gotten preferential treatment."

Post-Jim Crow America really doesn't have racial privileges, at least not ones that redound to the benefit of white people. So if you want people to notice the ways in which certain racial groups are relatively advantaged or disadvantaged in American society, telling them to focus on where they enjoy some racial *privilege* is an absolutely terrible strategy.

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To some extent that's already happening. "You will not replace us." The question is, how much is cause and how much is effect?

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It seems to me that if you’re interested in oppression dynamics, the critical characteristic IS minority status. There’s nothing inherent to being a person of color that creates disadvantage, but rather the fact that the person is a minority in the society where they live. Being in a minority of ANY kind (racial, religious, sexual) is inherently going to be on the spectrum from occasionally inconvenient to downright shitty.

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Jan 18, 2023·edited Jan 18, 2023

That’s far too universalist to be fashionable! It might even make you think of other societies , countries , or historical periods, god forbid!

Seriously though, the irony of the woke is that they are the most Eurocentric (or rather america-centric) presentist people in the world who really do seem to believe in a 21st cent twist on the white man’s burden.

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But even in the that framing sometimes minorities are the ones running the show. Just some off-the-top-of-my-head examples:

Prior (and largely also, post) the French Revolution a tiny Aristocracy ran everything. Modern Americans tend to not "see class" but that was a social construct every bit as real as our modern conceptions of race. Aristocrats only married and socialized with each other and a person on the street could id them by the way they dressed, walked and talked.

Peruvians of European descent are maybe 10% of their population but disproportionately wealthy and in positions of power.

White people were the minority in Aparthaid S Africa.

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Yes, this doesn't track at all. Brahmins in India, etc. Even in the U.S., there used to be a WASP elite that was clearly distinct from the general "white" majority. The critical characteristic clearly isn't minority status, certainly not in isolation.

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Not entirely. Color is a social construct just like race, just like class. David's stereotypical Punjabi would not be a POC in stereotypical Texas at all.

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This is one of my least favorite lazy shibboleths. If color is a construct and so is race, is ethnicity as well?

Then surely gender is? Oh boy, and don’t get me started about the nuclear family… these are some of the most common, most basic, most widely-used-across-cultures categorical definitions in use by the human race. Why do (some subset of) progressives persist in attacking and undermining them so?

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Jan 18, 2023·edited Jan 18, 2023

"If color is a construct and so is race, is ethnicity as well?"

Not to be glib, but yep, it is. Society is just a bunch of social constructs, many of them critically important to the way we live, but some of them quite superficial. Family, as you identify, is one of the former, but POC on the other hand feels quite superficial.

I would personally say that color is the type of construct that could be "de-constructed," to everyone's benefit in the way that say, hair length is. Ditto for race. But ethnicity probably can't be, although it could be minimized in many contexts. And certainly doing away with family as a social construct would make no sense at all.

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Super like !

I’d add that race is a very historically dependent social construct that didn’t exist in the same manner before the modern era, so empirically we can do without it!

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But a minority of no significance for most purposes.

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This is a decent explanation for why I dislike "LGBT" or "LGBTQIA+ (however many letters and numbers they've added)" to describe people. I am gay. I'm not a lesbian, I am not transgender, I am not asexual, or bisexual, or any other sexual minority. I'm gay. The gay civil rights movement and the transgender civil rights movement are not the same. The issues are quite different, and while they intersect in some ways: they do not in many others.

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Since I was a kid the alphabet soup of sexual and gender minorities has confounded me. With LGBT, I understand through "LGB"- a very sensible political coalition (not a personal identifier though), but T lost me. The addition of Q sort of mad sense as a stopping point to say everyone can be in the group but that just begs the question why not just use Queer, and why are LGB and T in a group together to begin with. Then adding the adding I again confounds me because I represents a set of physical medical conditions which seem entirely unrelated to LGB and I guess related to T specifically in terms of non-traditional appearance and surgical implications. A is the most baffling to me because I am not sure what the political implications of being asexual are. Like I guess you're just in some sense outside the hetero-norm but still confusing though I see some coalition there with LGB. And the final plus is the worst offender of all because what is Q if not serving as the plus.

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Well put

Queer is probably the most accurate description, but I don’t like the implication (which was bigoted when it was used previously). Because homosexuals, transgender people, etc aren’t queer at all.

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I thought the Q was "questioning". I'm only learning now it can be either?

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I share your sentiments from the other end of the acronym. Historical circumstances put everyone under the same yoke, and there's never been enough just-T to splinter off and form our own separate tribe. (Nor would I want there to be, that'd indicate Something Went Wrong in a big way.) But it's always felt somewhat forced outside of theoryland. When I spend time with gays and lesbians, it's hard not to be struck by how...utterly banal they usually are? Yes, there's sometimes the stereotypical mannerisms and such. But my brain defaults to rounding off "gay person" or "lesbian person" to just "person". Not much more remarkable than their hair colour or whatever. (Granted, the demographic breakdown in SF is...uh...not reflective of the broader population.)

By contrast - us trans people are, frankly, usually weird. Not said in a judgey disapproving way, more like...well...personality comorbidity? Being an extreme outlier on one dimension makes one much more likely to be an extreme outlier on others. It's really unusual for me to meet a trans person whose sole differentiating characteristic is their gender identity...that seems to be the Platonic ideal of both lurid erotica and certain activists, an archetypal Perfectly Normal Person who just happens to be trans. (A trans woman, specifically, since no one ever remembers that trans men exist too...except maybe in the UK.) And, of course, a group unified by large standard deviations from normies will itself have large internal deviations. There's often so little in common once you scratch the surface grievances about gender stuff...a feeling of "if you weren't in my Specialist Tribe, I wouldn't like you, actually".

