Social Media

Journal of Hospital Medicine Apologizes for Using the Words Tribe and Tribalism

A new article's authors thanked Twitter for calling out their problematic microaggressions.

|

Last month, the Journal of Hospital Medicine published an article titled, "Tribalism: The Good, the Bad, and the Future." It proposed strategies for medical professionals to overcome some of the natural group clustering that occurs in any large workspace: launch interdepartmental projects, socialize outside of the office, etc.

Blandly inoffensive, right? Wrong.

The article's authors issued an apology last week for using insensitive language and thus committing a microaggression against marginalized people. "Despite pre- and post-acceptance manuscript review and discussion by a diverse and thoughtful team of editors, we did not appreciate how particular language in this article would be hurtful to some communities," they wrote in a statement.

The problem, evidently, was the use of the words tribe and tribalism. While no one who reviewed or edited the piece within the Journal itself had any objection to this terminology—which is widely used in the media, particularly political journalism—a few people on Twitter complained about it. In response, the writers unpublished the article, purged the offensive words, and republished it with silos and siloing in place of tribes and tribalism.

The authors explain:

From this experience, we learned that the words "tribe" and "tribalism" have no consistent meaning, are associated with negative historical and cultural assumptions, and can promote misleading stereotypes.4 The term "tribe" became popular as a colonial construct to describe forms of social organization considered "uncivilized" or "primitive." In using the term "tribe" to describe members of medical communities, we ignored the complex and dynamic identities of Native American, African, and other Indigenous Peoples and the history of their oppression.

Their statement links to a Learning for Justice article on "The Trouble With Tribe." But this piece doesn't make a very strong argument that tribe fails as an apt metaphor: It really just objects to the Western practice of associating African peoples with the word. Tribe may be an imprecise way to refer to groups of Africans, Native Americans, or other Indigenous people who suffered colonization—it may not fit their actual culture or living arrangements—but that's really a different matter from saying the word itself is offensive.

Another article consulted by the Journalan op-ed in The Washington Post—says that tribalism fails as proper terminology because it's historically inaccurate:

But there's a significant problem with using the words "tribal" and "tribalism" to describe this trend: The usage is historically inaccurate when you consider the actual behavior of indigenous peoples, whether African, Native American or Asian. The current use of "tribal" is based on a racist stereotype about how groups of such peoples have interacted historically, and even today.

I know something about "tribalism," since I was born and raised in Kenya, a country made up of 44 different ethnic groups. My parents are Kikuyu, but they raised my siblings and me in a cosmopolitan, urban environment. My experience with tribes, and my historical knowledge of them, do not resemble what I read about in the writings of political pundits.

NEXT: California Politicians Craft Nifty New Idea To Increase Housing Costs

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “…and republished it with silos and siloing in place of tribes and tribalism.”

    Except silos are used to store grain, not describe groups of people voluntarily associating together.

    1. Silos are also used to store woodchips.

        1. Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better than regular office job and even a little child can sadw do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
          on this page…..VISIT HERE

    2. I’m offended by their continued use of words at all. They need to publish their journal without using words in the future, or I’ll throw a tantrum.

  2. tribes and tribalism predate the perpetually offended.

    1. The people who originated those terms and their definitions should have considered whether people hundreds of years later might be offended by them, along with most everything else.

      1. what do I know I guess there may have been perpetually offended people 5000 years ago too

        1. Maybe, but I think they tended to live very short lives.
          Even Alexander only made it to 33

          1. And HE was offended by countries calling themselves “Kingdoms” and “Empires” instead of the more-accurate “Temporarily Unconquered Country of…”.

            Which problem he usually addressed aggressively.

          2. Same age as Jesus*, and 6 years older than Kurt Cobain or Amy Winehouse.

            *my gardener, what?

    2. “Predate” is how “predator” starts, and is triggering to vegans.

    3. The perpetually offended are a tribe leading to tribalism. They simply remain oblivious to their own tribalism.

  3. “a few people on Twitter complained about it”

    – – – – and nobody gave a single damn, then or ever.

    All these people do is provide a way to identify themselves so civilized human beings can avoid them.

    1. Massive protests by six people.

      1. Stop body shaming.

  4. I work with more than a few Natives (Kalispel tribe) and they think this shit is hilarious. They say it’s mostly white girls getting offended for them.

    1. It’s true. It’s mostly white girls. There are white boy wokes do, but they’re woke just because the white girl wokes drop trou so easily.

    2. Well, they’re not wrong. It is mostly white girls getting offended for them, and it is hilarious.

  5. The modern progressive tendency to be hypersensitive to all forms of racism is actually the best thing that’s ever happened for Koch / Reason libertarianism.

    I mean, I wasn’t around in the 1980s. But did Democrats in that less “woke” decade explicitly embrace our benefactor Charles Koch’s open borders agenda? I doubt it. Because they would have viewed mass immigration primarily through an economic lens, making them reluctant to side with billionaires against the working class.

