Political Correctness – the New Slavery
Having been born in the 60’s, I was able to bear witness to a time when social and political change was the order of the day. Driven by the notion of fairness, many movements sprang to life, overcame resistance in order to promote positive change, and then, having been hijacked by bandwagon jumpers, steered in a direction not originally intended, taking on a life all their own. One such initially well intentioned but misguided phenomenon is Political Correctness (PC).
PC started out to emphasize that certain words can carry emotional baggage upon a listener. It was an effort to sanitize language so as not to offend a subgroup’s sensibilities. It suggested that “handicapped” people simply have different “challenges”, that racial designations should be neutral in tone, and that diversity is a good thing which should be recognized and celebrated. America, also known as the “melting pot” of the world, is a prime example of how a society can adopt aspects from various cultures to embrace a hybrid of ideals. These are all good things, and common courtesy is certainly an honorable cause, until the emergence of the bandwagon jumpers. So, what has PC become that is so bad? Structuralist philosopher and feminist icon Julia Kristeva, seen as a theorist who was instrumental in providing the philosophical basis for American political correctness, denounced political correctness in 2001 in New York Times and said her works have been distorted by Americans. University of Pennsylvania professor Alan Charles Kors and lawyer Harvey A. Silverglate connect political correctness to Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse. They claim that liberal ideas of free speech are repressive. Similarly, some conservative critics claim that political correctness is a Marxist undermining of Western values.I have another perspective, and one which the bandwagon jumpers will undoubtedly shout fowl from the roof tops over. My claim is that PC has become a systematic return to slavery, only this time instead of metal chains being the instrument of oppression, it is the fostering of racial divide as an unintended consequence of PC which has lead to oppression of a new flavor. (Bandwagon jumpers – sit down, shut up, and listen).
While the stakeholders of PC can be anyone, since the giant elephant in the room in America are racial issues, that is what PC came to emphasize. Unfortunately, while PC initially developed as a way for white folk to say to black folk, “hey sorry about that whole slavery thing, we feel bad about it, but then, you know, that was a long time ago and that isn’t us now”, it has become a table on which to play the race card, and serves to only stifle open and honest discussion about racism. So sensitive have organizations become about racial issues, that the mere mention that someone may be seriously politically incorrect, that a white person could be fired from their job prior to prudent investigation or justification. Meanwhile, the black community continues to feel and be fed a continuous supply of “you were wronged”, each of which has done nothing more than lead to greater division among the races. IOW what started out a peripheral issue relating to terminology, become a glossy cover for an issue that has yet to be adequately addressed; an issue which can only be addressed with open and honest dialogue; a dialogue which has been repressed by the bandwagon jumpers. (Bandwagon jumpers – didn’t I tell you to sit down, shut up, and listen?)
The first thing people must realize is that language is more than just the utterance of words. Various other factors convey messages along with words such as tone, facial expression, construct, and context from the speaker. Next, the perceptions and interpretations by the receiver results in the construct of the message received. In fact, the receiver can apply prejudice to a message not originally intended as well as *choose* to either be offended/angered by the message, or *choose* not to be. As such, the use of one word over another is only part of the equation, and a *sanitized* word can still convey negative overtones with a receiver choosing to take offense.
When I first heard the “new and improved” wording to represent races, I was offended – not for me, a white male, but for those of other races who, in my opinion, had been slighted by the new nomenclatures. African-American, Asian-American, Latino-American, Native-American, indeed. And white folk are just Americans – or shall I say, white folk get to be REAL Americans, and everyone else is something else FIRST. First they are African, Asian, Latino, Native, and only after that are they Americans. It was the adoption of this atrocity which affected further divide, for once again, language has various factors which lend to the entirety of a message received.
The next thing that PC has done is to insist and instill upon a nation that one must stray from any circumstance or language which may offend someone, even beyond what would be obviously hateful speech. That leaves people, especially white folk, in a bubble where the notion of engaging in open and honest discussion about race with someone of another race as a taboo and restricted subject. Nice going bandwagon jumpers – way to stifle the healing process. And black folk, race issues are not just a white thing that they need to just “get over” themselves, you are deeply engrained in the issues yourselves. How in the world do you expect all folks to get beyond racial divides if you’re pitching a fit at every turn? White folks, how in the world do you expect to come to grips with racial issues if you are not willing to open your minds and hearts, try to understand that even your glare of distrust can convey negativity, and employ the Golden Rule when interacting with others? (Bandwagon jumpers, get the hell out of the way!)
But no, these things don’t happen. The bandwagon jumpers insist that they are right, and that they must dictate how people communicate with each other. They insist that black folk WANT to find total equal and neutral ground, when in fact, black people WANT to maintain a sense of their own identity and community. While I can certainly accept and respect that, I cannot accept that people are not able to express themselves because of PC, and that while you have the right to maintain an identity, where that identity is one where hatred of others is predominant, not only are you wrong in that facet, but conveying that message in your communications to others effectually maintains the divide. It is that racial divide which is at the root of current day oppression, whether simply perceived or due to the impact socialization has on career and business decisions. Right Uncle Tom?
It is long past time for Political Correctness to stop influencing workplace issues and opportunities for discussion. PC informed us that we should consider common courtesy when addressing each other, and that is a valid point. Beyond that, the bandwagon jumpers need to be tossed from the bandwagon. They are the epitome of the oxymoronic ideal that “diversity should be celebrated – and everyone should feel exactly the same”.
Perhaps to some degree I am wrong, but I refuse to allow PC to stifle my good intentions and hope for a better future for my mixed race family.