Tim (littlebluedog) wrote,
Tim
littlebluedog

  • Mood:
  • Music:

shift

A conversation with Tori the other day, as such conversations usually do, got me to thinking, in this case about the shifting meanings of certain terms, or more particularly the shifting social interpretation of certain terms.

Some examples include the words "Negro," "Oriental," "retarded," and so forth. Each of these were coined originally to describe a category, or a trait or characteristic that members of a group of people have in common. So far as I'm able to tell, none were really used in a perjorative sense; all were pretty neutral according to the dominant social usage paradigm ofthe time.

For example, "negro" (and "Negro") was considered the proper designator for black Africans during the time of slavery, regardless of the status of the person (free, slave, freed slave, etc.). Now, of course, the term has fallen into disfavor, being interpreted almost universally as connoting racist sentiment.

All that is background, though, to my current line of inquiry, so suffice it to say that there are plenty of terms that were once "ok" but are now "not-ok," at least according to the current dominant social usage paradigm. So my current inquiry is how businesses and entities that have used these terms in their names have adjusted to the paradigm shift.

I'll start by conceding that I can't think of a number sufficient to demonstrate any identifiable trend, but the two examples I have both seem to have incorporated the same practice: they have both reacted by invoking the "not-ok" term only in their names, but nowhere else, and don't clearly (or at all) indicate why.

Example 1: The United Negro College Fund

In nearly 100 webpages of text, the over 900 uses of the word "Negro," with only one exception, are used in the context of the name of the organization. The organization's acronym "UNCF" is invoked about twice as often. Interestingly, the UNCF seems to downplay any particular emphasis on African American (or "black" students), instead broadening their support demographic to include students of any minority, or even students that do not belong to a minority. More pertinent to my focus, however, is the lack of any explanation (that I could find) as to the singular usage of the term "Negro" as part of the entity's name.

Example 2: The Arc (formerly(?) the Association for Retarded Citizens)

It took some sleuthing, but I found a text document that explains the name change, which was done in 1992:

"The Arc's name change is the result of a vote by delegates attending the organization's annual national convention in Portland, Ore., in October 1991. Members, chapter leaders, young parents and people who have mental retardation had become increasingly uncomfortable over careless, inappropriate and too-frequent use of the label "retarded." The word, therefore, became unacceptable in the association's name."

My google-fu gave out at this point, since I can't figure out how to determine if the text document is linked anywhere in the website. Nowhere I could ascertain in about 20 minutes of clicking, which I'd say is analogous to not having the information available in the first place.

Conclusion:

Welp, dunno if I really have enough input to formulate one, at this point, nor do I really know if I think a different approach than the "Huh? Nothing to see here!" mentality that seems to be exhibited by the UNCF and the Arc. I guess I'm a little despondent at the approach, which I see as wishy-washy, simply because of a passively implicit acceptance that the term at issue no longer has the universal social acceptance it used to, but also a dogged adherence to its continued use.

But the latter is out of a sense of ... what? Tradition? Pride? Putting on my trademark attorney hat, I think it just might be marketing: has brand recognition eclipsed these entities' whole-hearted retreat from using a non-PC term? Is that ok? Not-ok?
Tags: deep+thoughts
Subscribe

  • Vegas Trip rundown

    Nic and I just had a long weekend in Vegas. Her folks treated us, in honor of Nic's Spring Break and completion of the first part of her nursing…

  • weekend, I Am Number Four

    Very silly. I'm not sure what I expected; I persuaded my friend Dave to see it with me today based on the trailer alone, which I saw some weeks…

  • bippity bop

    Incremental progress is still progress. Of course, when you have to describe it that way, it's nothing to get excited about. Talking, of course,…

  • Post a new comment

    Error

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 13 comments

  • Vegas Trip rundown

    Nic and I just had a long weekend in Vegas. Her folks treated us, in honor of Nic's Spring Break and completion of the first part of her nursing…

  • weekend, I Am Number Four

    Very silly. I'm not sure what I expected; I persuaded my friend Dave to see it with me today based on the trailer alone, which I saw some weeks…

  • bippity bop

    Incremental progress is still progress. Of course, when you have to describe it that way, it's nothing to get excited about. Talking, of course,…