    Contemporary Democrats, in contrast, see everything as first and foremost a racial issue. This works to our advantage because they simply cannot bring themselves to agree with any kind of “border enforcement” — only a racist would want to prevent an unlimited influx of Black and Brown bodies into the country. Which explains why the Biden Administration immediately dismantled Orange Hitler’s concentration camps and encouraged migrants (including unaccompanied children) to cross the border.

    In short, if progressive / Democratic racial hypersensitivity gets us open borders and the resulting boost to billionaire wealth, I’m willing to eliminate those T-words from my vocabulary.

    #ImmigrationAboveAll
    #WokenessIsLibertarian

    1. Haha. You’re on fire, OBL. A little wordy, but fine work, nonetheless.

  6. End all social media. Put their execs on trial.

    1. On trial for what?

      1. Not being the exact right flavor of woke.

      2. On trial for what?

        Accessory to criminal stupidity.

        1. “On trial for what?”

          Reckless enabling, 1st degree.

    2. I’d rather end all corporate journalism since they’re more significantly integrated with the State; put those companies’ executives on trial; and deport the journalists (Some of whom are effectively war criminals.) themselves to some shithole.

      1. So, you want us to shove a bunch of journalists up your ass?

        1. Close. I want you, and only you, to shove them up my poophole, baby.

  7. Journal of Hospital Medicine

    * Alfred Rosenberg, huge Nazi, kept a Journal.
    * Hospitals were used to house gay men up until the 1960s or so.
    * Medicine, the father of which is a Greek who probably owned slaves and slept with underage boys.

    Seems like they got some work to do.

    1. and slept with underage boys.
      It was either that or Greek women. Which one is honestly more offensive?

    2. The woke don’t find pedofile to be offensive

    3. Plus the Medici were capitalists, exploiting workers and not engaging in fair trade.

  8. Jeffy DOL and sqrl hardest hit.

  9. A factual question:

    Has the word “tribe” been used to describe African people? When I hear it, I think first of North American indigenous people, and then of pre-civilized European groups like the Etruscans or the Visigoths.

    But Africa? I know almost nothing historical Africa, but I picture it as being grouped into large nations like the Zulu or the Khoi-san, and then small villages. Not “tribes”.

    1. I watched a German show on Netflix called Tribes of Europa.
      It was mostly white people.

    2. You forgot to capitalize Indigenous.
      And “American” came from Ameriggo Vespucci, a White Italian conqueror (well, more of an explorer who helped the conquerors figure out how to get here).
      And “Native” is disparaging too (even if it means the same thing as indigenous).

      1. Did you forget to put “end sarc” on this post? If not, please understand that Native comes from the same root as nativity, meaning to be born. A native is a person born into their geography. A native speaker is someone born into the language. A native idiot is someone born into hypersensitivity to microaggressions.

      2. Keep going. I bet we can make “indigenous” offensive as well with a few tweets.

        “How dare you deny the lived experience of indigenous peoples before they indiginated the land we now associate them with?!!!! White privilege something, etc….”

        I dunno, all the pieces are there, somebody do something with it.

    3. Nobody thinks of the lost tribes of jews?

      1. Jews were tken off the list of protected groups. You are allowed to hate Jews, and White Christian men.

      2. What about the Thirteenth Tribe who settled the first Earth? “Tribe” may not be as pejorative as “Toaster”, but really, has anyone contacted them to find out what they prefer to be known as?

        1. So say we all!

  10. https://twitter.com/VivekGRamaswamy/status/1400917433276198912?s=19

    32 years ago, one small man had the courage to stand up to one of the most evil and authoritarian governments in the world.

    Today, American mega corporations bow down to that government instead. [Pic]

    1. https://twitter.com/MikaelThalen/status/1400906032176640004?s=19

      A Microsoft spokesperson tells me that “accidental human error” is to blame for missing images of “tank man” on its Bing search results.

      “We are actively working to resolve this.”

      The incident comes on the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

      1. Probably to protect copyrighted Tank Girl.

    2. Private korporashun can do what they want is Good for Libertie

      1. Doubleplusgood

  11. https://twitter.com/WhitlockJason/status/1400951409961545732?s=19

    I bought a new car a month or so ago. I asked it if Black Lives Matter. It responded with a long woke answer in support of BLM. Blew my mind. Cars are woke.

  12. As a farmer, silo and siloing used by woke urban hipsters and uppity university types is cultural appropriation. I object with all the pig slop I can muster- and that’s a shit load yessiree Bob -and demand y’all retract toot sweet!

    Yee ha!

