Saturday, May 21, 2011

21 MAY 11: Y Not

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find the following items humorous, serious, or a little of both - but we offer these thoughts from time to time, as we keep a seventh-day Sabbath.)

If you're expecting fresh comments about the big warning/prognostication about this day - sorry. Not today. I'm applying Election Day rules to "Judgment Day" - and I think that's fitting, since we could find out which Christians are the "very elect."

It was already a big weekend for high school seniors in Columbus, as it's graduation time. And Spencer seniors who received diplomas Friday evening have something else to remember -- their senior prom, which brought an apology from the National Infantry Museum. I didn't think that museum was designed to stage proms, much less promote retreating.

The apology resulted from a complaint by a Spencer High School teacher. The teacher said she and several students were told off by a museum employee, because the prom set-up included confetti. I actually consider this a hopeful sign for our teenagers -- because the complaint wasn't about drugs or booze.

But the Spencer teacher especially was concerned because the museum employee's ranting included several uses of a phrase the teacher considered racist. Hopefully no one will be offended if I include it here - "you people." If the prom had occurred at the University of Utah, the spelling and intent might have been different.

The museum employee has apologized, and the museum director plans to bring in the Pastoral Institute to give the entire staff "sensitivity training." But I read online comments this week asking why that phrase would be considered racist. Would even abbreviating it be wrong - and force the Columbus Chamber of Commerce to change its Young Professionals program?

As far as I know, the controversy over Y.P. (so I don't offend anyone further) goes back to a speech H. Ross Perot gave during the 1992 presidential campaign. He used the phrase several times while addressing an NAACP convention, and Al Sharpton led the complaints against it. Being an "independent" can be troublesome - even if it's your political party.

(It could have been worse, though. Earlier this year, Assistant City Manager David Arrington used the "C-word" at Columbus Council while discussing a possible slave cemetery. No one complained about that, for some reason - as if people thought Arrington was doing laundry or something.)

Yet I found something interesting a couple of years ago, when a similar uproar occurred. Al Sharpton is a minister by trade - yet the phrase "you people" can be found in the New International Version of the Bible. Not once, but 15 times. But to be fair, the King James Version includes some words for using the bathroom that I never say, even privately....

On top of that, the NIV Bible quotes Jesus as saying Y.P. twice in the book of John. One case seems to address Middle Eastern royalty. The other is aimed toward the Pharisees - but maybe that's justified, because it was all in the diverse Jewish family.

(We should note that phrase is in the New King James Version ten times -- but NOT in the 1611 King James Version. Perhaps "progressive" Al Sharpton is more old-fashioned with his reading material than we realize.)

My point of all this? Words and phrases can mean different things to different people. What offends one group may be biblical and acceptable to another. That can be true of religious groups as well as ethnic communities. Don't you dare talk to some of my friends about the "Lord's Supper" - they'll correct it to Passover on the spot.

We should be sensitive to other people's feelings. If you're not sure about that, review I Corinthians 8 this weekend. The context there involves meats sacrificed to idols - but I don't really think this applies to cookouts by political campaigns.

I personally have avoided using Y.P. since the Ross Perot controversy erupted. If you're stumped over what to say instead, you must be new to the South. My late stepmother knew a good answer, and she lived in the Kansas City area. Use the Southern plural - all y'all.

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