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State Department Chief Diversity Officer’s rule of thumb pointers for avoiding offensive phrases

By Doug Powers  •  August 30, 2012 11:27 AM

**Written by Doug Powers


From the Daily Caller, an item to be filed under “your tax dollars at work”:

John M. Robinson, the Chief Diversity Officer at the U.S. Department of State, wants America’s diplomats to know that common phrases and idioms like “holding down the fort” are, in fact, deeply racist.

Robinson, who also serves as director of the Department’s Office of Civil Rights, used his “Diversity Notes” feature in the July/August issue of the official “State Magazine” to examine the hateful roots of everyday sayings. In one recent public relations kerfuffle at Nike, Inc., he wrote, the company torpedoed a sneaker called the “Black and Tan.”

“What a wonderful celebratory gesture and appreciation for Irish culture. Not!” wrote Robinson, an adult.

Robinson notes that “Black and Tan,” in addition to being an enjoyably robust alcoholic concoction, can refer to the brutal Protestant militiamen who ravaged the Irish countryside in the early 20th century — which is why Irish bartenders always get so upset when you order one.

In an effort to avoid offending those notoriously fragile Irish sensibilities, Nike pulled the shoe from stores.
And did you know using the phrase “holding down the fort” is the linguistic equivalent of scalping a Cherokee? According to Robinson, the phrase dates back to American soldiers on the western frontier who wanted to “hold down” all that land they stole.

The State Department’s CDO also warns against using terms such as “going Dutch,” “handicap” and “rule of thumb.” No mention of “back in chains” though.

Robinson has his work cut out for him when it comes to eliminating the aforementioned phrases and idioms from our lexicon, starting at the very top levels of government:

“I know you guys have been holding down the fort,” he [Obama] told a roaring crowd of 15,000 at the St. Pete Times Forum, an arena in downtown in Tampa. “It’s good to be back.”

Elizabeth Warren weeps.


In naming Jim Yong Kim to be his nominee to head the World Bank last March, Mr. Obama joked with mock envy about Kim’s prowess on the links.

“I just found out he’s a five handicap in golf. I’m a little resentful about that last item.”

Sensitivity intervention at the White House!

The best part is that the Chief Diversity Officer doesn’t even know if his history lessons are accurate:

“Much has been written about whether the etymologies below are true or merely folklore, but this isn’t about their historical validity,” Robinson writes. “[I]nstead, it is an opportunity to remember that our choice of wording affects our professional environment.”

Typical of the current state of affairs — perception is everything and facts are irrelevant. After all, somebody might find the truth offensive, and we can’t have that.

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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