On political correctness.

Dear Coquette,

When you think of the word “demographics,” do you think it strongly suggests race?

I am a teacher, and I made a comment at an all-faculty meeting that “the demographics at our school are very different than that of another school (so we cannot just assume that what works at one school will work at another).” The other school is mainly white, upper-middle-class, and our school is very different in terms of race, lower socioeconomic status, attitude and enormous size.

The principal called me out, stating that the term “demographics” is (and can be perceived as) racist.

This has devastated me. I told the principal that demographics means far more than just race, and that had nothing to do with the topic of my comment. He stated that other administrators also felt the comment was racist, which means my previously stellar reputation has been damaged. He would not back down that the comment was racist despite my repeated explanations, so I ended the conversation by stating that I was sorry if I offended anyone, but if they were offended, it was because they do not understand the definition of demographics AND that if I were to go back in time, I would make the same comment again.

Can you share your strength with me? I am so livid that I want to go back and talk to him, but he was so stubborn at the previous meeting, I really do not think I can survive a “round two.” Did I do the right thing in standing my ground?

Demographics are statistical characteristics. The particular characteristics aren’t implied in the nature of the word itself, but obviously, if you use the term to separate white from black, rich from poor, or white-collar from blue-collar, you’re asking for trouble in a room full of entrenched bureaucrats from the public education system.

What you said wasn’t racist. It was racial. There’s a huge difference, but that kind of subtle distinction doesn’t matter when you’re dealing with school administrators. Those are people steeped in political correctness. They can’t help themselves. They’re institutionally programmed long before they’re given a position of authority.

It doesn’t matter whether your point was obvious or valid. (No doubt it was both.) What matters is that you failed to communicate your point in the accepted vernacular of the institution. What you should have said is that your school is more “diverse.” At the moment, “diversity” is the acceptable terminology with your intended meaning, and if you had made a case for your school’s “diversity issues,” I doubt anyone would have batted an eye.

Yes, this is insane. No, there’s nothing you can do about it. Whatever you do, don’t go back and give the principal a piece of your mind, because you’ll just catch another round of shaming.

Being right will never win you this argument, because it doesn’t matter whether you’re right. What matters is whether you’re correct, so don’t waste your time “standing your ground” until you’ve also fallen in line with the politically correct language of the institution.

That’s how this game works.


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