Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 26, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

MASTER/SLAVE....I've been ignoring the "master/slave" controversy over in Los Angeles County, figuring it was just some stupid dustup that was being overhyped by the usual suspects. But apparently not. Via Eugene Volokh, the county is really taking this nonsense seriously.

(Quick summary: some county employee complained about having to work with computer equipment marked "master" and "slave." This is standard ISO approved nomenclature for things like disk drives and is used worldwide. For example, if you have multiple SCSI drives in your PC, one is the master and all the rest are slaves.)

Anyway, a manager in the purchasing department wrote a letter to vendors asking them to relabel their equipment. That's pretty dumb, but it's just one guy and the vendors aren't going to do anything anyway. But now there's this:

Under orders from the affirmative action office, county departments have surveyed about 1,000 pieces of equipment and taped over "master/slave" and put "primary/secondary" on the equipment, officials said.

....[Dennis A. Tafoya, director of the affirmative action office, said] "This has got some people's hair up on the back of their neck. They believe it's a question of being politically correct. It's not that at all. It's an issue of valuing diversity, respect and dignity for the individual who comes to work here every day. The issue that resonates in different people's minds is a very negative connotation."

If this isn't PC run amok, I don't know what is. "Master" and "slave" are ordinary English words, not epithets, and it's absurd to try and ban them from common usage.

Making a bunch of county employees run around with rolls of masking tape to cover up faux offenses is playground stuff. "Knock it off and get back to work" is all the respect that this particular complaint deserved.

POSTSCRIPT: Before anyone asks, yes, this stuff actually matters. There are plenty of genuine offenses left in our society, and childish stuff like this just leads people to throw up their hands in disgust and conclude that all complaints of racial offensiveness are equally ludicrous. It's a real disservice to take things like this seriously.

Kevin Drum 6:06 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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