Language Police

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Re: Language Police

#581  Postby GrahamH » Feb 06, 2020 10:14 am

I'm With Stupid wrote:
GrahamH wrote:
purplerat wrote:I don't think anybody here is unfamiliar with microaggressions. I think some people, namely you GrahamH, are misapplying the term.

From the video you just posted microaggressions are "everyday slights, indignities, put downs, and insults" that "contain a meta-communication or hidden insult".

Asking somebody plainly "where are you from?" is neither. Asking "no, where are you really from?" is but nobody has suggested that it's acceptable. Are you not able to distinguish between the two?



If that's your take you need to watch the video again. It makes plain how well intentioned remarks expose people's unconscious biases.

Despite it being well covered in this topic, and linked material you still fail to understand how someone can be insulted by being asked that question, because of the bias it reveals? Really?

Do you not understand what the "metacommunication or hidden insult" is?

It's not people being clever and subtle to hide a deliberate insult in an innocent seeming question.

The "no, where are you really from?" is only emphasis, Sure that does happen, it is worse and there are lots of anecdotes to be found from people who experience that, but the key point, the "aggression" is seeing a person as foreign in the first place and unwittingly telling them so through that question. Plenty of people complain about that as well. It is fundamentally the same thing.

Who? Because you haven't posted a single example, and neither has anyone else, of someone being insulted by "Where are you from?" without some variation of "No, where are you really from?" immediately after.


OK, I'll accept that the complaint is probably dominated by the follow-ups.

I was considering the bias in the initial question. The question is asked more often of people who look "foreign", and the initial question expresses that bias in many instances. I still think there is something in that. Psychologists study such unconscious biases.

But it is much less aggressive and explicit if the first answer is accepted. So that would a reasonable approach to reduce microaggressions. Accept people's first answer. That reveals less about why you are asking.

It’s often perfectly fine question to ask a person, “Where are you from?” said Derald Wing Sue, a Columbia University psychologist whose work on microaggressions led to a decade-long research boom on the subject. For Sue, who is Chinese-American, the answer is Portland, Ore., the city where he was born.
The question only becomes an insult when the speaker follows with, “No, where are you really from?” or “No, what country are you from?” Sue said, as if they cannot accept that he is an American.
“Unbeknownst to them, they do see you — because you look physically different — as a foreigner, an alien, or not a true American,” Sue said.

https://www.ajc.com/news/local/where-ar ... Mj96wakhP/


There is no reason to suppose that perceptions of the questioner change between "Where are you from?" and "No, where are you really from?". From the person being asked any instance of the first is a potentially the same "You look foreign, where are you from?"

That is supposedly from from the guy who coined the term (not referenced) so ,based on that the bigger problem is not accepting the answer.

[ETA]
It's interesting to compare two things Sue identifies as microagressions:

microaggressions.png
microaggressions.png (22.24 KiB) Viewed 482 times


"Where are you from?" and "Your English is very good" If the latter is a micro aggression without elaboration then surely so is the first. There doesn't seem to be any more required of the form.



"Your English is very good"

"Thanks, I leaned it from my parents"

"But what was their first language?"

Compare with:

"Where are you from?"

"London"

"... But where are your parents from?"

Is there a justification for treating the two statements as significantly different as unintended slights?
Last edited by GrahamH on Feb 06, 2020 1:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Language Police

#582  Postby don't get me started » Feb 06, 2020 11:33 am

I’m reading a very interesting book* at the moment on language and sense making between participants. I found the following passage that I thought was relevant to this thread.


'Interactions vary in their degree of mutual attunement. In some situations, parties may be highly mutually attuned, coming into close contact emotionally or intellectually, whereas in other situations parties can seem deaf and dumb to each other’s positions (or one of them is less attuned than the other). Lack of emotional or intellectual contact (communion) can characterize monologizing activities, where someone is (wittingly or unwittingly) exercising social power, but it can also be due to more psychologically or psychiatrically based incapability of attunement '(p. 175).


I would also add culturally based problems to the reasons for sub-optimal attunement.


The fields of Conversation Analysis and Ethnomethodology have produced robust descriptions for the ways in which interactants go about the business of interacting with each other. Rather than the abstract, monological, head-internal, formal and syntactic view of language that has held sway down the ages, from St Augustine to Chomsky, these methodologies investigate the ways in which particular participants, at that time, in that place and under whatever locally occurring constraints apply, work together to jointly construct mutual understanding and intersubjectivity. Processes such as next-turn proof procedure, self- and other- initiated repair sequences, preferred and dispreferred second pair parts in adjacency pairs and the like are the tools that the interactants themselves use to talk meaning into being in a joint enterprise with their interlocutors. It is for interactants themselves to work through and resolve (or not) ambiguities in intent and epistemic/ cultural asymmetries and such like perturbations which are an underlying feature of all social interactions. I feel that however well-meaning these ‘champions’ may be, they will probably bring a very superficial understanding of talk-in-interaction to the table.


