“The name of a man,” Marshall McLuhan once said, “is a numbing blow from which he never recovers.”

The same might be said for a task force that the American Psychological Association appointed to look into how to reduce prejudice and discrimination against marginalized populations.

The organization sent out a press release explaining what the task force had concluded and recommended (all worthy goals, mind you) — but there was something of a stumbling block before you got the whole story.

The task force’s name. Take a deep breath before you say it:

The American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Reducing and Preventing Discrimination Against and Enhancing Benefits of Inclusion of People Whose Social Identities Are Marginalized in U.S. Society.


Names of committees and task forces usually take but a few seconds to read and take in. They are ordinarily targeted and — this is important — get pretty quickly to the point. The National Commission on Excellence in Education. The Open Government Task Force. The Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force.

By the time I was done reading the APA’s task force name, I had forgotten the first part and had to re-read it to get the meaning!

For the record, the press release from the American Psychological Association explains that the task force looked at research on prejudice against minorities as well as the psychological damage done by discriminatory behavior.

It concluded, among other things, that “teaching students of all ages about the value of diversity and the serious mental health impacts of bias and stereotyping will help end widespread discrimination in the United States.”

Specifically, it said, “Schools and caregivers can encourage children from different racial or ethnic groups to cooperate in learning exercises.”

That recommendation is many words shorter than the task force’s name!

Do names matter? Sometimes. They can suggest how an entity defines itself and even how succinctly it thinks. This task force name didn’t do its members any favors.

Follow The Answer Sheet every day by bookmarking http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet.