The rhetorical question that is so often used, “What part of illegal don’t you understand?” might not be as rhetorical as you might think. From the sanctuary city of San Francisco:
A new extreme in political correctness?
Amy Graff | Updated 9:52 am, Saturday, October 31, 2015
Is it wrong to call someone who steals a “criminal”?
In a recent thread on NextDoor, a group of neighbors living in the Noe Valley-Glen Park area were engaged in a discussion around the city’s crime and debated whether labeling a person who commits petty theft as a “criminal” is offensive.
In the site’s Crime and Safety area, where residents share strategies for fighting crime, Malkia Cyril of S.F. suggests that her neighbors stop using the label because it shows lack of empathy and understanding.
Cyril pointed out that instead of calling the thief who took the bicycle from your garage a criminal, you could be more respectful and call him or her “the person who stole my bicycle.”
“I [suggest] that people who commit property crimes are human and deserved to be referred to in terms that acknowledge that,” Cyril, who’s the executive director of the Center for Media Justice in Oakland, writes in the thread.
“I think we should think twice before speaking in disparaging terms about ‘those criminals,'” she adds later in the thread.
Cyril started the thread because she wanted to shift the NextDoor conversations about security cameras, alarms and the police to more thoughtful discussions about strategies for addressing the cause of crime. In her posts, she blames our societal problems — gentrification, economic inequality, lack of affordable housing, the defunding of public schools — for pushing people into lives of crime.
You know, I grew up poor, but somehow, some way, that didn’t lead me into stealing someone’s bicycle, or anything else. Actually, I was devastated when someone stole my bicycle (some time between the fourth and sixth grades), a Schwinn Spitfire, off of our front porch; my mother couldn’t afford to replace it. I knew other poor kids as well, and I don’t recall ever knowing that any of them were thieves.
In a world of extreme political correctness, washing away words that have been deemed inappropriate is becoming commonplace. Many of these words are blatantly inappropriate, but with others, such as “criminal,” the offensive implication is subtle. These less obvious insults are often referred to as microggressions, which a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly explains are “small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless.”
Is referring to a person who steals as a “criminal” an example of a microaggression?
I would think that it is an example of telling the truth! Apparently telling the truth is a “microaggression.”
The San Francisco Chronicle captured some of the discourse:
Boo hoo. Poor people. Malkia you’re totally right. How dare I call the low life who last Wednesday stole my gym bag a “criminal”. After all he’s probably not even reading this, since he goes to fitness sf Castro like I do (did). No, he’s not a criminal, you’re right. He’s a f______ thief. And deserves to be caught and go to jail. But he likely won’t because this city is soft.
To which Miss Cyril responded:
Your gym bag was stolen? People’s lives are being stolen by poverty, over policing, and more. You can recover stolen property, and even if you can’t — you’re alright. But it does not compare to the primary drivers of crime. Addiction is not a selfish act, it is a medical crisis. People are not simply lazier than you, and there’s so much underpinning your assessments that it’s best I don’t respond to . . . .
And the Chronicle even agreed, writing:
Cyril pointed out that the man’s loss of his gym bag is a small inconvenience for someone of privilege.
Well, you know what, there actually are people lazier than the man who had his gym bag stolen. We don’t know much about the man who had his gym bag stolen, but we can assume that he had to spend his own money to buy it, and the money he spent on the gym bag was money he could not spend on something else. We don’t know the motivation of the criminal who stole the man’s gym bag, but I assume that Fitness SF Castro has a membership fee¹; it’s a privately owned business.² One would think that the thief had enough money to actually pay the fees at the gym, so he was (probably) not the poverty-stricken victim of society Miss Cyril assumed.
As for the City by the Bay looking the other way, not treating criminals like criminals, Kate Steinle was unavailable for comment.
People like Malkia Cyril are a huge problem in our society. Rather than insist on civility and order, they excuse and enable criminality; we can bet that if she knew who stole the gentleman’s gym bag, she wouldn’t turn him in. If San Francisco suffers from “over policing,” as she says, it is because too many ordinary citizens enable criminals, and allow them to be criminals, allow them to continue breaking the law and getting away with it.
Way back in 2007, we noted how the city of Philadelphia didn’t take crime seriously, and the result was a dead police officer. In 2008, it happened again, more than once. We also noted how San Francisco released an illegal immigrant and “alleged” gang member, refusing to turn him over for deportation, and he then murdered three people. But people like Miss Cyril don’t seem to have a problem with things like that, just as long as we don’t hurt the poor dears’ feelings by calling them criminals, by telling the truth, and by treating crime seriously.
If it’s wrong for me to call criminals criminals, is it at least acceptable for me to call Malkia Cyril an idiot?
¹ – I searched, but was unable to find the fees online.
² – Fitness SF Castro had to shut down the steam room because there was too much “hanky panky” going on. Gosh, what a surprise that is!
Cross-posted on The First Street Journal.