which words are offensive?

Warning: this post will contain offensive language, for the purposes of conveying the results of a recent survey. This is really fascinating... Last month, the Harris Poll conducted a survey that confirmed that large majorities of the U.S. adult public find the use of certain terms offensive, while other less so, particularly in response to recent events that have made the news: Which Words Are Offensive?

The survey revolved around specific incidents and slurs: Don Imus' reference to the Rutgers female basketball players as 'nappy-headed hos' on the radio; Mel Gibson's use of Jewish slurs after being pulled over for drunk driving in 2006 audio-tape; Isaiah Washington's usage of the word 'faggot' toward another co-star of the television series Grey's Anatomy in 2007 reported in the media; Rush Limbaugh's reference to Senator Barack Obama as 'Obama Osama' on the radio; George Allen's use of the term 'Maccaca' in 2006 videotape at a political rally. These were highly publicized incidents in the media over the last year or so. Interesting... but what's missing? A lot.

If you look at the numbers, George Allen's 'macaca' remarks scored the lowest on scale of perceived offensiveness. I guess this isn't surprising, as most people have never even heard the word 'macaca' and probably thought it was made up, if anything. The question also makes no note that Allen was referring to a person of South Asian descent. But what really gets me is that the survey didn't even bother to ask anyone of Asian descent to participate. Nor did they bother to ask about any other incidents significant to the APA community—and we've certainly had our share over the last year and beyond. It's certainly reflective of why we have such a hard time finding allies to be sympathetic to our causes... we get so little coverage or regard, we're not important enough to make it on this survey. I guess it's true: people don't find Asian jokes offensive. And this makes it seem like not only do we have very little to be offended about, we simply don't care. What's up with that? This is an interested poll that is seriously flawed, and just could've been a hell of a lot better... (Thanks, Steven.)

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