That awful, racist, brown bag

August 7, 2013


For us political junkies, August is a time of brutal withdrawal. With Congress in summer recess and the President vacationing, we are forced to navigate life without our daily dose of sound bites and clashing egos.

Luckily, the phenomenon known as political correctness is always at the ready to provide an alternative fix.

This week’s comes from that most politically correct enclave of our national landscape, the Pacific Northwest, and the right fine city of Seattle Washington. Specifically from one Mr. Elliott Bronstein, Public Information Officer (PIO) in the city’s Office of Civil Rights and self-appointed chief of the language police.

For reasons that common sense is still questioning, Mr. Bronstein has issued a memo to the city’s other 48 PIOs that they should stop using the words “brown bag lunches” and “citizens” in official communiques. Mr. Bronstein doesn’t find the word “citizen” inclusive enough so he is ordering it replaced by “resident”, but the real head scratching comes with his banning of the term “brown bag lunches”.

In an interview last week with Seattle KIRO radio’s Dori Monson, Bronstein justified his “brown bag” ban because: “It used to be a way people could judge skin color”.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’d never heard such a claim. And a quick internet search revealed that neither had the rest of the world. One etymology site after another refers to brown bag lunch as just that, a lunch in a brown bag.

It takes some deep digging to find even a trace of the “skin color” test referenced by Bronstein.

It turns out that the racial history refers to blacks themselves and was only used in the early 20th century by some in the New Orleans area to screen party/event attendees for appropriate “blackness” of skin color.

That Bronstein would use such a long abandoned practice deployed by so few in but one geographic area, as the basis for banning such an innocuous phrase used by all races for decades adds a new rung on the ladder to lunacy.

Does anyone doubt that if brown bag was truly racist that Al Sharpton wouldn’t have already held God knows how many marches demanding immediate federal legislation to ban such “hate” speech?

The constant knee jerk to ban this, outlaw that, without willingness to apply basic historical context and current understandings just because someone somewhere found it “offensive” is what keeps the sane among us shaking our heads and muttering under our breath “no wonder this country’s in such a mess”.

But in the spirit of “if you can’t beat em, join em”, I present the following for Mr. Bronstein and ilk.

According to the City of Seattle website there are 49 different Public Information Officers for the various city departments and interests, yet only Latino city employees have a PIO listed specifically for them.

How is that “fair” Mr. Bronstein? Are there no African, Native, Asian or other hyphenated Americans employed by the City?

Why are Latinos’ singled out? Are they not capable of informing for themselves and require special help, or are they being given unfair preferential treatment because of their skin color?

Why is the City of Seattle supporting such overt racism?

Of course the implication is without merit and my accusation is ridiculous.

But is it any more ridiculous than taxpayers footing the salary for a public employee to send out a memo arbitrarily declaring brown bag lunches as racist and are henceforth to be referred to as “sack lunches” or “lunch and learns”?

Something tells me that no matter how many “lunch and learns” Mr. Bronstein attends he’s long past the learning stage.

(Publisher’s note: The above is the as submitted for publication version of the print column that first appeared in the August 7th edition of the Joplin Globe. The edited version can be found here.)


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