A little powwow about political correctness

The other day, I was writing a sentence in which I used the term “Indian style” to describe a way someone sat. I haven’t used the term in years. Then a little voice inside my head said, Wait a minute, Chris. You may want to go online and check this out, because things have changed since you were a boy. ‘Indian style’ may be offensive nowadays.

Sure enough, that voice was right. “Indian style” is now considered offensive to Native Americans. The big question is why, and the answer only furthers my opinion that people are getting way too offended.

To sit “Indian style” means to sit on the floor with your legs crossed (almost in the shape of a pretzel). It’s a variant of the lotus position, which is a yoga pose, a type of meditative exercise developed over 5,000 years ago…in India, where the people are correctly called Indians. So when one sits Indian style on the floor, they’re replicating a contemplative or studious physical position developed by an ancient and highly spiritual people.

I think someone missed the mark, here.

While researching “Indian style,” I started to wonder why using the word “Indian” to reference a Native American (or American Indian) was offensive in the first place. In an attempt to skip an entire and lengthy history lesson on the etymology of the word “Indian,” I’ll just say there is none. Indian is a proper term, and without a derogatory adjective placed before it (drunk, dirty, etc…), Indian is not offensive when referencing either Native Americans or people from India.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that Native American (the most popular term used to reference an American Indian) isn’t even correct. Before Europeans settled America and named this land “America,” the natives referred to themselves by their tribal names: Cherokee, Apache, Shoshoni, etc…. The word “American” wasn’t in their vocabulary. Additionally, anyone born on American soil is, in fact, a native American.

In truth, I’m all for political correctness. It’s done away with some truly derogatory slang used describe types of people. But what almost does offend me (and I’m incredibly tough to offend—criticisms or labels are either on the mark or wildly off in my experience and not worth arguing or getting your feathers ruffled over) is when political correctness goes absolutely bonkers.

I read online the other day that there is a growing number of gender-identity extremists (I call them extremists, they call themselves politically correct) who insist on not referring to babies by their proper pronouns—him/her, he/she—because they may not associate to their birth gender. Instead, they say it’s politically correct to say “baby self.” Seriously!? Baby self!? I don’t think any baby associates to their birth gender, anyway. They just are. But let’s explore baby self for a second with a couple examples.

Politically incorrect: She likes mashed bananas.

Politically correct: Baby self likes mashed bananas.

Politically incorrect: Let’s make him a goblin costume this year for Halloween.

Politically correct: Let’s make baby self a goblin costume this year for Halloween.

I’m sorry, but if you talk like that to a baby, you will turn him or her into a linguistic goblin and probably give them an associative disorder and end up with an adult who can’t relate to any identity but rather speaks about themselves in the third person: Chris owns a newspaper for a living. Chris enjoys pizza. Chris likes summer nights. That sounds like the makings of a psychopath.

My son was born a boy. I see proof of that every time I change his diaper. He’s a boy until the day he comes up to me and says he associates more to women than to men, and is serious. And if that day comes, I’d say, “Okay, what’s your dress size?” Of course, that’s probably offensive because how dare I assume that because I have a boy who associates more to a girl that I should naturally assume he (or she?) wants to wear a dress? This is the type of bonkers I’m talking about.

And going back to Indian style, what’s also bonkers is what kids in school are now being told when they’re asked to sit Indian style on the floor. Rather than take a seat on the floor or sit cross-legged (which is the appropriate term), kids today are being asked to sit “crisscross applesauce, spoons in the bowl.” Spoons in the bowl being your hands in your lap.

Putting aside that this makes absolutely no sense at all, instead of asking kids to embrace a thoughtful, reflective state, what association we’re actually teaching our kids with “crisscross applesauce, spoons in the bowl” is that their bodies are mashed fruit and their hands are spoons.

Way to go political correctness.

Editor’s note: Much of the part of this column about the terminology for Native Americans or American Indians and their role in our language was derived from a great The Huffington Post article by Tim Giago, called “The name ‘Indian’ and Political Correctness.’ It can be found here: www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-giago/the-name-indian-and-polit_1_b_67593.html

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