It often feels like we are barrelling head first towards an Orwellian society where it is no longer safe to do or say anything. The latest no-no is micro-aggression, outlined in this very interesting article by Frank Furedi:
Since the days that I could afford to ride in a taxi I have always asked cabbies with surnames I do not recognise: “Where are you from?”
I have a fascination with names and people’s origins, and enjoy discussing with cab drivers their personal stories.
It wasn’t until last November that I learned my curiosity regarding people’s origins can now be condemned as an act of micro-aggression.
I was in New York and after a five-minute banter about our mutual origins with an Ethiopian taxi driver my fellow passenger — a Boston-based academic — informed me that some would construe my questions as acts of micro-aggression.
‘Micro effing what?’ I hear you ask:
The term micro-aggressions is associated with the publications of counselling psychologist Derald Wing Sue. Sue defines micro-aggression as “the brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial, gender and sexual orientation and religious slights and insults to the target person or group”.
The worst part is that you’re probably so ignorant, intolerant and racist that you don’t even know you’re doing it:
What’s important about this definition is that these indignities need not be the outcome of intentional behaviour. Indeed, Sue argues that “perpetrators of micro-aggressions are often unaware” of the indignities they inflict on others.
You would (rightly) think that this nonsense should be consigned to the scrap heap. Unfortunately, the professional victim and outrage industry has had big success with this:
- A few weeks ago, the Inclusive Excellence Centre of the University of Wisconsin declared the latest addition to its vocabulary of censored terms is that of politically correct. Without a hint of irony it stated that it had become a “dismissive term” that some used to suggest “that people are being too sensitive”, and “to police language”. By attempting to censor the usage of this term the directive confirmed that it was the PC practitioners who were, indeed, in the business of policing language.
- Yet, despite its incoherence, the campaigns against micro-aggression have had remarkable success. One academic was humiliated and disciplined by his administrators at UCLA for his alleged “racial micro-aggression”. Among the numerous micro-sins committed by Val Rust, a professor of education, was to change a student’s capitalisation of the word indigenous to lower case. Since this act apparently showed disrespect for the student’s ideological point of view the university decided to criticise and discipline his behaviour.
So next time you’re in a taxi, whatever you do, don’t even think about asking or taking an interest in the driver’s life.