’35 dumb things well-intended people say’ list passed out to James Madison University student orientation leaders
Student leaders of this year’s freshman orientation at James Madison University were given a list of 35 things they should avoid saying, including phrases such as “you have such a pretty face,” “love the sinner, hate the sin,” “we’re all part of the human race,” “I treat all people the same,” “it was only a joke,” “I never owned slaves,” and “people just need to pick themselves up by their bootstraps,” among other expressions.
Those phrases and others on the list “widen the diversity gap” and do not “create a safe and inclusive environment,” according to the seven-page handout, a copy of which was provided to The College Fix by a campus spokesman.
Adapted from Dr. Maura Cullen’s book “35 Dumb Things Well-Intended People Say: Surprising Things We Say that Widen the Diversity Gap,” the list also classifies some compliments and encouraging words, such as calling someone “cute” or saying “I know exactly how you feel,” as a no-no.
Many of the “dumb” statements also pertained to race. “I don’t see color,” “I’m colorblind” and “I don’t see difference. We’re all part of the same race, the human race” were all advised against. “If you are going to live in this country, learn to speak the language” also made the list.
After each phrase, an explanation as to why it should be avoided was given. Expressions on race allegedly make people of color feel invisible and diminish their life experiences, the handout states. Statements of empathy supposedly “shuts the other person down,” it adds. Saying to LBGTQ people “what you do in the privacy of your own bedroom is your business” is “hurtful and annoying” because it does not acknowledge the quality and depth of their relationship outside the bedroom, the handout states.
The last item on the list warns against labeling something as political correct, calling it “an attempt to shut the other person up.”
James Madison University’s director of communications Bill Wyatt told The College Fix via email that “this was just an exercise, prior to orientation, to get our volunteers to understand how language affects others. The list was not distributed to our first-year students nor were the volunteers instructed not to use the phrases.”
Yet page one of the handout, written by JMU, reads that orientation leaders should “use this handout as a resource” to help accomplish the goal of creating a “safe and inclusive environment for your first year students.”
They were also called upon by the handout to “take some time to reflect on your prejudices and biases, and how that might affect your interactions with students.”
The full list of 35 “dumb” expressions is:
1. “Some of my best friends are …”
2. “I know exactly how you feel.”
3. “I don’t think of you as …”
4. “The same thing happens to me too.”
5. “It was only a joke! Don’t take things so seriously.”
6. What do ‘your’ people think.”
7. “What are you?” or “Where are you really from?”
8. “I don’t see color” or “I’m color blind.”
9. “You are so articulate.”
10. “It is so much better than it used to be. Just be patient.”
11. “You speak the language very well.”
12. Asking black people about their hair or hygiene.
13. Saying to LBGTQ people “what you do in the privacy of your own bedroom is your business.”
14. “Yes, but you are a ‘good’ one.”
15. “You have such a pretty face.”
16. “I never owned slaves.”
17. “If you are going to live in this country, learn to speak the language!”
18. “She/he is a good person. She/he didn’t mean anything by it.”
19. “When I’ve said the same thing to other people like you, they don’t mind.”
20. Calling women “girls, honey, sweetie pie” or other familiar terms.
21. When people of color say, “It is not the same thing.”
22. When people of faith say, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
23. When white men say, “We are the ones being discriminated against now!”
24. Referring to older people as “cute.”
25. Asking a transgender person, “What are you really? A man or a woman?”
26. Referring to the significant other, partner, or spouse of a same gender couple as their “friend.”
27. “Why do ‘they’ (fill in the blank) always have to sit together? They are always sticking together.”
28. “People just need to pick themselves up by their bootstraps.”
29. People with disabilities are “courageous.”
30. “That’s so gay/queer. That’s so retarded.”
31. “I don’t see difference. We are all part of the same race, the human race.”
32. I don’t care if you are pink, purple or orange, I treat all people the same.”
33. Asking a transgender person, “Have you had the operation.”
34. Saying to a Jewish person, “You are so lucky to have ‘your’ Christmas spread over a week!”
35. “Here’s another book on political correctness.”
Click here to read the entire document.