The following story was passed on to me by a friend, who was quoting from a letter from his brother, a Japanese linguistics professor who had received it from his own friend, an American linguistics professor. The “he” in the anecdote is the American.
“He was invited to give lectures at Loyola, his alma mater. Having explained Chomsky's theory of linguistic universals, which, to put it simply, claims that all human languages have the same fundamental ‘grammar,’ he opened the floor for questions and comments. One of the students objected that the theory was obviously ‘racist.’ When my friend, somewhat taken aback, asked what might suggest this, the student said it was an imperialistic denial of language differences, of multi-culturalism. My friend tried to explain that Chomsky's theory is, in fact, anti-racist. No one, he said, is denying the richness of language diversity, but the deeper point is that all human languages (plural) are a manifestation of, well, human language (singular).
“'No,’ grumbled the student, ‘it's still racist.’
“‘But against whom,’ my friend protested, bewildered but also exasperated.
“‘Against the dolphins!’ came the reply.”