So it's been very weird watching the Marriage Equality 2.0 playbook attempting to be recycled for trans people...the script simply doesn't fit. And there's a contradiction with insisting that sex and gender are totally separate unrelated things - yet still grouping LGB and T together! Similarly, a common trans advocacy retort to TERFs is that the category "woman" shouldn't be defined by their shared oppression...yet that applies just as much to LGB + T. I think it's admirable to aspire to the same "equal treatment" outcomes...but the required changes for that kind of parity are, well, just a really different ask in so many cases.

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I think the movements are different and that’s important

I also think being trans is simply a lot more challenging than being single sex attracted.

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FWIW I strongly disagree as a bisexual man. I think that in general, people who fall within the LGBTQIA+ umbrella tend to share substantial common threads of experience related to being a minority along gender and sexuality lines (in part because I think that negative attitudes towards LGB people often interrelated to negative attitudes towards gender nonconformity). Moreover, there's a long history of shared community and joint activism among all the different groups under the LGBTQIA+ label. It also feels to me that to reject the idea of a shared label now after gay marriage has been recognized but when transgender rights remain politically controversial is a very selfish move.

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Sure, but there is still a sense in which there is a straight majority, right? How would you classify non-straight people as a group? One increasingly popular moniker is queer, but I hate for its history as a slur, its problematic literal meaning (obviously related to the history), and for its extreme vagueness. LGBT is actually not bad imo in that it actually reminds everyone that we are in fact a bunch of *separate* distinct group, that do however share something in common even if its only a negative thing (not being part of the cisgender straight super-majority)

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I personally am not particularly interested in the straight-not straight; trans-cis dichotomies. I think they obscure far more than they illuminate. Furthermore I don't think creating a category has for all of "not straight; not cis" people has been particularly constructive. Again: like POC there is not as much commonality as people think.

The argument for the gay civil rights movement was that gay people really aren't that different from straight people. We wanted to be able to enjoy the same institutions that straight people did; we just wanted to marry people we were attracted to and not get fired for our identity. The "LGBTQ" trend today feels far more like making an identity of something that is irrelevant and highlighting differences for the sake of highlighting differences (and, I suspect, there is some "I am an oppressed minority because of my sexuality" going on as well; being straight is no longer 'cool').

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May I remind you that the “gay civil rights” fight included lesbians? That they too wanted the right for marriage equality and have since exercised it in similar numbers?

And I think the tension between particularist and integrationist forces are found in every minority. There was the gay marrriage fight but there was also the fringe arguing against the “heteronormative” family structure. Today there are fringe elements but there are also trans people who just want to be accepted as who they are (eg allowed to serve in army , a struggle paralleling that of gays a very short while ago!)

In short I think there is universal applicability in the pluralism and tolerance and it’s smart politics besides to show solidarity. That being said- I agree we should push back agaisnt bad or stupid directions.

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Obviously Lesbians and Gays both fought for the same civil rights.

But the Trans-Rights movement is quite different than the Gay rights movement. Trans activists are pushing a far different agenda with broader and more basic changes to our society than "let people of the same sex get married to each other" which is nowhere near as transformational.

Which goes back to what I liked about what Milan said above: being gay and being trans are somewhat similar, but they're not the same thing. Bunching the movements together obscures more than it enlightens in my mind.

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Yes, there is also a real conflict between some in trans community and some in homosexual community particularly lesbian. Many in trans movement would like to destroy binary concept of gender and make everything a spectrum.

Meanwhile, some homosexual are are adamantly sort of extreme in their gender identity. Many lesbians see their community as a hyper-feminine subculture that has rejected masculinity. And so people like JK Rowling, hope I'm not putting words into her mouth, complain about this, and how trans activism is in conflict with their identity, then get epic backlash for it.

We need to find room to accept people that don't agree with us and just leave them be to do their own thing IMO!

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I obviously want to tread very carefully here due to the history you cite, but I would rather have queer stick as an easy to say one syllable word over the growing alphabet soup assault of the other direction.

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I am not queer. I am gay. Both should go away as far as I am concerned.

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I would be entirely fine with that!

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I wish we could find a more positive or neutral word to replacing queer. Gay is positive. Lesbian is neutral. Bi is a bit medical for my liking but sort of gets the point across, ditto trans. But an overarching terms that’s not insulting is lacking.

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Why do we need an over arching term to combine two different categories? Being gay and being trans should not be combined in my mind

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"I also think that 'person of color' as a term for all nonwhites implies a certain sense of shared culture or values that doesn’t really exist."

I have a similar issue with the term "brown" (which, as an aside, literally makes my stomach turn as I wonder how it suddenly became acceptable for people to talk like a 1950s Jim Crow sheriff) -- why is a 100% anglophone Hispanic whose family has lived in the US since the New Mexico territory was annexed being grouped for political purposes with an immigrant Punjabi Sikh based just on their shared skin tone, something which has no historical basis in either American culture or law?

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Brown, to me, means people like me (i.e., would get "randomly" checked by TSA) and not Hispanic or Latino people.

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Except that it clearly is including Hispanics/Latinos in most usages of it in academia and the media. E.g., "Police Brutality and the Militarization of Black and Brown Communities" (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ace.20427https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ace.20427); "The coronavirus pandemic is hitting black and brown Americans especially hard on all fronts" (https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/08/us/coronavirus-pandemic-race-impact-trnd/index.html).

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Jan 18, 2023·edited Jan 18, 2023

Colloquially amongst younger people, what Milan says is definitely right. I think in the US the major racial categories being White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian didn't really cover well the massive populations in north africa, the middle east, and south asia and so brown came to mean that. Or it has totally different origins and I'm speaking out of my a**.

Edit: For clarification, this is not how I would categorize race, just my perception of what the common parlance is. I am well aware that Hispanic is an imprecise term in its colloquial speech and personally I typically use latin to refer people from Latin America. Frankly, I try by best to avoid race at all costs especially when country of origin/heritage is appropriate and available. My point is that in standard US speech White refers to people with pale skin and European descent, Black is dark skin and African descent, Hispanic is anyone from North America who is not white or black and from an American country other than the US (except for the southwest) or Canada, and Asian refers to a range of skin tones but mostly is meant to mean east Asian heritage. Again, this is not my personal view, just my impression of how the terms are most often used.