  13. Those who apologize are sympathetic to the philosophy. They are to be dismissed.

  14. Grovel, you bitches! That’s how you earn a bully’s respect!

  15. Why? Tribe and tribalism has not special connotation. Every continent (except Antarctica which had no people) had tribes. Europe had tribes. Asia had tribes, North America had tribes. South American had tribes and Australia had tribes.
    “For the most part it seems like the Germans were divided into tribes and probably furthermore into family groups or clans with their own leaders.”
    “Twelve Tribes of Israel”
    “This map shows the approximate location of the major tribes who lived in Britain at the time of the Roman Conquest of Britain in the First Century AD.”
    Are people really so stupid as to be offended by the word tribe today? If so they have no understanding of the word.

    1. So what you’re saying is…Antarctica is racist against people?

      1. It *is* mostly white, after all.

  16. Why? Tribe and tribalism have no special meaning connotation.
    Definition: A unit of sociopolitical organization consisting of a number of families, clans, or other groups who share a common ancestry and culture and among whom leadership is typically neither formalized nor permanent.

    Every continent (except Antarctica which had no people) had tribes. Europe had tribes, Africa had tribes, Asia had tribes, North America had tribes South American had tribes and Australia had tribes.

    “For the most part it seems like the Germans were divided into tribes and probably furthermore into family groups or clans with their own leaders.”
    “Twelve Tribes of Israel”
    “This map shows the approximate location of the major tribes who lived in Britain at the time of the Roman Conquest of Britain in the First Century AD.”
    Are people really so stupid as to be offended by the word tribe today? If so they have no understanding of the word.

  17. Why? Tribe and tribalism have no special meaning or connotation.
    Definition: A unit of sociopolitical organization consisting of a number of families, clans, or other groups who share a common ancestry and culture and among whom leadership is typically neither formalized nor permanent.

    Every continent (except Antarctica which had no people) had tribes. Europe had tribes, Africa had tribes, Asia had tribes, North America had tribes South American had tribes and Australia had tribes.

    “For the most part it seems like the Germans were divided into tribes and probably furthermore into family groups or clans with their own leaders.”
    “Twelve Tribes of Israel”
    “This map shows the approximate location of the major tribes who lived in Britain at the time of the Roman Conquest of Britain in the First Century AD.”
    Are people really so stupid as to be offended by the word tribe today? If so they have no understanding of the word.

    1. Sounds like the squirrels have gotten loose in your keyboard!

  18. Also… 1994 Hutus and Tutsis would like a word with you about a cosmopolitan lack of “tribalism”.

    It is almost like someone decided “not all” was actually informative… Nay, despositive.

  19. The medical journal editors made a grave mistake: NEVER apologize to these people. The Twitter users just want you to cower before them, apologize and grovel for something you did only in their imaginations, and pray you don’t lose your job. Apologizing gives them power. Laughing at them, shaking your head, and going about your business takes their power away.

    Twitter is the modern equivalent to stalls in public bathrooms. People of mostly questionable taste write short messages. 1-2% are humorous and 98% are just stupid, degrading, it incoherent. None of them are actually important or worth changing in response to.

    1. “….. or worth changing in response to.”

      That toilet paper roll on the other hand….

  20. Silo made me think of a trench silo, which is where cattle farmers dig a trench, line it with plastic, fill it with freshly chopped corn and cornstalks, cover it with more plastic, and let it ferment and decay a bit before feeding it to cows.

  21. Now they are coming for journalists favorite metaphors.

  22. “Siloism?” Grain producers victims of micro-aggression.

    Just call it “outhouse-ism?”
    We know what those are full of.

  23. I may not always think first of Jews, but they’re among the first. “Silo” and “siloing”, the latter of which I wanted to pronounce as 2 syllables rather than 3, really obscure the meaning for me. If “tribe” isn’t completely accurate to describe aggregations of people as has historically been used, calling them a “silo” is just absurd. The Lost Silos? Will Survivor hold Silo Council?

  24. Sure words change their meaning but that also means words that were formerly inoffensive may later become so, and vice versa. I don’t think that’s the core of the problem. The problem is simply that we can’t reasonably conclude a word is offensive or “problematic” simply because of some tweet or op-Ed; we need empirical evidence that a significant number of ordinary people actually are offended. We could find that out without too much hassle using surveys and other basic tools for gathering info about public opinion. These editors should have asked for proof that there are indeed many folks out there offended by this use of the words tribe and tribalism.

  25. As Brooklyn College’s Freddie deBoer wrote in his classic “Planet of Cops” essay in 2017, “The woke world is a world of snitches, informants, rats. Go to any space concerned with social justice and what will you find? Endless surveillance. Everybody is to be judged. Everyone is under suspicion. Everything you say is to be scoured, picked over, analyzed for any possible offense. Everyone’s a detective in the Division of Problematics, and they walk the beat 24/7. You search and search for someone Bad doing Bad Things, finding ways to indict writers and artists and ordinary people for something, anything. That movie that got popular? Give me a few hours and 800 words. I’ll get you your indictments. That’s what liberalism is, now — the search for baddies doing bad things, like little offense archaeologists, digging deeper and deeper to find out who’s Good and who’s Bad. I wonder why people run away from establishment progressivism in droves.”

Please to post comments