Stanford Says It’s Wrong to Call U.S. Citizens ‘American’

Other terms and phrases included in the ‘Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative’ include “killing two birds with one stone,” “walk-in,” and “homeless person.”

QUICK FACTS:
  • Stanford University released a guide on “harmful language” in an attempt to remove various terminology the institution deems offensive from its websites and computer codes.
  • The guide is part of the ‘Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative’ (EHLI), introduced in May as “a multi-phase, multi-year project to address harmful language in IT at Stanford.”
  • EHLI is described to be part of a “larger initiative” of three tiers: Tier 1 is “egregious language that needs to be removed (or annotated with why it can’t be removed),” tier 2 is language to be scanned for “due diligence,” and tier 3 is “potentially harmful language used in a non-harmful way.”
  • “Harmful Language” categories include: ableist, ageism, colonialism, culturally appropriative, gender-based, imprecise language, institutionalized racism, person-first, violent, and a section for additional considerations.
  • In describing the term “American,” for example, listed under the “imprecise language” section, the guide proposes “US citizen” is a better term because “American” implies “the US is the most important country in the Americas (which is actually made up of 42 countries).”
FROM THE “HARMFUL LANGUAGE” INDEX:
  • “The purpose of this website,” says the document, “is to educate people” about the implications of various words and phrases.
  • Under gender-based language, terms such as “freshman” and “mailman” are to be changed due to their masculine connotations.
  • Also under gendered language is the term “preferred pronouns,” which “suggests that non-binary gender identity is a choice and a preference.”
  • The words “Hispanic,” “straight,” “stupid,” and “survivor” are considered imprecise.
  • “Rule of thumb” is believed to be offensive because the term allegedly derives from an English law allowing men to beat their wives, although “no written record exists today.”
  • “Convict,” “homeless person,” and “immigrant” also receive longer alternatives in order to prevent people from defining others by “just one of their characteristics.”
BACKGROUND:
  • Where some universities are pushing inclusive, non-offensive language, the University of Chicago is offering a course on “The Problem With Whiteness.”
  • American Faith reported that Princeton University is collecting data for a study on the criticism of elected officials.
  • Emory University, a Methodist college in Atlanta, Georgia, has introduced a program allowing students to choose their pronouns on school documents.