Saying 'God Bless You' Is a 'Microaggression,' College Says

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American college students in this undated file photo. |

A college in Boston has prepared an "Anti-Oppression Library Guide" so that no one is offended on campus. It lists "saying 'God bless you' after someone sneezes" as a "microaggression" against Muslim people, and "Merry Christmas" as an offensive phrase.

The guide, prepared by college librarians at Simmons College, "is intended to provide some general information about anti-oppression, diversity, and inclusion as well as information and resources for the social justice issues key to the Simmons College community."

It states that "Islamomisic Microaggressions are commonplace verbal or behavioral indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults in relation to the beliefs and religious practices of Muslims."

And then it explains why saying "God bless you" should be discouraged. "Comments or behaviors that convey people's presumption that their religion is the standard and behaves accordingly (e.g., greeting someone 'Merry Christmas' or saying 'God bless you' after someone sneezes conveys one's perception that everyone is Christian or believes in God)."

The guide avoids using the suffix "phobia," because that too can be "offensive" those suffering from a phobia as a mental health disorder.

"Since labeling oppression with 'phobia' suffixes is harmful, many folks are exchanging them for 'misia' suffixes instead. Misia (pronounced 'miz-eeya') comes from the Greek word for hate or hatred, so similar to how Islamophobia means "fear of Islam,' the more accurate Islamomisia means 'hatred of Islam.'"

The National Review was the first to report on the guide, and its author Katherine Timpf remarked, "If anything, 'God bless you' could perhaps be said to be offensive to people who don't believe in a God of any kind, but honestly I don't think that's true, either. Why? Because I don't think it assumes anything; it's just a phrase. I don't think people actually think about it; it's just something that we grow up hearing and so start saying ourselves. It's really more of a reflex than a declaration of faith. Personally, I'm not religious, but I'd never for a second think to be offended at someone telling me 'God bless you' after I'd sneezed. In fact, I'm even brave enough to admit that I myself have said 'God bless you' before, and never thought for a second that I could possibly be doing anything offensive. It just doesn't seem like a big deal."

Oppression, the guide says, "is more than the prejudicial thoughts and actions of individuals, oppression is institutionalized power that is historically formed and perpetuated over time."

It continues, "Through the use of that institutionalized power, it allows certain groups of people or certain identities to assume a dominant (privileged) position over other groups and identities and this dominance is maintained and continued at institutional and cultural levels. This means oppression is built into institutions like government and education systems. For example, think of ways that heterosexism is privileged by and built into laws around marriage, property ownership, and raising/adopting children."

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