* Rethinking Language, Mind and World Dialogically: Interactional and Contextual Theories of Human Sense making – Per Linell
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Re: Language Police

#583  Postby GrahamH » Feb 06, 2020 11:48 am

don't get me started wrote:I’m reading a very interesting book* at the moment on language and sense making between participants. I found the following passage that I thought was relevant to this thread.

It is for interactants themselves to work through and resolve (or not) ambiguities in intent and epistemic/ cultural asymmetries and such like perturbations which are an underlying feature of all social interactions.


I feel that however well-meaning these ‘champions’ may be, they will probably bring a very superficial understanding of talk-in-interaction to the table.


That's interesting.

Are you suggesting the 'champions' will be lacking in this respect more than the people they are talking with? If so why would that be?
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Re: Language Police

#584  Postby don't get me started » Feb 06, 2020 12:27 pm

GrahamH wrote:
don't get me started wrote:I’m reading a very interesting book* at the moment on language and sense making between participants. I found the following passage that I thought was relevant to this thread.

It is for interactants themselves to work through and resolve (or not) ambiguities in intent and epistemic/ cultural asymmetries and such like perturbations which are an underlying feature of all social interactions.


I feel that however well-meaning these ‘champions’ may be, they will probably bring a very superficial understanding of talk-in-interaction to the table.


That's interesting.

Are you suggesting the 'champions' will be lacking in this respect more than the people they are talking with? If so why would that be?



At a guess, I'd say that undergraduate age students do, in all likelihood, have a less than fully-formed overview of how human interaction works. They may (or may not) be able to participate more or less successfully in any given interaction, but that doesn't necessarily equate to being able to describe what is going on in any kind of informed way. Just as native speakers have grammatical and lexical abilities that they can't account for when questioned (novice language teachers learn how ignorant they are very quickly) so people have interactional abilities that they can't account for or describe with any kind of rigour.
The champions and their addressees will, I imagine, be at roughly the same level when it comes to unpacking the kinds of things that I mentioned up above, that level being not very sophisticated.

If a twenty year old can rock up after a weekend orientation course (or some other brief intro) and speak authoritatively on the processes of talk-in-interaction and the nuances of different cultures when it comes to things like appropriate levels of self-disclosure, uncertainty avoidance, power distance, collectivist vs individualist group orientations and all the rest of it, I'd be very surprised.


You asked me way upthread about the pre-study abroad course that I teach. (Apologies for not replying sooner, I've been off on my travels).
Apart from teaching certain grossly apparent things like tipping culture in the US and how to order drinks in a British pub, I also delve into more nuanced cultural differences. I try to get the students to look at cultural differences not from the position of right and wrong, good and bad, and other value laden judgements. Rather, I encourage the students to see the differences that exist as not good or bad, just different. It is hard for them, just as it was hard for me to adjust to some aspects of Japan when I first came here. Young people have (in my experience) a tendency to simplfy and essentialize. Not because they are stupid or malicious or anything. They are just young and their identity formation process is still ongoing. At that age it is usually 'all about me'.

When I first came to Japan a long-timer here joked that there are only two ways for a foreigner to be insightful about Japanese culture: Live here for twenty minutes or live here for twenty years. I think he was about right. Lately I have added my own coda to this. One way you can be insightful about your own culture is to live outside it for twenty years.
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Re: Language Police

#585  Postby Spearthrower » Feb 06, 2020 12:56 pm

Lack of emotional or intellectual contact (communion) can characterize monologizing activities, where someone is (wittingly or unwittingly) exercising social power...


That seems somewhat apposite.
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Re: Language Police

#586  Postby I'm With Stupid » Feb 06, 2020 2:58 pm

GrahamH wrote:"Where are you from?" and "Your English is very good" If the latter is a micro aggression without elaboration then surely so is the first. There doesn't seem to be any more required of the form.

