Friday, September 23, 2011

Politically Correct?

What does it mean to be 'politically correct'?

Is it being careful to not be offensive to anyone?  That seems like a good thing.  But then why is being 'politically correct' generally used in a negative sense?  You've probably heard someone say, 'We have to be politically correct you know' in an exasperated tone.  Is it because we don't like having to consider how others will receive our comments, especially when they don't agree with our own point of view?

Of course, being 'PC' can get out of hand, or ridiculous - exhibit 1 is the accompanying t-shirt picture.  One quote says, 'Being politically correct means always having to say you're sorry'.  I'm sure you've seen or heard many other examples of PC gone wild.  Did you hear the story, earlier this year, of the teacher who wouldn't let a student's picture of an American flag be displayed because it may offend a Jehovah's Witness?  I don't even get that.  One of my biggest pet peeves is the old Push (some #) for English.  Let's please assume I speak English since this is America, and have the person who doesn't speak English push something for their language.

Is that politically incorrect?  Is that rude?  Or does it just make sense?
Can political correctness be good?  Related:  What are your pet peeves?


  1. Honestly, a pet peeve of mine is the "This is America, speak English!" thing. Ha ha! I think some political correctness can be a good thing. I often think of older people (our grandparents) when in their time, it was normal to say "colored people" or call someone from Asia "Oriental" but those two things are not appropriate now and I believe that's right. But like you said, it can get ridiculous sometimes. Now that you mention it, there was this kid I went to school with who got in trouble once because he would not stand and say the pledge of allegiance to the flag (this must have been middle school for me). I always wondered why at the time, but maybe he was a Jehovah's Witness? I don't think he should have gotten in trouble but I also don't think a teacher should not display a picture of a flag for fear of offending someone. For that I will say, this is America! ;)

  2. Kip Selby9/23/2011

    Always having to say your sorry...that's good. I agree that is what being politically correct has become; though I don't know anyone I would call "over the top" on this; Most people I know agree it is silliness...Doesn't it seem that somewhere there is a very small, but VERY loud group which is stirring up trouble? Why is that? Is it money (a lawyer involved, etc.)? Is it attention? Is it misplaced anger over the past (see previous post-examine yourself)? Who knows. Sure it's rude to demand everyone speak my langauge if I say I earned it or whatever, but is that what you're really saying? Aren't you asking for a return to common sense? That's not offensive.

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  4. In my opinion, political correctness and relativism go hand in hand, and as such, it's a battle that is doomed to failure.

    With relativism, there's no absolute truth. There's no agreed upon consensus. What is true in my mind may not be true in your mind. By that same principle, what is offensive to me may not be offensive to you.

    The problem this creates is that there is NO LEAST OFFENSIVE DENOMINATOR. You can't make everyone happy, which is precisely what the entire political correctness movement seeks to do.

    Let me give you an example. Suppose Rob Dyson decides this afternoon that he no longer wants to be referred to as a "white person". After all, his skin is not white! It's kind of a beigy sort of pink that chameleons into a more reddish version during the summertime. Certainly not white! So, he's decided that from now on, he wants to be referred to as a "Caucasian American", taking his lead from certain other PC movements. Sarah, wanting to be PC and not offend Rob, acquiesces and refers to Rob now by his desired racial descriptive.

    This hits a snag when Sarah refers to ME as a Caucasian American, because I happen to think that such a label is ludicrous and contrived. I'm actually OFFENDED to be called such a ridiculous thing. I'm white. It's a word. People know what it means. It's been used for centuries, and it's not offensive.

    So what is Sarah to do? Keep a running inventory of person A's preferences and person B's preferences and person X and Y and AAAAA and ZZZZZ...I mean where does it end?

    I say you have to come up with some reasonable standards and just go with those. The people who are offended by those reasonable standards just need to get over themselves. The world doesn't exist to cater to their every whim.

  5. You just hit an all time peak, Steve.
    PC as relativism? Least Offensive Denominator?
    That is epic analysis, and term coinage.
    Plus I laughed SO hard.
    But I also agree.
    I should never be classified as beigy.
    What it brings up, though, is an obvious reference to the black/African American designation. My understanding of that whole issue - and most blacks I know do not have a problem with being called black - is that blacks were attempting to recapture some of their identity they felt was lost with the whole slavery issue. It may have begun with the cultural effect of the book and TV series 'Roots'. I wish we could hear directly from a black person on this, but unfortunately I don't think there are any black readers on this blog. I may be wrong about that though.

  6. Honestly, I think the term "African American" is a contrived PC term. First off, American? Do we really need to validate a person's CITIZENSHIP when discussing race??? I think the "Amercian" gets stuck on the end because if not, then all you'd have left is "African". This would also be misleading, because this would be the same term that you would use to describe someone who currently lives in an African country.

    So that gives you a cobbled-together term that references two different nations/continents, just to describe a person's race? Does it really need to be that complicated? Do we really need to have a history lesson every time we fill out a checkbox on a job application? I don't see why it does.