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Is a person from Spain Hispanic in your list of races?

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And what about a blonde, blue-eyed Argentinian?

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I live in real life and not the media, though I do presently reside in academia

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You can use the word however you want, but if you refer to "brown people" without further context explaining it, that's probably going to result in many listeners thinking you're including Hispanics. I mean I've never encountered anyone in real life use the term "brown" to refer to a group of people at all, but I certainly get a steady dose of it via mainstream national media (NPR, CNN, etc.) and it's *not* being used as a colloquial synonym for just South Asians. (E.g.,: “'Driving While Brown' Chronicles How Latino Activists Brought Down Arizona's Sheriff Joe Arpaio" -- https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2021/04/20/driving-while-brown-joe-arpaio ; "Many Latinos with indigenous or mestizo backgrounds – people who may otherwise self-identify as 'brown' – are naturally reluctant to fit themselves into the black-white binary of conventional US metrics." -- https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/04/opinions/latino-vote-midterms-republicans-democrats-gest/index.html).

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I assumed “brown” referred to anyone whose skin was darker than a white person, and therefore subject to colorism/racism, but wasn’t black. I always took it to include darker skinned Hispanic people (a fair-skinned Spaniard, probably not).

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That's been my experience, as someone raised around Mexican people and who married into a Mexican-American family. They would say they are brown, even the ones who are fair-skinned. Census forms be damned, none of them would say they are white.

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Jan 18, 2023·edited Jan 19, 2023

Interesting Milan. I know someone here in California who is of 100% Cuban descent and definitely considers himself a POC.

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Another perspective:

"I remember the first time I realized I was a foreigner in my country of birth.

"A month into my first term at a large midwestern university, I got an invitation for a banquet meal in honor of the recipients of some bundle of free cash I’d been awarded. I vaguely remembered having accepted it, but had assumed it was due to grades or SAT scores. Somewhat mystified, I put on that blue blazer most of us had in college (the one with the jingly brass buttons), and headed to the Alumni Hall for the free chow.

"I looked around. Most of the other guests were either Black or Mexican-American in what was and is a very white Midwestern state. As I sat there eating the chicken dinner, and after some interesting chit-chat with my neighbors whom I found as exotic as they apparently found me, it finally dawned on me: Oh, I see….apparently I’m some sort of minority now or something. These people think of me as some sort of Other, and this whole song and dance is part of that Othering."

https://www.thepullrequest.com/p/latinx-plaining-the-election

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Amazing how often attempts to be helpful and kind are resented.

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No, it's amazing how tone-deaf, insulting, and condescending "attempts to be helpful and kind" have become.

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After 9/11 I used to travel for work a lot, often with a colleague who was born in Sri Lanka. He was tagged for random searches every time. Such rotten luck!

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That’s really well said.

“I also think that “person of color” as a term for all nonwhites implies a certain sense of shared culture or values that doesn’t really exist.”

I think “whiteness” does the same thing.

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I confess that I don't even know, in a basic extensional sense, who is actually covered by the term "people of color."

There's a term I see not infrequently these days, BIPOC, which I'm told stands for "black, indigenous, and/or person of color." That seems to suggest that at least some black people are *not* persons of color; otherwise, there'd be no need to add the "B." But I would've thought blackness was the paradigm case of being "of color," so that's confusing to me.

Similarly for "indigenous": the abbreviation implies that there are some I that are neither B nor POC. Does that mean they're white?

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BIPOC always strikes me as Oppression Olympics gone amuck.

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BIPOC sounds like it describes bisexual people of color

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I think what you’re missing in BIPOC is an order rooted in degree of marginalization. I am not sure I agree with the order. Maybe IPBOC, considering what Native Americans had in say 1500 (all of North and South America with diverse cultures) and what they have today...that’s a big loss.

It’s completely off the scale of merely disparate outcomes in income, education or health. The legacy of European migration to the America’s on its native peoples is enormous. What do the America’s look like today if European people stayed home? That’s a good question for the alternative history crowd.

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Thanks for the explanation -- that at least takes care of the apparent definitional confusion that I was pointing out.

It only makes me more antipathetic to the term, though. I can't fathom the appeal of a category meant to apply to what may or may not be the vast bulk of the world's population that's based on a highly tendentious thesis about which members are relatively more "marginal" to some unspecified "center" -- a thesis that has all the marks of being a gratuitous generalization from the historical experience of one society in particular.

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The newest ones tho are "minoritized" and "racialized"- like, heavily suggesting this is all white people's fault, I think? But also, aren't white people being racialized too when you call them white? 🤔🤔🤔

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The idea, I think, is to remind us that race is socially constructed. Of course whites are also racialized, but the argument is that in a white majority society white is seen as the transparent standard. Just like “having an accent” implies having a foreign or minority accent, although every language speaker actually has an accent.

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Race is a social reality and a scientific construct

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Those terms read as painful. Verbing weirds language, indeed. What would the full conjugations even be...racialization? Minoritied? Nothing was wrong with "other"...so score another point for the Carne wordsmiths, I guess. (Carnists?)

As good a piece of rhetoric as it was, that essay "America's First White President" (Coates, I think?) sure made me think: wow, way to encourage white people to see themselves as a separate and distinct race. Solidarity goes in the same bin as colourblindness...in exchange we got the new and improved [Coming Soon].

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I could find both of these terms being useful in the sense of "racialized" meaning "unnecessarily injecting race into something" and "minoritized" meaning "unnecessarily putting someone in an out group". But as your further points suggest, that it likely not what the people you cite have in mind.

