Co-opted


Melanin-Impoverished, Hair-Disadvantaged, Optically-Challenged OppressorOne of the things I find a tad irritating about Beard and Cerf’s The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook (New York, NY, USA: Villard Books, updated edition 1993), is that it is actually four separate dictionaries bound in one volume, and it has no index. I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking that that’s actually two things to be irritated about. Well, when it comes to irritability, I’m a multitasker.

But if it did have an index, I wouldn’t have to wonder whether the definition for the phrase “politically correct” is to be found in its “Dictionary of Politically Correct (PC) Terms and Phrases,” its “Politically Incorrect/Politically Correct Dictionary” (which is actually a thesaurus and bilingual dictionary combined), its “Other Suspect Words, Concepts, and ‘Heroes’ to Be Avoided and/or Discarded,” or its “Bilingual Glossary of Bureaucratically Suitable (BS) Language” (the main title of which is actually “Know Your Oppressor”). As it turns out, the definition of “politically correct” is found in the book’s Part II, “A Politically Incorrect/Politically Correct Dictionary,” where it reads:

politically correct. Culturally sensitive; multiculturally unexceptionable; appropriately inclusive. The term “politically correct,” co-opted by the white power elite as a tool for attacking multiculturalism, is no longer “politically correct.”

[Ibid., 100.]

Don’t you just hate it when, in order to understand the definition of a word, you have to look up a word in the definition? I think dictionary publishers do that on purpose. I think they tell their editors to make sure that dictionary definitions create an unhealthy dictionary-dependency in dictionary users. (But what do I know? I’m just a melanin-impoverished, hair-disadvantaged, optically-challenged oppressor.)

Did they really have to stick the word “multiculturalism” in the definition? Now I have to go look that one up—and sure enough, it’s not in the same section. Only after I flip through the pages do I find out it’s in Part I, “A Dictionary of Politically Correct (PC) Terms and Phrases,” where it reads:

multiculturalism. A broad, pluralistic social movement that, through the celebration of “difference,” champions a more tolerant, diverse, inclusive, and realistic view of America and (in the memorable words of the New York State Social Studies Review and Development Committee) “the peoples who person it.” Indeed, “multiculturalism” encompasses virtually the entire spectrum of views that have come to be know, not always without irony, as “politically correct.” Unfortunately, since reactionary critics have co-opted the term in a none-too-subtle attempt to silence the multiculti, it is no longer “politically correct” to say “politically correct.” (American Hyphen Society researchers discovered this fact too late to have the offending words excised from the title of this book—an error for which we are deeply apologetic.)

[Ibid., 46.]

Well, that sure clears things up!

Notice that this definition contains another word that is defined in the previous entry on the same page, “multiculti,” which refers to “Proponents of the multicultural movement” (ibid.). That word was actually used by Lisa Jones (though probably satirically) in her article, “How I Invented Multiculturalism,” which appeared in the December 3, 1991 edition of The Village Voice (page 51). As for the quote, “the peoples who person it:” its source is the executive summary of a report from the above-mentioned committee, filed in Albany, New York, June 20, 1991.

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