Thursday, November 07, 2013

Political Correctness

I’ve never opened a blog with a caveat/disclaimer before, but when I wrote and sent this one to my friend/webmaster Gary, he wisely pointed out the following: 

I think, by the way, that you miss the whole point of political correctness.  You focus on your past and the fact that you weren't bigoted; but these terms, like "Sambo," have come to mean bigotry and hate, not perhaps to you, but certainly to many whites who use them and the African-Americans who hear them--and I have heard the "Sambo" used disparagingly in Texas and Oklahoma.  "People are people, candy is candy," you say, forgetting the hurtful connections to those words and how they have so often been used deliberately to cause hurt and pain.  And so they are not acceptable.  Your use of them may not be harmful in intent; but many who do use them do intend harm, and so we must try carefully not to cause hurt through the use of these politically incorrect terms.  Some people get carried away with political correctness (me included), but it's a step in the right direction.

I'm sorry, but I've more than had it with "Political Correctness." Our society has become one gigantic exposed nerve end. It wasn't bad enough that we Americans are among the most anal-retentive nations on earth and a classic example of "the double-edged sword" in almost every aspect of our national life and attitudes, but now we dare say nothing that might possibly be construed as being an insult to one group or another. Enough, already!

There are two quotes I dearly love and have repeated over and over, one Alexander King's observation that "there are those who find obscenity in the crotch of every tree," and the classic definition of puritanism as being "the deep, abiding fear that someone, somewhere, might be having fun."

When I was a kid, licorice was available in small pieces shaped like a child. They were called "nigger babies" because they were black. I loved them. Did that make me a racist? Was I in some way asserting my superiority over Negroes/Blacks/Persons of color/African Americans? No, damn it, I was eating licorice! Did I call or think of black people as “niggers”? No. People are people; candy is candy.

Brazil nuts were called "nigger toes." Good lord!! Where that came from, I have no idea. But that's what they were called, and when I ate them, was I making a symbolic statement of one race's superiority over another? Please!

A popular laundry detergent, The Gold Dust Twins, featured the faces of two Negro/Black/Persons of Color/African American children on the box. The little girl had her hair in small ribboned knots. A blatant, inexcusable racial slur and insult, since it implied yet another terrible epithet: "Pickaninny." The fact that many small Negro/Black/Persons of Color/African American children wore their hair that way was simply a fact.

Many traditional American folk songs which were part of our national history and heritage―most specifically many by Stephen Foster―are never, ever heard or played today. "Old Black Joe"? Horrors! How dare Foster have done such a reprehensible thing?

A favorite children's story was "Little Black Sambo" about a small boy and a tiger. But the little boy was Negro/Black/Person of Color/African American and today's children are therefore forbidden to even read let alone enjoy what is simply a charming story. Do you suppose if they changed it to "Little Absolutely-No-Discernible-Racial-Or-Ethnic-Background Fill-In-An-Acceptable-Name" it might be allowed back on the shelf? I doubt it.

I'm using examples of Negro/Black/Persons of Color/African American only because they are the focal point of Political Correctness. I can site lesser but equal examples where we never ever joke about the Polish or the Irish, or Jews, or allow any sort of dialect used in telling jokes. Any joke featuring anyone of an ethnic or racial minority is considered shockingly bad taste.

As a member of a minority myself...I'm a homosexual, just in case someone might not have already known...I find references to "Queers," "Fruits," "Pansies," and "Fags" deeply offensive if they are used or intended in a derogatory way. But I've noticed that members of many minorities use among themselves exactly the same words they would not tolerate from others.

We don't even call policemen "policemen" any more...they are "law enforcement officers;" the heads of committees are "Chairpersons." Oh, come on!

Political correctness has its roots in good intentions but too much of a good thing is a bad thing. As with all things, some degree of moderation is indicated. Common sense, already in such scarce supply as to be an endangered concept, really should prevail. We have, in our zealousness not to offend anyone under any circumstances, in effect robbed our culture and our heritage of the flavor and spice which made this gigantic melting pot of a nation of ours palatable. It is rapidly turning from a mulligan stew ("Mulligan...that's Irish, isn't it? Are you insulting the Irish? Shame on you! Shame!") into a weak and tasteless gruel.  

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).




2 comments:

Kage Alan said...

What prompted this one, D? I love how much passion came through about the subject, but I'm wondering what has been bottling up in you until it finally erupted into this post, which I'll state is quite brilliant.

Dorien/Roger said...

Thanks, Kage. My mind (like yours, I suspect) is a like a pressure cooker on full boil and every now and then things just appear from apparently nowhere and need to be released as steam.