Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Robin Williams once laughed at British police for being forbidden from carrying firearms, but the American comedian might find the latest London no-no even more hilarious, for now Scotland Yard has disarmed their staff of the word “blacklist,” out of concern it might be considered racist.
Apparently, the computer term “whitelist” – denoting a list of acceptable contacts – has also been deemed a weapon too dangerous to yield.
In an email from Scotland Yard Security Services Chief Brian Douglas, the Sun reports, London’s police force was told members of their Information Board “are uncomfortable” with the terms.
“I am sure we can appreciate the sensitivity around the use of such terminology today,” Douglas wrote, “so please ensure it is no longer used.”
The Sun quotes one source at London’s Metropolitan Police – where 20 officers are reportedly under investigation for racism – scoffing, “Do we really think these words are discriminatory? The truth is they’re nothing to do with race whatsoever and are very common IT terms. Banning them won’t solve any genuine problems the Met has with racism.”
Scotland Yard told The Sun the decision wasn’t an official policy, but only a change in internal terminology that “reflects a more appropriate use of language.”
But lest Americans grow smug in pointing fingers at England’s “sensitivity” police, the U.S. has plenty of its own examples of political correctness among public servants.
In 2008, a Dallas County, Texas, official demanded an apology after a fellow commissioner – who happens to be white – referred to the county’s collections office as a “black hole.”
Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is black, Fox News reported, said that type of language is unacceptable.
At the meeting, the first official said his comments about the “black hole” were meant in reference to the astronomical phenomenon of a collapsed star with extreme gravitational pull.
Still, Wiley told Fox News, he believes “black hole” and other “black” terms are racist.
“So if it’s ‘angel food cake,’ it’s white. If it’s ‘devil’s food cake,’ it’s black,” Wiley said. “If you’re the ‘black sheep of the family,’ then you gotta be bad, you know? ‘White sheep,’ you’re OK.”
Several years earlier, in a WND column called “Rolling over on phony charges of racism,” David Limbaugh reminded readers of other officials who were disciplined or lost their jobs for using the term “niggardly,” which only sounds like the derogatory “N-word,” but is linguistically of no relation.
“In Washington, D.C. … David Howard, an aide to the mayor, was pressured to resign because he innocuously uttered the word ‘niggardly’ to describe a fund he was administering,” Limbaugh wrote. “The word’s meaning is light years from the one denoting a racial slur. ‘Niggardly’ means ‘grudgingly mean about spending or granting,’ or ‘stingy.’ The ‘N-word’ is a pejorative to describe blacks. Any dictionary of etymology further reveals there is no connection between the historical evolution of the two words.”
Nonetheless, D.C.’s Mayor Anthony Williams accepted Howard’s resignation, telling reporters, “I don’t think that the use of this term showed the kind of judgment that I like to see in our top management.”
Limbaugh also pointed to the case of Stephanie Bell, a fourth-grade teacher in Wilmington, N.C., who taught her students “niggardly” as a new vocabulary word when seeking a synonym for “stingy.”
A parent of one student then wrote Bell a letter saying the word was not allowed in her house, regardless of its meaning.
“Common sense tells you not to put a word like that on the board,” she said.
Eventually, the student was moved to another class, the school sent a letter of apology to the parent and Bell agreed not to use the word in her class anymore, though the parent continued to insist that Bell be fired.