It’s time for the city of Seattle’s PR people to get some training in things they are just not very good at. Like PR.
Consider: If you are Elliott Bronstein, public-information officer for Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights, and you work for a city known to bend over backward — serious-spinal-injury backward — to espouse political correctness, some part of your brain should send off car-alarm warning sounds when you start typing an email to colleagues about potentially offensive phrasing, in this case the words “citizen” and “brown bag.”
That’s exactly what Bronstein did a few months ago, suggesting PR colleagues reconsider using those words (not ordering them banned from city communications, as suggested in media reports.)
His reasoning: Not all members of the city’s big tent are citizens (true). And brown bags have served as a literal skin-color gauge to determine admission to private events or institutions. (Also true; interestingly, such forms of “colorism” have been practiced by African-American sororities and fraternities to exclude darker-skinned class members.)
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Bronstein, noting that “language matters,” offered up “residents” as a replacement for “citizen,” and called for colleagues to substitute terms such as (we could not possibly make this up) “lunch-and-learn” for “brown bag.” Email goes public. Hilarity ensues.
And there you have it: Proof in black (sorry) and white (even sorrier) that in the Emerald (OK, we give up) City, a story truly can be its own punch line.
More color blinding:
We Kid Bronstein, But: Citizens — sorry, municipal cohabitants — are left to wonder: As long as it’s not carried in a brown bag, is it still OK for city employees to eat red beans, yellow cake or white rice?
Which Reminds Us: Bronstein should copy his chromatic treatise to the dolts at Syracuse University’s Department of African-American Studies, which has long hosted a lecture series named after the slain founder of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique — a former Syracuse anthropology professor who has been described as the Martin Luther King of his country. It’s called the Eduardo Mondlane Brown Bag Lecture Series.
Other Possible City Replacement Terms for “Brown Bag” meetings: Eat-and-Bleat. Dine-and-opine. Graze-and-glaze. Scarf-and-parse. Chow-and-disavow.
Eight Times the Fun: The Washington Department of Fish, Wildlife and Spooky Sea Monsters spent a long time weighing new rules for hunting octopus before the obvious solution arose: You can put one to the sword only if it is attacking your home or menacing livestock.
Dream on Dept.: As he prepared to be banned from the child’s game that has made him insanely wealthy, disgraced doping cheat Alex Rodriquez told Sports Illustrated that he’d still like to be a “role model” to the nation’s youth. Yes, yes, and Mr. Wrap would still like to be a big yellow butterfly.
All New Meaning to “Chunky Monkey”: Tragically, due to a legal settlement, the AP reports: “The days of buying pornographic videos with names based on Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream flavors are over.” Is nothing sacred in this country anymore?
And Finally: Thanks for standing by as Mr. Wrap took a couple weeks off. He’s not willing to go into full details of his travels, but suffice to say that during a stopover at Mount Rainier, he made the shocking discovery that the National Park Service has found a way to produce toilet tissue that is actually less than one-ply.
Ron Judd’s column appears each Sunday. Reach him at email@example.com or 206-464-8280.