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founding

And that’s exactly the point. In some contexts, Jewish people might be minoritized, and in some contexts, they might be treated like the majority. The implicit claim is that this is true of all groups.

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Dominance constructs are weird and we'd all conveniently rather not think about them too logically because they are fundamentally unfair...but we should try

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I don't know that's really responsive to FrigidWind's point about being question-begging, though. Suppose that for any quality that something has, there's a corresponding causal account of how it came to be that way. If we point verbally to the process by naming the quality, isn't that just a circuitous and possibly misleading way of pointing to the quality itself?

That is, if my mattress is soft, should I instead say that it's softized -- since there surely is some set of causes by which it acquired the quality of softness? Is the computer I'm typing this on not "old," but rather "oldized?"

Or, in Moliere's classic example, is saying that sleep is caused by a "dormitive potency" saying anything meaningful at all? Is replacing saying one is asleep with saying one has been "sleepized" any different?

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founding

If there is some constant process by which the softness of your mattress is being renewed and reinforced, it might sometimes be helpful to describe it that way. Once in a while, it might be useful to distinguish who has a clean kitchen because it was cleaned once and then never used, from who has a clean kitchen because they constantly thoroughly clean it after every time they use it.

I think the point is to emphasize that the state of being a minority is not a purely intrinsic state, and the relevant factor here is not just the numerical fact (the way that people whose last name starts with a letter in the second half of the alphabet are minorities) but is the fact about how people are treated differently as a result of the status (it's rare to find a situation where someone is minoritized as a result of the first letter of their last name - though if you constantly call on people in alphabetical order, you might be doing so).

It's of course surely fair to note that most DEI activity *continues* to treat people differently as a result of their status, but their claim is that the *quality* of different treatment might be relevant to whether a treatment is a "minoritization" or not.

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I agree that if there are multiple distinct causal processes that might account for a kitchen's being clean, it's useful to have different words to refer to each of them. But those can't *replace* the concept of cleanness, because it has to be possible for us to agree that a given kitchen is clean while disagreeing about whether it got that way by Path A (frequent cleaning) or Path B (infrequent use).

The real question is whether the term for the process has some independent substantive content, so that "X outcome was produced by Y process" is a falsifiable, non-tautological claim. If "minoritized" just means "treated in whatever way it is that such treatment has the effect of making one a minority," then it's really still the concept of "minority" that's doing all the work.

The danger, though, is that by treating "minoritized" as equivalent to "minority," some unstated substantive assertion about how minorities come to be that way gets smuggled into the definition of "minority" itself. Frankly, I worry that for the language-updaters that's often precisely the desired outcome.

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I do not make these things up…. One example: https://www.pdcnet.org/tej/content/tej_2022_0999_1_7_99 “Using “minoritized” makes it clear that being minoritized is about power and equity not numbers, connects racial oppression to the oppression of women, and gives us an easy way to conceive of intersectionality as being a minoritized member of a minoritized group. ”

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😂

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So, being minoritized is a good thing? Or a bad thing? I'm not sure based on that excerpt.

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In some sense you can acquire race — see this excerpt: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/553643/not-quite-not-white-by-sharmila-sen/

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Jan 18, 2023·edited Jan 18, 2023

One of my elderly aunts still obsessively wears tons of makeup as she was often not accepted as part of the dominant white culture as a child and desperately fought for that her whole life.

Folks forget that in the 40s 50s that Italians Greeks and Jews and others with moderately darker skin, many taken for granted as part of "white" or dominant culture today, weren't considered "White" just a few decades ago, did not have access to top schools (like ones I've attended) or dominant culture.

You can check out the yearbooks of such institutions like my high school alma mater Lawrenceville and find that if you go back just a few decades, almost all students had English king or apostle names, and there was absolutely no one off-white til until after civil rights era and associated reforms. Same went for many country clubs and social clubs.

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Irish people weren't white for a long time in the US. Remember that 100 years ago religion was a bigger deal and Catholicism was othering.

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Yeah, I wouldn’t hate “racialized” if it were being used to point out when someone (of any ethnicity) is being flattened into an avatar of a socially-constructed racial group.

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In social justice logic, a white person can never be “minoritized” on the basis of race because we live in a white supremecist world, QED- nothing to do with quantities of people. Women are also “minoritized” by this logic despite being 52% of the population becuz patriarchy. (Views expressed are not my own.)

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Ha yes. That reminds me, I’ve also heard “global majority” to refer to non-white people!!!

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White minority or minorities is an issue discussed in the context of places like South Africa I believe

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Agree for similar reasons as you (as seen my last name).

I actually think there is a more practical reason "POC" has become in vogue for the same reason I use it ; Twitter has a character limit and it's an easy shorthand way to abbreviate and space.

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That's fine but it's weird to port these terms into normal speech because very few people self-identify as acronyms.

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Sure, but I suspect that's just in part because "online" language just starts becoming part of everyday use more generally. I've definitely had people say "O M G" when seeing something surprising or saying "L O L" . Heck I suspect I've done it without even realizing it.

So yeah, agree with your substantive point about "POC" as a term. But I honestly think it's just become a shorthand for some people use without even thinking about it (perhaps something we should push back on)

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POC, specifically, is mostly an attempt to form a political coalition.

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I think the excessive usage of acronyms and initialisms could also be a sign of being Excessively Online, as they can be simple to use in text but exhaustive to use in everyday conversation.

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RM and NW are one character shorter!

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Very interesting idea!!

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My ancestors since at least the early 1600s, and probably long before, were all from Ireland and Scotland, and thus generally poor and very "white." I have very little pigmentation but even as a child, eight decades ago, it was evident to me that my skin could not realistically be regarded as white in any literal sense. One of the apartment buildings I grew up in had a janitor who was an albino, with a skin distinctly paler than mine. (A very sweet man, who went out of his way to teach a curious little boy the art of throwing coal on the grate of a furnace, raising steam for building heat.) Even at age 6 I could recognize at least some of the multiple levels of absurdity in calling Mr. Evans a, "colored man."

