(Above: I’m wearing a level A suit for a hazmat drill. I added the rainbow in support of gay rights.)
I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about political correctness. In the last month, I’ve encountered it in the following places:
- A church group thanked my co-workers and I with a lovely dinner and a pronouncement that, “We just don’t do that political correctness stuff.”
- On television, Trump vows to end political correctness. His followers ooze their orgiastic excitement all over Facebook in response.
- Political correctness is now a war on Christmas. I thought this one was particularly funny. How is wishing someone a happy holiday the same as a war on Christmas? I think Christmas just brings out the war in people.
- Small town businesses continue to refuse to make cakes for gay weddings. They claim that God will stop loving them if they extend their confectionery delights to the gay community. Other businesses are still trying to deny business to non-whites. Whew, glad I don’t believe in a god like that. It sounds like a tough life.
- A group of white people sprayed it across the mosque in the city in which I work. That’s classy, guys. Gets your point across.
So, if political correctness is anti-religion, anti-Trump, and anti-bigoted businesses, and anti-vandal, I should really dig it. And in a way I do. The original idea of political correctness is to apply kindness, manners and respect to minority communities. Respect is good.
(Above: My mom and I are “respecting” this fine specimen of Samoa.)
The problem with political correctness is that it just doesn’t work. As my good bloggie friend Sha’Tara says, “PC was invented by some people totally convinced that it is totally possible to pick up a piece of turd by the clean end.” In other words, the problem is not in the words used but the people using it. It’s the intent. It ignores the issue at hand.
Another problem is demonstrated by Sherman Alexie-that god-like writer I adore so much I’d probably panic and pee on myself if I ever met him. Anyway, in his books he makes it quite clear that he’s an Indian. He’s not Native American, not American Indian, just Indian. This same problem has been repeated by many in the minority classes. My family is mixed-race. My cousins don’t consider themselves to be African American. In fact, a couple of them can’t even find Africa on the map. They are black. It is their preference. My grandpa who is half-paralyzed considers himself to be handicapped, disabled, differently abled, whatever term gets him close parking and free escorts to the front of lines. In other words, the second problem with political correctness is that nobody asked in the first place.
So, like many other people I’ve wondered what to do. What do I say? Another great bloggie friend ghostspeaking (and uber-rad friend in real life) had the perfect explanation. She wrote, “We should prepare one another TO BE OFFENDED. Telling people this melting pot of culture and economic and societal differences is going to be a seamless process is a manipulative lie that allows the powers that be to squelch and silence those with confusion instead of helping them learn to communicate and use their voice. We need to prepare one another for inevitable accidental offenses, ITS CALLED A LANGUAGE BARRIER AND IT IS NORMAL AND ISNT MEANT TO START WARS, ITS MEANT TO UNITE….”
I say, “YES!” It isn’t easy, and there will be accidental offenses, but intent is where it begins. Sometimes words will hurt, but if they weren’t meant to then let’s help each other understand. And if someone helps you to understand, it is your job to listen. Embrace diversity and love your neighbor. When issues arise, ask yourself the pertinent questions. Challenge yourself and each other. We aren’t so weak, are we?