    Look, we all come from somewhere. People understand that. I can look at my colleagues Jamel and Heejin, and understand WITHOUT a daily history lesson that all three of us...way back when...came from different parts of this world.

    I don't understand how "black" becomes unacceptable and "African American" becomes required. It's not like "black" is an insult. It's a simple descriptive word. I also don't understand how describing oneself as "African American" restores anything that was taken away during slavery.

    What about the black people who can't trace their ancestry back to a slave? Who's ancestors came to the US after slavery was abolished? Do they, too, feel the need to recapture some lost part of their identity? Or are they cool with being called "black", since they freely left their African roots behind, just as my ancestors left Europe?

  7. The terms 'African' and 'American' could describe the race OR citizenship of a person when used individually. Using the term 'African' alone would bring to mind a black person. Of course, there are white people who live in Africa, especially South Africa. What color person would you visualize when you hear the term 'American'? Maybe white, since that is the majority color, but the percentages are a lot closer between races than in most other countries I would think.

    Placing "American' after your original nationality does show citizenship, much like was done with Italian Americans, Irish Americans or Mexican Americans. Generally, after the family has been here for a couple of generations, the original nationality is dropped, and they simply call themselves Americans. You could argue that it's unnecessary to use the dual designation. We're just all Americans. Again, when used by the people themselves, I see this as an attempt to show pride in thier roots, or ancestry. I don't think that's a bad thing when practiced with the clear understanding that we are all Americans and our primary governmental allegiance is to the USA. When Mexicans march against government and want their flag displayed along with, or even in place of, the American flag, it's gone way too far. In fact, it can be seen as treason.

    But back to blacks,who are in a different situation historically due to the issue of slavery. They did not originally want to come to America. They didn't sneak into America. The majority of blacks who are here now are a result of forced slavery. And they know it. Which I think is one of the reasons we still have the designation African American even though many generations have passed since an ancestor lived in Africa.

    As I said, most blacks I know use the term 'black' when referring to themselves or others of their color. But if one of my black friends or co-workers was offended by that, even though I don't see the point, I would refrain from using that term around them. Due to the fact that I'm NOT black, I can't be totally unbiased about the subject, nor insist that my understanding is right and theirs is wrong.

  8. That last paragraph has some similarities to my earlier post entitled 'Here's An Interesting Question'. Click on it to the right and tell me if you agree.

  9. That other post does tie right in with this. Let me say this: I do still occasionally use the term "African American" even despite the fact that I think it's contrived.

    I understand that as a follower of Christ I am to humbly consider others more important than myself, but how do you do that FOR EVERYONE without falling into the scenario I described earlier with Rob/Sarah/myself?

  10. I think you were right when you said we need to follow reasonable standards coupled with a personal makeup that's not so easily offended. I believe you'll find that those people who are most easily offended, are also the most legalistic, looking at the issue from a spiritual/Romans 14 perspective. There's a responsibility on both sides.

  11. Thought this applied to this post:

    A letter about immigration:

    So many letter writers have based their arguments on how this land is made up of immigrants.

    Maybe we should turn to our history books and point out why today's American is not willing to accept this new kind of immigrant any longer.

    Back in 1900 when there was a rush from all areas of Europe to come to the United States, people had to get off a ship and stand in a long line in New York and be documented. Some would even get down on their hands and knees and kiss the ground. They made a pledge to uphold the laws and support their new country in good and bad times. They made learning English a primary rule in their new American households and some even changed their names to blend in with their new home.

    They had waved good-bye to their birth place to give their children a new life and did everything in their power to help their children assimilate into one culture. Nothing was handed to them. No free lunches, no welfare, no labor laws to protect them. All they had were the skills and craftsmanship they had brought with them to trade for a future of prosperity.

    Most of their children came of age when World War II broke out. My father fought alongside men whose parents had come straight over from Germany, Italy, France and Japan. None of those 1st generation Americans ever gave any thought about what country their parents had come from. They were Americans fighting Hitler, Mussolini and the Emperor of Japan. They were defending the United States of America as one people.

    When we liberated France, no one in those villages were looking for the French-American or the German-American or the Irish-American. The people of France saw only Americans. And we carried one flag that represented one country. Not one of those immigrant sons would have thought about picking up another country's flag and waving it to represent who they were. It would have been a disgrace to their parents who had sacrificed so much to be here. These immigrants truly knew what it meant to be an American. They stirred the melting pot into one red, white and blue bowl.

    And here we are in 2008 with a new kind of immigrant who wants the same rights and privileges, only they want to achieve it by playing with a different set of rules; one that includes the entitlement card and a guarantee of being faithful to their mother country.

    I'm sorry, that is not what being an American is all about. I believe that the immigrants who landed on Ellis Island in the early 1900's deserve better than that for all the toil, hard work and sacrifice in raising future generations to create a land that has become a beacon for those legally searching for a better life. I think they would be appalled that they are being used as an example by those waving foreign country flags.

    (signed) Rosemary LaBonte