I spent my career as a scientist, working always in quite meritocratic settings where almost all traces of animus against the Irish had faded—one saw only flashes of it among a few of the oldest men. To a very great extent all that really mattered was ability, and few cared about race or ethnicity, per se. Although most of my education and work was in physical sciences and mathematics, I had always also been interested in anthropology and paleoanthropology, and had absorbed much of the anthropologist's detached interest in cultural variations. In particular I had recognized that attitudes ostensibly about race or ethnicity are very largely in fact about cultural traits. Generally, people face positive and negative sanctions from both in- and out-groups to align their cultural traits "appropriately" with their socially-assigned racial/ethnic identity. On the whole this actually seems to work fairly well for most people. Indeed, many are indignant or offended when called out for exerting such pressure. They are usually genuinely unaware of how much pain their "natural" and seemingly innate behaviors can cause.

I early learned that it was generally safest and most productive to avoid racial and ethnic categorization altogether and deal with people individually, without labels. At the same time, it was very clear to me that if you knew something of a person's ethnic origins you had valuable information regarding the likely trend of their culturally-conditioned values and traits.

As for Milan Singh, the notion that anyone could be ignorant of the denotation and connotations of his surname strikes me as a bit astonishing. Surely "Singh" is as distinctively Indian as "O'Neil" is Irish.

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Jan 20, 2023·edited Jan 20, 2023

Thanks for sharing! I found your personal recollection about the fading animus agaisnt Irish among the older men of say 6 decades ago(?) especially interesting.

To your last question. May I remind you that not all of us have been around for 8 decades, and moreover that the us remains a nation of immigrants (and, besides, that some here aren’t even American). Without growing up and living besides Indian communities, and considering their underrepresentation in western media (a fortiori canonical western literature) , why is it so surprising that some of us wouldn’t see “Singh” and have an immediate understanding of the ethnic implications ? It’s no more surprising than the fact that I bet for half the people here “Goldstein” is not that obvious as it was for Orwell and is for Rowling , or indeed how O’Neil might not be obvious to those not raised in the Anglosphere or with a healthy dose of English literature (for which incidentally the Irish and the Scots made an enormous contribution!)

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I've always thought that "POC" was a weird circumlocution for "non-white," and people get really uncomfortable when you point it out. But hey, at least it looks like I'm not alone 😂

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I am nonwhite, not clear on whether I’m a BIPOC or not.

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I think it's a word that people use to describe other people most of the time - I've never known anyone who describes themselves as "BIPOC" but I've seen it in many, many institutional statements etc.

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You’re right in your reasoning, and you’re far from alone. MY is making a rhetorical hyperbole. Using minorities is fine and in fact preferable in many cases. It has the heuristic advantage of suggesting the inherent reason for potential discrimination /power imbalance (the crude realty of numbers, the perceptions it creates of difference). It has the further advantage of being universal and neutral- applicable to any society and not using very historically and culturally-specific , highly loaded and ontologically questonable terms such as color/white as you point out. And yes it’s broader, but that is an advantage more often than not. Forces you to think about other kinds of disadvantages, but also to what actually is unique to racial minorities as opposed to others. All and al a *much* better term in many cases.

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But Indians are one of the ORM's and so don't count as POC's, or so I understand. :)

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When it's time to get-out-the-vote for Democrats they suddenly count as POCs again.

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Well the other guys are talking about "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" (while keeping plutocratic ghoulishness quiet) so I will take my chances

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Not necessarily a good one. In my canvassing in No Va, south Asians lean Democratic and East Asians lean Republican.

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Most of the time the results are absurd, like the examples of Thomas and Wigan above, but I do think it's useful to comprehend that almost everyone is privileged in some manners and oppressed in other manners. The precise amounts of each differ by person, of course, and are rarely in equal proportions, but it would be a lot more honest way to confront these societal differences that come up. But we tend not to because it complicates simple narratives that people want to push.

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You should do that!

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I find it interesting that, like the author in the video, we continue to assume white is “default” and “not seen” in America. Seems like over the last ten years there’s been a staggering increase in talking about whiteness, and never in a good way (not that I want to talk about whiteness in a good way either). At what point do we admit that “white” is another way we “racialize” people just like all the other groups?

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The author is my mom.

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Thanks for sharing your insightful and very much valid perspective Milan

There are others however, and although I am not a person of color, I am friends and acquaintances with several who describe themselves as such. Please consider that to the ancestors of African American slaves, nearly all cultural connection to their ancestry has been removed as the institution of slavery very systematically destroyed such, the language and practices, education and literacy often forbidden.

I absolutely treasure my ancestral Greek heritage and culture - it sounds like maybe you do too with you Indian ancestry and culture. I am friends with many Indian families, as are my kids, unlike in my childhood, where I had very little exposure to Indian Americans in my education, and when I did, in the 80s and 90s they were very much culturally excluded and a distinct minority. I remember horrible attitudes, for example a recurring episode in my elite prep school in which teenage white kids would try to knock the turban off a Sikh boy's head (with snowballs or apples), consistently, as a joke

For millions and millions of Americans whose ancestry was scrubbed of those direct connections, "People of color" is a fitting identity, one that indirectly references this stripping of more specific ancestral cultural. Live and let live bro. Peace.

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If "people of color" is meant to refer exclusively to the descendants of African American slaves, that'd be interesting and highly clarifying to know. But empirically that doesn't seem to be how the phrase is used at all.

And if it's not, then I don't really understand your argument. Why invent a term to lump together groups that do and groups that don't have the specific historical experience that you claim justifies using the term to begin with?

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I don't think it is exclusively a term for slave descendants either. Just perhaps a fitting term if one's ancestry has been scrubbed. And not just me saying that, but one that speaks to many people and their conception of their own identity.

