Thursday, July 23, 2015

Political Correctness

The backlash over “political correctness” is really hitting the fan these days. Donald Trump is being lauded as a hero for “telling it like it is” when it comes to Mexicans. His commentary on Senator McCain was less successful. Everywhere one travels on the information highway there is someone whining about the terrible burden of political correctness.

The definition seems like a good place to begin. Webster’s defines PC as: agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people.

Try as I might, I can’t find fault with that. It sounds pretty simple. It sounds like good manners. Sticking to good manners would go a long way toward solving all kinds of problems.

Political correctness was not a thing when I was growing up. People in my parent’s circle didn’t use racial, ethnic, or religious slurs in public, but in private after a few cocktails…well people might slip and air their bigotry or racism. As I became a teen, I began to experience the misogyny as well. In the early days of the feminist movement, one of my father’s friends told me (quite patronizingly) that if women wanted equality, they needed to earn it. I didn’t have the words or the analysis to adequately respond to that statement. I wasn’t Susan Bruce then.

Prior to the 1970’s people didn’t worry about offending anyone else. It wasn’t even considered. White, protestant, and heterosexual were the norm. Any deviation from that was often remarked upon. Racist and ethnic slurs. Slurs against various religions. Slurs against people with disabilities. Terms like “cripple” and “retard” were accepted without any thought. You know all of the names for Jews. I don’t need to repeat them.  You know all of the slurs used on folks of Latino or African American descent. The latter group has had quite a workout since Barack Obama was elected president. One locally coined term that made it to national news is “jungle alien” as regular readers will recall.

My question is this - what is the upside to using these terms? Are there people who really think this is daring and edgy? Is it a form of tribalism, making it clear to those who are “different” that your white, heterosexual, Christian tribe doesn’t accept people with brown skin, people who love differently from you, or people who believe differently from you? Or is it merely being a big public jerk?

Before anyone starts to complain about “being shut down,” stop. I’m not telling you that you can’t use any terms you want. You are free to do so. In fact, I appreciate it when you use racial slurs or fly the stars and bars from your pickup truck here in New Hampshire. It tells me exactly what you are, and that means I can shun you. I don’t have to work at it because you’ve made it easy for me. I am also telling you that when you use those words, you will be judged and criticized for them. That’s the thing about free speech that bigots never seem to understand. You can say whatever you want, but you are responsible for what you say.  

The latest edgy statement of freedumb here seems to be flying the Confederate flag from a pickup truck. Who knew that NH was the cradle of the Confederacy? Those who do it, say they do it to “honor the Confederate dead.” Horse hockey. They do it because they’re racist. It’s that simple. No matter how many black friends they say they have, they do it because they’re racist. No matter how much they claim to love rap or hip-hop, they fly a Confederate flag in NH (or anywhere else) because they’re racist.

We’ve never gotten past racism in the United States because we swept slavery under a rug, and pretended we were done with it after the Civil War. We didn’t fully acknowledge it what it meant to us as a nation. We didn’t acknowledge the reality that people were bought and sold like cattle, and forced to labor for no wages. We didn’t acknowledge or even question what that did to the slaves and their descendants. We never questioned what that did to those who did the buying, selling, and oppressing. White America has made no reparations. The wounds remain unhealed. And the ugliness has reached a fever pitch because there’s a black guy in the White House.

The fortune of this country was built on the backs of slaves. The US would not be the wealthiest country in the world had it not been for slave labor. Until we do face it, get honest with it, and make reparations (whatever that looks like) we aren’t going to move past it. Not when people are still nursing hurt feelings over losing the Civil War and the opportunity to enslave people they consider lesser beings because of the color of their skin.

It’s a pity Lincoln didn’t just let the confederate states go. We wouldn’t have Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, or even Donald Trump running for president right now.    

It’s going to take a long time to eradicate prejudice and bigotry. In the meantime, I suggest political correctness. Being polite is seldom a mistake.

Published as an op-ed in the July 24, 2015 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 


LovelyLeslieLadyLesbian said...

A most excellent, eloquent rendition of "everything I know, I learned in kindergarten". Be kind, be thoughtful, and what my grandmother said, "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. Thank you for your right on words!

Adam Samuels said...

Wow, the ability to boil down and simplify the concepts of race and racism, into one short tract. Truly amazing! Such an open mind. Yeah, you know what lies in the hearts of men, alive, or dead 150 years.

Susan the Bruce is the prototypical, loyal follower of the "Progressive" meme that racism is rampant in these United States of Terrible White People - doing just what the meme masters want her to - created as yet another lever to further "transform" this nation into a dystopian playground.

"There's nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it." -- William James

Artemisia said...

Thank you Susan! Very well said! No more dancing around. America has been having a temper tantrum for the last 8 years over one thing and one thing only: The Black Man in the White House. "All else is commentary."

susanthe said...

Speaking of absurd, here we have "Adam Samuels", a Free Stater too cowardly to use his real name.

Nancy Martland said...

I've been thinking about this for some time now -- the accuracy of the word "racism" to capture what is going on in our country regarding the way black citizens are viewed and treated. I have come to the conclusion that "white supremacism" more correctly and specifically captures the phenomenon. The terms "racism" and "bigot" can be (and are) turned and twisted to describe so-called "black racists," for example. For me, white supremacy is a much clearer and more accurate term -- it cannot be coopted, it is determinative and concrete.

Thanks for the essay.

Alan Jones said...

Move to Canada. You obviously hate this country so much it no longer makes sense for you to remain here.

Artemisia said...

"Adam Samuels" (gimme a break) has demonstrated what is pretty well established about racism: it is blind to itself. I'm sure he really believes that racism isn't a problem in America. People who deny or downplay the pervasive racism in our society do so for their own reasons, not for "factual" reasons. Who's the real "follower" here? Terrible White People? Dystopia? Sounds like cult lingo to me.