I have decided: I’m giving up on certain exaggerated terms of political correctness. I don’t mean that I’m going to use the PC label as an excuse for racism, awhich seems to be its most common use, and if I term I use offends someone I will certainly apologize and try not to use it in future. But there are a few terms I never could bring myself to use and a few I’ve come to see are useless, and I am hereby giving them up:

  • African-American: it just seems like a stupid way to describe people whose ancestors have been in the US longer than my own. There is one exception: I would certainly use the term to describe, say, my old housemate Omer from Zaire if he decided to become an American citizen. I don’t like ‘people of color’ for similar reasons; last I heard, the ivory-to-beige range still counts as a color. Until something better comes along, I will stick with black, which seems to be the term I hear most among people who do have African ancestry, unless and until that term starts to denote offense or prejudice. I realize it’s every bit as inaccurate as African-American, but at least it’s short.
  • Native American: same problem: both inaccurate and a mouthful. I have no objection to using a longer term when it’s more accurate, but this one isn’t. I’ve heard “Indian” used by enough people of several different tribes to feel comfortable using it if I need to. Again, equally inaccurate but at least it’s short (two syllables, for most Americans.) It’s probably best where possible if I use the specific tribe name: Navajo, Pima, Cree, Iroquois, whatever. I will try to do that. (I’m told this is also preferred for referring to Australian aborigines.)
  • the Netherlands: screw it. If the Dutch say Holland (and they do, even in Eindhoven which is technically Noord Brabant) then I can too. Actually they use either term interchangeably, which is probably what I’ll end up doing. But I won’t make a special effort to use Holland only when referring to those two provinces.
  • Mandarin: no one here says Mandarin. They just say “Chinese”, and use that even when they mean to contrast it to other Chinese languages such as Hakka or Taiwanese. If they can, I can, and I think I’ll be more easily understood.

And there you have it. I don’t feel like sounding stilted any more. Nonetheless, I believe that the inconvenience generally lumped under the term PC is far, far less grievous than the harm done by actual prejudice, and I will go far out of my way not to cause such hurt. If for example you have African ancestry, and you tell me you find the term “black” offensive when used by me, I will do my damndest not to use it. But otherwise, I’m taking the easy way.