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My Emotions Are More Important than Your Ideas

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 5.17.48 PM(1)By Mike S. Adams
Clash Daily Guest Contributor

People are confused about the meaning of the phrase “I’m offended.” Many believe that it is merely an admission of emotional inferiority. To be sure, the phrase “I’m offended” does say something about a person’s lack of emotional strength. But when someone plays the “I’m offended” card it says more about his lack of humility than his lack of emotional stability.

I have heard the phrase “I’m offended” countless times in my twenty years as a college professor. Each incident is unique but reflects a common way of thinking. Consider the common thread in each of the following incidents:

In 1993, I was teaching course in criminology. During the middle of a lecture on Social Disorganization theory, I made an observation about immigration patterns in large cities. Specifically, I said that a rapid influx of immigrants speaking different languages would not translate into solid social cohesion. The lack of cohesion, I explained, would impair community efforts to monitor juvenile delinquency.

It was common sense, of course. But a young black female student raised her hand during the next class meeting and complained. She simply announced that she was offended because my lecture implied that there was a downside to living in ethnically diverse neighborhoods. I replied by saying “It’s true, and that’s all that matters.” In other words, I brushed her off. She never played the “I’m offended” card again.

In 1995, I was teaching a course in juvenile delinquency. I stated that a particular criminological theory (called social strain theory) explained property crime because it placed appropriate emphasis on blocked opportunities, including both educational and employment opportunities. But I also stated that the theory did not explain other types of deviant behavior such as homosexuality or drug abuse.

It was common sense, of course. But a young gay activist came into my office the next day and announced that she was “offended” by my characterization of homosexuality as deviant behavior. So I explained how the definition of deviant behavior applied to homosexuality. I concluded by insisting “homosexual is deviant behavior.” After I refused to apologize, she just got up and walked out of my office. She never played the “I’m offended” card again.

In 2004, I was discussing the wastefulness of our campus Women’s Resource Center. I specifically criticized a group that was paid thousands to speak at the center even after they posted racist advertisements all across our campus. The advertisements showed Condi Rice and Colin Powell standing in cages holding bananas like monkeys. I just thought it was hypocritical to pay a bunch of racist to lecture students on gender discrimination.

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Mike Adams

Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and author of Letters to a Young Progressive: How To Avoid Wasting Your Life Protesting Things You Don’t Understand.