Of course the follow up question isn't a necessary condition for the initial question to be a microaggression. That can be determined by context, tone and so on. If you're sitting alone in a bar and without even introducing themselves, someone asks "Where are you from?" the insinuation is clearly "Not here, obviously." I suspect that most of the time people will be able to tell which kind of "Where are you from?" they're dealing with, but perhaps there will be some ambiguous ones. The context in which someone lives may also affect how likely they are to get the racially-motivated version of the phrase. Living as an expat or a student, you're likely to experience the innocent version of the phrase (almost exclusively for expats, I'd argue). Being a minority in a small town in America, perhaps you'll get the other version more often. My objection is to the suggestion that because it may occasionally be used in such a way, that's a reason to remove a very important phrase from our lexicon.

I mean let's be honest, we've been told on this thread not only that we don't need the phrase, but the concept itself shouldn't feature in our conversations. What you'll typically find with other words or phrases that become taboo is that an alternative will be proposed, because they recognise that there is a need for a non-discriminatory way to refer to black people, or those with mental disabilities, or whichever group it might be. The fact that no-one who is concerned about microaggressions seems to have suggested an alternative to "Where are you from?" implies that there's not a massive appetite for the phrase to be seen as taboo by those on the receiving end of the negative version of it.
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Re: Language Police

#587  Postby GrahamH » Feb 06, 2020 3:22 pm

I'm With Stupid wrote:
I mean let's be honest, we've been told on this thread not only that we don't need the phrase, but the concept itself shouldn't feature in our conversations. What you'll typically find with other words or phrases that become taboo is that an alternative will be proposed, because they recognise that there is a need for a non-discriminatory way to refer to black people, or those with mental disabilities, or whichever group it might be. The fact that no-one who is concerned about microaggressions seems to have suggested an alternative to "Where are you from?" implies that there's not a massive appetite for the phrase to be seen as taboo by those on the receiving end of the negative version of it.


I don't know what you are refereeing to there. Where is the post telling people "the concept itself shouldn't feature in our conversations. "?

I'm aware of some suggestions that it's a bad way to open a conversation, and various alternatives have been mentioned, including how conversations can get to such personal info in more open and voluntary ways.

One example of that was the Egyptian restaurant where the conversation with the owner was reported as opening with the guy looking Egyptian then "Where are you from?" and moved on to the food. I suggested starting with the food would be more interesting and likely get you to the origins anyway.
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Re: Language Police

#588  Postby purplerat » Feb 06, 2020 3:26 pm

GrahamH wrote:"Where are you from?" and "Your English is very good" If the latter is a micro aggression without elaboration then surely so is the first. There doesn't seem to be any more required of the form.

"Your English is very good" isn't inherently a microaggression. There are plenty of situations where it would be a perfectly unoffensive. It's only problematic if you assume for some prejudicial reason that the person shouldn't otherwise speak English well. But say for example a person tutoring another person on how to speak English as a second language complimenting their student on their progress. That hardly a microaggression.

The thing about "where are you from" is that everybody is from somewhere without there needing to be any bias in assuming that. That's not to say it can't be a microaggression but it's further from being inherently so.

Another example would be "do you work here". This can definitely be a microaggression in some situations but often is just a normal non-offensive question.

I'm sure there are many more examples where normally innocuous phrases or actions can sometimes be turned into microaggressions or worse. I don't think the rest of society needs to scrub perfectly inoffensive and useful communications because some people hijack them for racist purposes. The "ok" symbol comes to mind here.
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Re: Language Police

#589  Postby GrahamH » Feb 06, 2020 3:42 pm

purplerat wrote:
"Your English is very good" isn't inherently a microaggression.


Nothing is inherently a microaggression, is it?

As you stated, neither question is inherently a microaggression.
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Re: Language Police

#590  Postby purplerat » Feb 06, 2020 5:00 pm

GrahamH wrote:
purplerat wrote:
"Your English is very good" isn't inherently a microaggression.


Nothing is inherently a microaggression, is it?

As you stated, neither question is inherently a microaggression.

You've been saying "where are you from" is a microaggression all along without qualification, except maybe that it needs to be directed at people of color. That seems pretty inherent. I mean just go back to you comparison of asking that question to a person of color versus ask a person in a wheelchair why they are in a wheelchair.
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Re: Language Police

#591  Postby GrahamH » Feb 06, 2020 5:32 pm

purplerat wrote:
GrahamH wrote:
purplerat wrote:
"Your English is very good" isn't inherently a microaggression.


Nothing is inherently a microaggression, is it?

As you stated, neither question is inherently a microaggression.

You've been saying "where are you from" is a microaggression all along without qualification, except maybe that it needs to be directed at people of color. That seems pretty inherent. I mean just go back to you comparison of asking that question to a person of color versus ask a person in a wheelchair why they are in a wheelchair.


