OK, I can see how the term "brown bag" might be considered offensive to some, but "citizen"? To me it's a reach.

Joel Connelly wrote today at seattlepi,com:

Public affairs officers at Seattle city agencies were advised in a recent memo that use of the phrases “brown bag” and “citizens” are potentially offensive, and that other words must be chosen.

“Luckily, we’ve got options,” Elliott Bronstein of the Office for Civil Rights wrote in a missive entitled “On ‘brown bags, ‘citizens’ and language”.

“For ‘brown bag,’ try ‘lunch-and-learn’ or ‘sack lunch,’” wrote Bronstein. “For ‘citizens,’ how about ‘residents?’ (Our Citizens Service Bureau became the Customer Service Bureau a few years ago.)  Just thought I’d bring this up.  Language matters, and the city has entrusted us with the keyboards.”


“Innocuous phrases, right?  Mm, not so much for. For some people, the phrase ‘brown bag’ calls up ugly associations with use of the expression ‘brown bag’ to determine if people’s skin color was light enough to allow admission to an event, a home, etc.


“‘Citizens’ is a different case:  We sometimes use it as another way of saying ‘members of the public’ — except for all the members of the public who aren’t actually citizens but who live and work here.”


I've read about "brown bagging" being used in the African-American community by lighter skinned people when it came to excluding those with darker skin from clubs and organizations, meaning that if someone had darker skin than a brown paper bag, they couldn't get in or take part. I do see that how that may be termed offensive.

But "citizen"? Tell me how that could be offensive. True, not everyone that lives or works in a community is actually a citizen of the United States, but I really don't agree that non-citizens are hurt by the use of the term. When it comes to political correctness, my feeling is that a majority of people don't go out of their way to hurt someone else by word or deed. I do resent the fact that some people are going to erase language that may be mildly offensive to a small group of people.

What's your take on this? Please leave use a comment.

Read the compete Joel Connelly blog here.