Some universities now include warnings about “micro-aggressions” in their orientation programs for new students. As I understand it, that’s an unintended sleight, such as saying “you guys” as a plural, when some people present are female. Of course, every new anchor and on-air reporter I’ve seen says “Back to you guys” every broadcast.
You’re not supposed to ask Asian students to help with your math homework if you don’t know them, nor ask a tall person if he or she is a basketball player. Combined with “safe zones” and “trigger warnings” it seems that colleges have become great cradles of insulation rather than crucibles of learning. Free speech is still fine, of course, so long as you’re not opposed to the prevailing politics on campus.
I find the other side of this rarely examined: Some people are too readily “micro-aggressed.” They seek out reason to be offended and want to burnish their badge as a professional victim. I’ve seen too many people count pronouns in a speech or publication (male vs. female), too many people find a sleight in an inoffensive comment or moment. (A school official in California was temporarily fired for using the word “niggardly,” which means “stingy and ungenerous” in relation to school funding.) The double-speak featured in the novel 1984 is really best exemplified today by the overindulgence in political correctness. (My wife told me to stop on my errands to pick up our clothing at Oriental Cleaners. My son and daughter said to us, condescendingly, “We say ‘Asian’ now.” I told them they’d better tell the Chinese owners of the store to change their signs in that case.)
If you go through the day looking to take offense, you undoubtedly will. If you go through the day giving others the benefit of the doubt and trying to live a constructive life, you undoubtedly will.
Unless you enroll in one of those universities.
As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary.
— Ernest Hemingway
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