An Open Response To Susan Wright of RedState

Susan Wright, an author at RedState, recently published an article insisting that my alma mater, Emerson College, “hates language.” The full article is available here.

Wright’s complaints center on her inability to grasp that language has power, something she may have learned if she went to a college like Emerson that insists on the power of communication. She refers to students at Emerson as “gentle millennials” because our school’s guidelines for inclusive language suggests to use “gay” or “lesbian” instead of “homosexual.” The guidelines also include referring to people with disabilities in such a way that emphasizes they are a person, not a disability.

Susan, is it that difficult to say “people of color” rather than “minorities”? We, the “gentle millennials,” seem to be constantly at odds with people insisting upon our sensitivity by conveying their own distaste with things. At the crux of it, it’s people like you that are sensitive and needy. You have to be coddled through being kinder and more accepting of others. You’re so gentle that the mere suggestion that we talk about someone as if they were a person is off-putting.

You insist that nothing about the language suggested sounds natural, and you’re correct. That’s because this country was built on hundreds of years of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and a slew of other forms of prejudice that have shaped the language we use. Emerson College is trying to change that the best they can. It isn’t going to feel natural, but if you have half a brain and half a heart you ought to be able to cope. Those coping skills you insist millennials don’t have? Try using some yourself. People of color, people with disabilities, and queer people have been having to cope with ignorance from people like you from time immemorial.

To call yourself a journalist or a writer and to deny the power of language is to deny yourself the power you’re given when you’re allowed to communicate to the masses. To insist simultaneously that language doesn’t hold power, but that you’re also incredibly bothered by it, holds no water. I suggest you take some time to think about the power of language before you continue writing, or do everyone a favor and just stop. You’re clearly too gentle for this sort of work.