I’ve Dealt With Racism All My Life, But Political Correctness is Not the Answer.
Growing up in the 1950’s Midwest, the most common way people identified others was through their tribe and religion. In my neighborhood, you were identified as a greaseball, spic, polack, nigger, jappo, heeb, daggo, cracker and grey boy. You name it, the insult was there, and people would say it openly to you.
I’m of Mexican and American Indian descent, and as a child being referred to as a dirty spic or wetback by adults and other children was a daily occurrence. I could not go into a small neighborhood store without the owners referring to me as a “good one” because I was light- skinned.
You would think somebody from my background would fully support political correctness. Instead, I detest it. Let me explain why: political correctness is essentially an excuse to put a tag of offense on that which makes us uncomfortable.
Let’s take the word spic; that's offensive to me, right, as a person of Mexican descent? If somebody today calls me a spic, I feel the intent of it. If it’s a good friend saying it and I feel the intent is good humor, I do not get offended. I feel the intent. If the word is mentioned in a historical sense, I do not get offended. Now, if someone who is a stranger or merely an acquaintance calls me a spic, it is more than likely they’re doing it with degrading intent in their words. But no law can stop a person from doing that, and I am far more afraid for my expression to be restricted than I am of someone using words to degrade me.
So, I would not want the word spic to be on the list of politically incorrect words. In fact, I don't think any word or language should be eliminated, or that there should be consequences for using them. It’s how you use them and what you use them for that is important.
We should learn to discern intent, instead of focusing on the emptiness of a word.
You cannot force people to stop using nasty words against others. You cannot erase the words of the past – history is history, and you cannot govern how one articulates his or her emotions or feelings towards things.
If you want people to stop using nasty, demeaning words, it's going to be because they are raised in environments where people attack others less and less. Teach and model kindness and compassion, and then over time allow people to fold into it.
You cannot make laws and mandate that people change in a generation.
If we use political correctness as an excuse to attack people, then political correctness itself becomes a weapon to restrict creativity to only one expression (or one grouping of expressions) and to pervert the past and our history. For example, I recently watched a documentary that was supposed to be about the 13th century, but had nothing in it but today’s speaking points. Instead, it was politically correct in the sense it was sterilized to the point where I almost expected them to pull out a cellphone. This distorts history and was obviously done not to offend anyone, but in the process history was purified and the documentary did not express what the 13th century was actually like.
It’s wonderful that there are large numbers of people today (especially the younger generations) who want to be more aware of not hurting people, but the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction that political correctness becomes just as evil as what it is trying to replace, or even more evil in some instances. It doesn't take reality into consideration; instead, it is somebody's idea of what is right. And because it goes viral on social media, now we must make it part of what's supposed to be legitimate human nature.
It ends up being a complete fantasy of what life is supposed to be like, and not a real reflection of life.
More and more we're moving into the idea that everything is offensive, with the politically correct attempting to rule through piety -- but they do not admit they are being pious.
And, yes, the bullies will always be a part of society, using demeaning language and behavior in a bullying way to bring down other people. The reality, though, is that you’re not going to fix it by eliminating words. The bullies will still gather in groups and still demean people. You can change words, but you can’t change the intent.
The moment you ban a word, the bullies will simply find new ways to keep diminishing others. People can change laws, yes, but you can’t change a heart through changing a law.
Of equal importance is that we do not ignore the effect that demeaning and degrading words and actions have on us when they are used against us. There needs to be consequences when someone uses words to degrade and humiliate (on both ends of the spectrum), but it can’t be done through force or shaming; otherwise, it’s still blindness, and a bully is a bully. The question of how to effectively deal with bullies and other toxic people will be addressed in an upcoming blog. And make no mistake, this is not about being a martyr and letting people abuse you; no one should ever put up with harassment, abuse and degradation.
Finally, ask yourself this: who are the people who sit at the “round table” and perceive they have authority over my words and the intent of my heart? Who are you who sits at the round table and was uninvited by my being? Who are you to impose authority over the words of others? Who are you to impose your blind hypocrisy upon me?
I find it quite interesting that those very people who work diligently to find offense in the words of others then end up justifying the same viciousness that a bigot uses.
If you wish to correct one’s language, then may I suggest you focus on yourself and stop looking for reasons to perpetuate hate, division and the degradation of others. I ask, who are you to diminish your brothers and sisters because they use words in a different way?
Ultimately, the person who obsesses over political correctness is simply looking for an opportunity to humiliate and degrade another while standing in a pit of hypocrisy, for their violence against words is violence against creativity. In their fear that somebody may say a word that offends another, they instead choose to eliminate all creativity inside the realm of the narrow perspective of people who sit at that round table.
I did not invite these people into my house to police my words, and I never will. If you choose to take offense at my words, it is unlikely you are listening to the heart of what is being said.