Political Correctness and Fairness For All Criminals

January 5, 2015

The language police have banned the term “illegal immigrant” as a label for those who have entered our country in violation of our immigration laws. The rationale for the ban is that “illegal immigrant” stigmatizes, offends, and makes the perpetrator feel unwelcome.  Instead, we are to refer to them as “undocumented workers” in recognition of the contribution at least some of them make, or at least hope to make, to our economy.

Fairness demands that others who do things in violation of our laws be extended the same compassion.  The labels we attach to them stigmatize them, no doubt offend them, and certainly make them feel unwelcome.  How would you feel if you were referred to as a “murderer,” “rapist,” or “thief?"  What follows are some suggestions for less offensive, politically correct, labels. 

Murder requires pre-meditation so why don’t we call those who intentionally take the life of another “thoughtful slayers?”  And those convicted under the Felony-Murder Rule, “thoughtless slayers.” People guilty of manslaughter can be called “rationality challenged slayers.”

Rapists can be labeled as “forceful sex partners.” Those charged with Statutory Rape could be called “chronologically challenged sex partners.” Those who abuse children sexually could be described as “forceful or deceptive (as the case may be) chronologically challenged sex partners.”

It seems only fair to call bank robbers “undocumented depositors” and shoplifters “undocumented customers.” Embezzlers can be thought of “self-motivated bookkeepers.”  Thieves of personal property can be called “ninety percenters” because we all know that possession is nine-tenths of the law! Those who steal cars become “automobile ninety percenters.”

Drug dealers can be described as “recreational pharmacists” and their suppliers as “recreational pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors.”

Athletes, artists, and authors have agents.  Why do prostitutes have pimps?  And why aren’t prostitutes less disparagingly called “commercial lovers?” And in a more compassionate criminal justice system, corrupt politicians would be understood as “inner-directed public servants.”

Those convicted and imprisoned can be labeled “citizens-on- leave” rather than convicts.
Those convicted and on probation should be thought of as being in “social recovery programs.”

Come to think of it, there is no need to use the word “criminal” at all.  Instead we can use the phrase “societally challenged person.” That places the responsibility for their behavior right where it belongs: on us, because we have failed to understand and meet their needs and their challenges.

For those who may be irony and satire challenged, let me be brutally blunt.  Political Correctness is a danger to our society. It is dangerous because it manipulates language to obscure reality.  And we cannot effectively deal with reality if we do not see it clearly.

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Burt Brody is a retired law professor living in Palm Desert CA.