There's nothing inherently microaggressive about asking about someone's legs either, is there? It depends on context, obviously. Who's asking what of whom?
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Re: Language Police

#592  Postby Cito di Pense » Feb 06, 2020 6:26 pm

GrahamH wrote:It depends on context, obviously.


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Re: Language Police

#593  Postby purplerat » Feb 06, 2020 7:04 pm

GrahamH wrote:
purplerat wrote:
GrahamH wrote:
purplerat wrote:
"Your English is very good" isn't inherently a microaggression.


Nothing is inherently a microaggression, is it?

As you stated, neither question is inherently a microaggression.

You've been saying "where are you from" is a microaggression all along without qualification, except maybe that it needs to be directed at people of color. That seems pretty inherent. I mean just go back to you comparison of asking that question to a person of color versus ask a person in a wheelchair why they are in a wheelchair.


There's nothing inherently microaggressive about asking about someone's legs either, is there? It depends on context, obviously. Who's asking what of whom?

I don't know if asking a person in a wheelchair about their legs is ever a microaggression, but that's not the point. The point is that asking a person in a wheelchair about being in a wheelchair is inherently about their being in a wheelchair. There is no logical way to separate one from the other. It's inherent. And you equated that to asking a person of color "where are you from?" saying that both had the same inherent problem. But obviously they don't.
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Re: Language Police

#594  Postby GrahamH » Feb 06, 2020 7:46 pm

purplerat wrote:. The point is that asking a person in a wheelchair about being in a wheelchair is inherently about their being in a wheelchair. There is no logical way to separate one from the other. It's inherent.


Ah, so the parallel would not be "where are from" but something like "what country are you from?" Or maybe "why are you brown,?"
That is, remarking directly on the apparent difference.
I suppose you could say that is inherently something, but probably not a "microggression"
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Re: Language Police

#595  Postby romansh » Feb 06, 2020 10:17 pm

I get asked where are you from?
In the land of my birth
In the country where I grew up
In the land of my ethnic origin

I get asked by all sorts of people. What I read into their intention behind their question is by and large a product of my imagination
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Re: Language Police

#596  Postby GrahamH » Feb 06, 2020 10:22 pm

Are you aware of research on unconscious bias?
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Re: Language Police

#597  Postby romansh » Feb 06, 2020 10:26 pm

Yes. I certainly have unconscious biases.
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Re: Language Police

#598  Postby GrahamH » Feb 06, 2020 10:35 pm

romansh wrote:I get asked where are you from?
In the land of my birth
In the country where I grew up
In the land of my ethnic origin



Is that useful information? Do you think you get asked that question as often as people also born there who have a different ethnic appearance?

If you consider the alledged problematic subtext - "are you foreign?" Your answer is "no", merely matching your self identity. That isn't relevant to the experience of people who's possible answers are conflicted, is it?

And obviously you are immune to "where are you really from?"

I dont think anyone suggested that the question is only ever asked due to bias.
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Re: Language Police

#599  Postby romansh » Feb 06, 2020 10:53 pm

GrahamH wrote:
Is that useful information? Do you think you get asked that question as often as people also born there who have a different ethnic appearance?

I don't know, perhaps not. The answer in reality would depend. I would never dream of asking a black person with London accent where they are from. I can reasonably guess. If that person had an African accent I might ask.
GrahamH wrote:If you consider the alledged problematic subtext - "are you foreign?" Your answer is "no", merely matching your self identity. That isn't relevant to the experience of people who's possible answers are conflicted, is it?

But I am foreign, wherever I go. I resign myself to being a citizen of the world.
GrahamH wrote:And obviously you are immune to "where are you really from?"

No I am not. Sometimes when 'triggered' I might have replied my Mummy's tummy. But end of the day I know it is my problem.
GrahamH wrote:I dont think anyone suggested that the question is only ever asked due to bias.

Perhaps, but some seem not to want to distinguish between a genuine aggression micro or otherwise and curiosity or making small talk.
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Re: Language Police

#600  Postby GrahamH » Feb 07, 2020 9:02 am

romansh wrote:
Perhaps, but some seem not to want to distinguish between a genuine aggression micro or otherwise and curiosity or making small talk.


By "genuine aggression" do you mean intentional slights? Because I really don't think that's what "microaggression" is abut at all. As I read it is words or actions that are reasonably taken as slights. In which case one person's curiosity and making small talk is another persons racial slight because it highlights a the perception as foreign on nothing but appearances. You don't feel aggression as the questioner,your intentions are good and you don't recognise your bias.

That "genuine aggression" happens of course, but that would be bigotry.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog ... ryday-life.
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