I didn't invent ANY of these terms btw

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Its like the NAACP is librul woke institution that only exists in whiteboy colleges or something

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Jan 18, 2023·edited Jan 18, 2023

Yep, that venerated, decades old civil rights organization with an enormous successful track record of promoting the "Advancement of Colored People" (a term I've quoted from the organization's title)......refers to a term that I should not use because it is "an affectation of upper class people (and not all of them at that)."

Cool story bro

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So the people I know who call themselves people of color (many of which are decidedly NOT upper class) don't actually exist because you know more Indians than me?

Did I say a word about the term latinx? It is a term I've never once used in actual conversation

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Isn’t “minority” still centering whiteness?

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As a non-white minority person of colour, I'm glad Milan wrote the <s>person experiencing metallurgy</s> steelman version of the low-effort comment I was gonna reply with. Yes indeed - do I get any say in this labeling business, or is it just for whites? Just for PMC? Is it like certain other "reclaimed" terms where only the people actually in those categories can use them without offense? (Not a show I care for, but I did appreciate "Fresh Off the Boat" for taking back a former slur.)

I do often find my values and aesthetic choices aligned with those of elites...elegance is required in all things. But fussiness around words seems like a particularly pernicious type of White Saviour Syndrome. I am reminded of that controversial term Latinx, for example. "Hey, in our grand consideration, we thought about potential ways our mental model of a person of Latin ancestry might potentially be offended, and came up with a new term for you! Aren't you grateful?" Many Such Cases. It's especially jarring cause that same mentality is also likely to emphasize Centering Voices of Colour and Lived Experience and Preferred Pronouns and _____ People Are Not A Monolith and such. Protip: we're perfectly capable of coming up with our own labels, maybe simply ask first next time?

But of course, as Matt points out, the point often __isn't__ to improve anything, let alone actual material conditions. (Which is hard! A money here, an effort there, and sooner or later you're talking about real work.) It's just status games all the way down. And the annoying thing is that - it works. Because by being alienated and complaining about such norms here, I'm self-selecting out of elite culture in a big way. They win, more pie for them. As Marx (no, the other one) would say though: I don't want to belong to a club that would accept me as a member. Cause you can't be elitist without first being elite.

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Jan 18, 2023·edited Jan 18, 2023

It really is shibboleths all the way down.

“We don’t say third world; we say global south”

“Doesn’t global south just mean third world? Like aren’t we talking about the same countries”

“Yes but third world is offensive”

“But regardless of what term you use, you’re still grouping these countries together just because they are poor and underdeveloped”

“No we are grouping them together because they all suffer from the legacy of colonialism”

“…which resulted in them being poor and underdeveloped. We are literally saying the same thing”

“But you’re saying it the wrong way.”

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Jan 18, 2023·edited Jan 18, 2023

Bingo. I've been watching these things spiral for 40+ years, and after a certain amount of changes in terminology it starts to sound sillier and sillier. The arguments always sound reasonable, so you nod along and wholeheartedly support them, but then 10 years later the terms that you thought sounded so great that had such reasonable arguments in support of them come under attack by new great sounding words with reasonable arguments and you start to realize that EVERY term can be attacked by people creative enough to think of problems with them. If the underlying thing you're describing is what's actually problematic then you're never going to find a word that can't be tied to the problematic aspects of what it's describing. You have to change those underlying characteristics to actually have an impact. I think it's only a matter of time before "global south" becomes a problem and disfavored ("you're implying that being born relative to a hemispherical line somehow makes people disadvantaged, so labeling people as poor/backwards due solely to the relative global position of their birth is inherently racist and centers the global north as the default and acceptable location of one's birthplace." or something similar), so at some point we all have to just agree that the words themselves are just descriptions of things and not inherently problematic. But we won't ever do that because it's not polite or acceptable, so this process is never ending.

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I think you see this most keenly with terms around disability, where in some cases we’re on our third or fourth generation of new term.

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My older brother was born with an extreme form of cerebral palsy and has been quadriplegic all his life. He's happy and his quality of life is good. Things that have made a difference: curb cuts, better wheelchairs, excellent staff in the group home where he lives. Things that have not: whether he is described as "handicapped," "disabled," or something else.

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I have seen an absolutely dramatic change in attitudes regarding disabled people since my youth. I’m surprised this isn’t seen as a quality of life issue

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Somebody floated "shithole countries" as an alternative a few years back, but for some reason it never really caught on.

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Scott Alexander has a good post describing exactly what you're talking about here: https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/07/18/the-whole-city-is-center/

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Good luck trying to reign in changes in language.

Might as well try herding butterflies.

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Lol, who’s trying to prevent language from changing? Maybe reread what I wrote *shrug*

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It reminds me of how in high school in the 90s I got confused by people saying we should use “CE” instead of “AD” on the theory that the latter foregrounds religion while the former doesn’t. But you’re still basing the calendar on the supposed year of Christ’s birth! Except now, by not acknowledging what you’re doing, you’re treating it as an agreed-upon fact that this is how the calendar should go (“common era”), whereas at least AD acknowledged it as an explicitly religious distinction, one that nonreligious people can observe without believing.

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Jan 18, 2023·edited Jan 18, 2023

I prefer CE as Jesus is not my lord, which is what you technically profess whenever you write AD, though I agree its a ridiculously minor quibble. I always tell my students that they can either use BC/AD or BCE/CE but have to be consistent. No mixing ;)

(to your point though - you can always interpret "CE" as "Christian Era" if you wish)

P.S.

CE is also easier because if you're a pedant like me you'd know that AD goes before the year and BC after, which is confusing, whereas both BCE and CE go after so it's easier and more consistent

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Some religious Jews of my acquaintance refuse to write AD because they view it as idolatrous.

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Some of us aren't too excited by acknowledging 2023 as the "Year of the Lord 2023." You have start counting years somewhere and Jesus's birth is as good as any other, I guess. (Though we non-Christians can smugly point out that you lot got it wrong and are actually off by ~4 years.)

