The original request for the change had absolutely no hint that the current text was racist in any way; then we find out that, apparently, we've been harboring white supremacist ideals by prescribing when to use apostrophes and commas? That commit message (not the commit itself) took what should have been a simple change and turned into a platform for political grandstanding of the worst kind:
- False, as far as I can tell (until given confirming examples from the S&W text)
- Only colored people are mentioned (and other /native English speakers/)
- Zero mention of non-native English speakers
So, I think I can explain. (Not with references because I've lost most of them over the years, but bear with me.)
The actual advice in The Elements of Style are mostly inoffensive when taken on their own, and out of context. The problem is that the Elements of Style (And many works like it) are built on a system of white supremacy. The grammarian movement, in general, was built on elevating a very specific form of English over others. It specifically was chosen to avoid "lower class" usages and things like AAVE (though that term would not exist for decades after the movement reached a furor).
The commentary in the commit message is a plain and simple description of the effects of the grammarian movement to someone who has studied the topic.
Strunk & White is just one possible edifice of that history. As mentioned already in this thread, it is not the name of the authors that is the problem, but the movement and history of Standard English that is the edifice of white supremacy. You cannot evaluate the book strictly outside of the context in which it was written and used and declare it's not white supremacist.
The thing being objected to was the idea that we should choose Standard English as our basis for our language guide. Further, S&W, a classical work on how to write Standard English well, is a bad guide when discussing in light of that fact. Each individual who likes Elements of Style is not wrong for liking the book, you can keep it on your shelf and no one will be angry. But this argument about Standard English is propping up a hegemony that affects multiple axes of oppression, and we should be aware of that.
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