Next the state asked: “Is it necessary to make reference to a person’s age, ancestry, disability, ethnicity, nationality, physical appearance, race, religion, sex, sexuality?” Since the answer is frequently no, nearly all references to such characteristics are eliminated. Because these matters loom large in history and literature — and because they help us to understand character, life circumstances and motives — their silent removal is bound to weaken or obliterate the reader’s understanding.
New York’s taboo words include addict (should be “individual with a drug addiction”), alumni (“graduate” is OK), “American” (replace with “citizen of the United States or North America”) and “cancer patient” (can be “a patient with cancer”). Included in the “man” ban are “manpower,” “mankind,” “manmade” and “penmanship.”
New York identified as biased such male-based words as “masterpiece” and “mastery.” Among the other words singled out for extinction were white collar, blue collar, pink collar, teenager, senior citizen, third world, uncivilized, underprivileged, unmarried, widow or widower, and yes man. The goal, naturally, is to remove words that identify people by their gender, age, race, social position or marital status.
Thus the great irony of bias and sensitivity reviewing. It began with the hope of encouraging diversity, ensuring that our educational materials would include people of different experiences and social backgrounds. It has evolved into a bureaucratic system that removes all evidence of diversity and reduces everyone to interchangeable beings whose differences we must not learn about — making nonsense of literature and history along the way.
It’s a wonder the books are so long with so much excluded. But they do have lots of pictures.