But if everyone wants to switch the year to 5783 we chosen folks will be fine with that. Has a real Star Trek vibe.

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Many of our months are named to honor Roman gods and emperors. There's historical baggage with most things.

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Happy Wotan Day

Looking forward to Thor's Day tomorrow

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Sure, I can't tell you how to feel. I guess for me, the fact that we're arbitrarily going with the ~year of Christ's birth as a place to start counting means that we may as well acknowledge it, and doing so with medieval Latin distances it from anything I actually believe.

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Agreed: I don't particularly like that we're using a guess of the year Jesus Christ was born as where to start counting, but I dislike the obscuring of that fact much more.

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Jan 18, 2023·edited Jan 18, 2023

Who cares? The definition of the meter is that it's one-ten millionth of the distance from the equator to the North Pole along the meridian through Paris. The bland term "meter" totally obscures that origin and meaning yet I'm okay that people don't keep that origin firmly in mind when watching athletes competing in the 100 meter race (which, btw, is 1/100,000th of the distance from the equator to the North Pole).

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It does mean that the circumference of the earth is conveniently 40,000km.

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Not applicable to history, of course, but in the natural sciences, time in the past is increasingly rendered BP these days.

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Where "Present" is defined as "AD 1950" because that's the date that the calibration samples for radiocarbon dating were taken. This means we are currently in 73 YAP (years after present).

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I was always familiar with mya, millions of years ago. Obviously not useful on a time span less than 1 mya, though.

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This reminds me of the story about the high school teacher who took his students to a dig where they saw the fossilized bones of an ancient dog embedded in the rocks. The teacher solemnly told them that the fossils were five million and twenty years old. Seeing their confusion, he explained that *his* teacher had taken his class to the same site twenty years ago and told them the bones were five million years old.

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Sure. I think I've seen "BP" most frequently in the context of archeology and paleoanthropology. The human connection (we're very much still here) is perhaps why "present" is emphasized.

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I find that whole thing rather irksome, honestly, but I find all insistence that we should bend to religious sensitivities irksome.

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I think you are engaging in what Matt describes as "getting mad at language change." Yes, these terms keep changing. Yes, there is something extremely arbitrary at the end of the day about what we term offensive and what we term polite. But that's just how language works. It absolutely can get silly ("Latinx"), but if any phrase was ever ripe for retirement, it is "third world." I don't know that many people can identify what the term "second world" used to refer to. The cold war order that these terms referenced doesn't exist in any meaningful way anymore. Is China third world? Also, come on: the term actually is pretty explicitly condescending.

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Isn't "South" kind of confusing as well, though? Afghanistan is about the same latitude as Ohio. Mongolia is farther north than that. Singapore is on the Equator and Uruguay is a middle income country.

Another problem with all these terms is I usually have no idea what countries are actually being referred to or often what's being attempted by the grouping. Ethiopia and Argentina and Afghanistan have very little in common with each other, for example, and I can hardly find a reason to try to put them together in some meaningful category.

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I've sometimes seen the term "developed South" used to distinguish Argentina, Chile, South Africa, etc.

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I think Matt is wrong on this and getting mad at language change can be sensible, particularly when the change is top-down elitism rather than organic.

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Jan 18, 2023·edited Jan 18, 2023

I agree, particularly when there's often a not-at-all hidden "Newspeak" agenda involved on the part of the people trying to direct the changes in language (see, e.g., gendered language in the context of trans issues).

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Totally agree. I'm baffled by the logical leap from "arbitrary and always changing" to it being unreasonable to object to any particular change.

Property rights (to take just one example) are also arbitrary and always changing. Does that mean criticizing new land use restrictions is the lowest form of YIMBY politics?

There's also a huge difference between something's being arbitrary in the sense of its having been willed by nobody in particular, like the grammatical structure of English, and something's being arbitrary in the sense of the willed imposition of one individual or group's preferences on others.

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Isn't his whole point here that language change isn't about some sort of normal, acceptable, or organic language change but rather about changing language to create new systems of exclusion?

If we invent new language or change current language because of new knowledge or needs (I dunno - I expect as quantum computing advances language will change in reaction to new knowledge about the universe) it is silly to be mad at that.

But language change that is designed to create new political or social groupings or offer new signal for in-groupness or out-groupness? Seems rational to be mad about that especially if you are in the new outgroup somebody is trying to create.

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I think you're largely right about the political dynamics. But another way of looking at it is that when one feels one never has a seat at the table where the new language is being formulated, the neologisms' very existence, to say nothing of the expectation that one will use them, can feel like an insult and a wrong.

That is, there doesn't have to be anything intrinsically objectionable about a phrase like "developing countries"* for conservatives to feel its use as a reminder of their second-class status within the institutions that decide what the "correct" term is going to be. In which case there isn't really any civil conversation to be had about the merits of the terms themselves.

* I've never noticed much in the way of conservative ire about "developing countries" in particular -- maybe I'm just not talking to the right people -- but I'll take it as a valid token of the general phenomenon.

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Is there any topic where it makes sense to just get mad and stomp your feet? Of course debating the merits of language changes is a better approach than just grousing about them, but that’s not specific to language--you’re just describing the difference between productive and unproductive discourse.

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It was originally "third" in the sense of "third party", ie it was "outside the conflict (of the cold war)". Not just "non-aligned" but also distant.

I tend to prefer "developing countries".

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I mean, there's some pretty heavy irony there, considering that these countries weren't even slightly outside of the cold war. They often were very deeply, painfully enmeshed in the cold war as client states.

Regardless, I tend to favor "developing" as well. To the extent that any umbrella term makes sense, it seems meaningful to characterize countries by measures like their level of industrialization and per-capita GDP.

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Ah, well, the Non-Aligned Movement was originally Yugoslavia, India, Egypt, Ghana and Indonesia. Most African nations were still First World, being colonies of NATO members in 1961.

