This refers to PB's post Brown Bag Lunch.
I should begin here by stating my biases. My primary bias that is relevant to this discussion is that I really hate anything that makes a cause I basically believe in look stupid.
So I will say that my bias at first leads me to question the point of having an issue with the term "Brown Bag Lunch."
Now, what sort of issue Starr King had with the term is a different question. The actual words of Melissa Mummert's article on the issue are:
At an all-school meeting one afternoon, a faculty member announced, "Because of the racist connotations of the phrase brown bag lunch, we will now be using the term BYOL, 'bring your own lunch'
The direction of people's indignation over this issue seems partially to hinge on whether they take "We" to mean "the administration or the people leading this meeting" or "all of Starr King, including you."
I'm going to take on faith that Mummert quoted the announcement accurately and say I find the sentence too ambiguous to make the call, an odd problem for a sentence about language usage to have. The SKSM students who commented on PB's post imply that the speaker just meant she was talking about how the administration was going to talk. To me that begs the question of why announce the change. Just make the change.
I don't get the need to make a big announcement about it, where the racist usage of brown bags must be explained to everyone who hasn't lived in New Orleans.
That sort of reminds me of how I didn't know that Marilyn Monroe died naked until I heard the part of that Elton John song where he complained that people talked about it too much.
The need to make the big announcement has a "Ta-Da! Look how sensitive we are being!" ring to it that strikes me as, well, Sinkford-esque. That said, I sincerely appreciate their not putting out a press release on the issue.
I do have another bias on this issue, though. Call it "live and let live unless people are getting hurt." I really don't care what people call their lunch meetings. If some people find "brown bag" offensive, I really don't mind just letting them have their way. I don't really have a dog in the fight.
As I analyze my thoughts, I'm realizing that the all-school meeting announcement is really what I have an issue with. And I suspect that I'm not alone on this among people who mocked the issue.
If PB, Jeff or anyone else who talked about how stupid it was would care to tell me if I'm alone on this one in the comments, I would appreciate it, but isn't the big announcement really the issue? If someone had quietly pointed out the issue to the administration and they had quietly made the change, would anyone care?
I object to the big announcement for several reasons.
1. It gives the impression that the speaker sees the new policy as some big thing to be proud of, a blow against racism. Do the listeners go home feeling SKSM has done its good deed for the day?
2. It really does sound ridiculous to anyone who hasn't given it thought, and to a fair percentage of people who have. Like people getting fired for using the word "niggardly," which has exactly zero to do with the n-word in meaning or in word origins, or having issues with the word "picnic," which has a widely-believed word origins story that isn't true, I think picking small, silly-sounding linguistic battles is ultimately damaging to a cause. '
3. The ambiguity of the phrasing and the administration's announcement really does imply a certain "we will tell you how to talk" PC bossiness that seems to naturally rankle people.
Anyway, that's where I got on the issue.