The massive expansion of decolonisation and the clientelism was still in the future when the term was invented.

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In contrast to the no longer or scarcely developing countries. :)

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When I was first taught the term, it was UDCs for "under-developed countries".

But developing vs developed is a useful distinction, as long as you bear in mind that, like any simple binary, it simplifies and conceals a lot of complexity.

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UCD or "developing" can be useful if you know your audience and you're all on the same page. But it's more often still fraught with danger.

Suppose MY mentioned "developing countries" in a post without much further clarification. You and I could have wildly different ideas on which countries and areas of the world that means.

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founding

I think it would be clearer than “global south” or “third world”.

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Was LDC's before or after? :)

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I don't use the term "Third World" much because I agree that it's lost relevance since the end of the Cold War, but I would dispute that the term was "pretty explicitly condescending" -- it was coined by a French historian (Alfred Sauvy) in 1952 to describe countries that stood outside the East vs. West frame of the Cold War and, per him, was inspired by the French concept of the "Third Estate," and I think also pretty clearly influenced by the concept of the "Third Way," which was a term often used in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries to describe a path between capitalism and socialism/communism.

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China was second world IIRC. And it seems to me that the "getting mad at language change" gripe is equally applicable to "getting mad at language" argument- it all depends on context. "Third world" wasn't objectionable until it was- folks had to decide that it was actually problematic. The condescension you're highlighting can be inferred if you want to, but you can just as easily infer condescension in literally any terminology that applies to as broad a group as the term is referencing. Global south doesn't strike me as inherently less condescending, it's just that the folks who infer condescension in TW have decided, for the moment, not to infer it in GS.

Personally, I'm with you in that getting upset about the changes is silly to an extent. When the purpose of the language change is to be able to easily identify undesirables or those with backwards/ignorant thinking so that we can condemn them then it can get problematic, but if we don't do that then whatever, who cares. But spending time pretending that calling a country one from the GS as opposed calling it TW makes literally any difference whatsoever to the world and lived experiences of anyone living in it strikes me as pretty silly.

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founding

“Third world” became problematic precisely at the end of the Cold War, because it was specifically a Cold War term.

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Jan 18, 2023·edited Jan 18, 2023

On the other hand, "Global South" was an inaccurate term the day it was coined since it excludes literal Australia, the continent named for being Southerly!

(I actually sympathize with the idea that First / Second / Third world had technical connotations specific to the Cold War that are worth preserving for the sake of precision, but the general point that we as a society stopped using "Third World" for aggravating euphemism treadmill reasons instead of meritorious reasons of technical precision is reasonably self-evident. On the other hand, at least developing / developed nation status allows for granularity based on the metrics that people are actually referring to when they use these terms, so I'll give that terminology a bye.)

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How are you defining problematic? As someone who was alive in the 90s, I can say that I never once heard anyone claim it was "problematic" once the wall came down, at least not in the way that term seems to be being used in this context. I think it's fair to say we should stop using it because it's not an accurate term anymore post-cold war, but that's different than claiming it's condescending or insulting in some way that GS isn't.

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Jan 18, 2023·edited Jan 18, 2023

Yeah, the inaccuracy thing was the reason I stopped using it in the 1990s.

It’s weird to call developing countries “third world” when it includes Soviet Bloc nations! This was a useful affectation in debate class, since it made me look smarter and more thoughtful. And more pedantic.

Honestly, it was a language choice that gave you everything you could ever want in HS debate.

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This is maybe the best explanation for my "third-world" should reasonably be deprecated in favor of "the global south", so thanks! So much so, in fact, that I'm not sure you really need the final sentence. Condescension is a matter of felt implication, and not, I think, necessarily inherent in the concatenation of "third" and "world", ipso facto. Honestly the first time I heard the term when I was young I thought it just meant "Earth", since there's Mercury and Venus before us.

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It's true that the term is defunct on the merits, but I think it would be disingenuous to ignore the implied (?) hierarchy in the term. Some terms change over time simply because they become dated or acquire associations (colored, Afro-American, African American, Black), and it's hard to argue that the phrases are inherently distasteful. But third world? Eh, I'm pretty sure India didn't come up with that one.

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Except we do need hierarchies! Certainly the term lost some of its utility after the end of the Cold War, but I still think it’s useful to distinguish , strong , competent , but evil regimes (China) from failed states (Somalia) and both from good (politically free, socially stable, economically prosperous) countries (Sweden). I don’t think we need to apologize for creating terms reflecting these value judgments. I do agree though that we might need something more up to date than third world.

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Why is it explicitly condescending? Don’t get it.

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It’s at least partially the euphemism treadmill.

“Third world” describes a set of conditions that are bad and, so, come to have deeply negative meanings its elites would like to avoid.

So a new word is devised which soon, because it is a word for something negative, gathers the same baggage and becomes unacceptable as well.

The baggage itself is, taking from Matt’s piece, mostly that people at least kind of agree that it takes centuries to make a gentleman. Your doctor who came from moderate means in a country of few would like to portray themselves as inheriting something glorious, not as the son of a grain dealer who was prosperous for a place where many people don’t have whatever basic thing it would be comically embarrassing to lack.

After all, this is America and most people here see that kind of story as creating authenticity. But that whole concept seems to be more for college admissions essays these days.

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Why can't we just give everyone the benefit of the doubt? After all, just conversing about these issues indicates a willingness to learn in most cases. As for those who intentionally use racist language to display actual racist attitudes, well, Jesus said "love your neighbor."

I'm not convinced that judging people for attitudes has that much to do with addressing systemic racism baked into laws, lending algorithms, employment traditions etc. For example, it's probably more effective to formally discipline employees who harass their female colleagues and use racist language with the intent of offending fellow employees, then to try to convince or shame people into changing their internal biases and attitudes.

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