On Political Correctness
Political Correctness is one of the go to terms for people engaged in the discussion around various human rights issues when they find those issues to be inconvenient. It is most commonly summoned up in the concept of wanting to tell people to leave things as they are, or to stand in as a “socially acceptable” way to resist having to change one’s behavior.
For example of the change to behavior, we can go to some of the earliest uses of the terminology, in the 1970’s.
It was during this time that we stopped officially calling people waiters and waitresses, and started referring to them as servers. It was also when we stopped using the terms steward and stewardess and started using Flight Attendant. Mailman to mail carrier, and so forth.
It was in this culture of change, when folks were actually trying very hard not to do those things, that the term became a kind of rallying cry for folks who were deeply bothered by this. They had already found themselves having to “watch their language” and not say things like “colored man” or “nigger”, they were informed that it was rude to smack a woman on the ass as she walked by, and so forth.
Political Correctness became the thing they could stand behind, the shield they could use to defend their view points, which, I will explicitly note, were what they thought were unpopular for no damn good reason.
I mean, what’s so bad about calling that man over there with the tight clothes and the lisp a queer? He is, he isn’t really a man, I mean, look at him, right?
Or why are women so damned uptight about a guy flirting with them? I mean, its a game, right? She says no, you just try again and again and again and again and besides, she’ll say yes in the end.
These are not just me talking. Those are actual examples I have had tossed at me when people are questioned about Political correctness.
So what is it? How does it work? Where did it come from? Why is it such a great way to spot people who are overwhelmingly white men with little or no college education and conservative leanings?
Let’s take a look…
In general discourse, the term is meant as a pejorative — that is, a way of insulting the nature of a subject and dismissing it as trivial. It is a means by which one can express a complaint about an activity, idea, or action that is considered onerous by the speaker when it comes to a certain class of things.
That class of things is always a set of policies, a shift or change in language, or a set of actions which are taken to indicate support for those affected by and in order to reduce the amount of aversion, anxiety, and/or animus (singly or in any combination) combined with structural and/or institutional power directed at people for whom these things have been historically and consistently harmful.
Or, as Wikipedia puts it in a more succinct (and less explicit) way:
The term political correctness is used to describe some language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society.
Multiculturalism, Affirmative Action, “Women’s Lib”, Feminism, Gay Rights, anti-racism, and other areas of anti-oppression work are usually labeled with this and it’s oft heard companion drawn from George Orwell’s work (without realizing, ever, that it is literally describing the act of being politically incorrect in said work) of “thought police”.
Thought Police is a term borrowed to describe those things that affect the way we are “supposed” to view things, and is used frequently as a derision and dismissal of people informing others that things like Human Rights, Human Dignity, and Human worth are universal.
Now, the reason for my own rather tortured way of describing it above is that I like accuracy and I like completeness. They are personal problems of mine that you simply have to suffer though as they tend to express themselves through my pedantry.
For those wondering about the second part there — the part with the three A words — you can reference my page On Oppression in order to understand what is being talked about. Go on, click the link. I’ll wait.
Now, for my more simple and direct version, let’s take it down a notch form the academic appearing way I wrote it above and go for the more colloquial version:
Political correctness is a term used by people who want to be rude, inconsiderate, impolite, and generally disagreeable when it comes to being nice to people that their actions, words, and habits generally treat like crap. Women, People of Color (and especially Black and Latinx people), gay people, trans people, bisexual people, people with developmental disabilities or chronic physical and mental illnesses, immigrants, people of religions other than Christianity, older people, younger people, and so forth.
When people say they are going to be politically incorrect, they are saying they are going to be offensive, rude, inconsiderate, and generally distasteful.
Now, some folks might think that Wikipedia is a bad source. They might want the dictionary to be the source (though why escapes me, since they are even less useful), so in that case, here’s a dictionary definition for you:
noun: political correctness; noun: political correctitude
the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.
So saying something is politically correct is a way to separate yourself from “those other people” and feels like you are standing up for yourself and for what you believe in, even if the thing you believe in is harmful, oppressive, racist, misogynist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, and all other sorts of rather nasty things that the people who are using the term all generally think shouldn’t be nearly as big a deal as they are.
This is why the people doing it are overwhelmingly white men.
The use of political correct is a way to say, in code to other people who are racist, misogynist, et al, that you stand with them, and that you find this way of doing things to be “a bridge too far”, that these damned spics and niggers and kikes and fags and goddamned liberals and wimminfolk have gone too far.
Oh, I’m sorry. Were some of those words too much for you? Gee, I was just being politically incorrect. It’s not like I mean any of those things. Hell, I was just using them to prove a point.
The point being that people who are told not to use those terms usually whine about how everyone is so politically correct.
And no, it doesn’t matter if you would never, yourself, use those terms.
Now, the reason that this post was started was because of the recent furor over the way that some of the cities, counties, and states in the South have been taking down statues and monuments to confederate war participants.
Many people in the south see these people as Heroes, still, which makes those people, themselves, supporters of treason and sedition.
These are monuments to people and events that were engaged in open rebellion, treason, sedition, and, perhaps most important, who were deeply opposed and fully committed to the denial of human rights for all people.
These are people who did things that would have them tried and executed as War Criminals.
That’s like building a monument to Franco, or Stalin, or Mussolini, or Pol Pot.
Now the interesting thing is that all of them have had monuments raised to them. They did it, themselves, usually.
So it isn’t uncommon. The question is one of moral and ethical propriety.
Which it meets none of. So in this case, the arguing that they should remain is, itself, an immoral and unethical one, especially when it is defended as a decision with the complaint (not an argument, but a complaint) that removing them is politically correct.
There is no moral or ethical way to avoid that and remain honest — but some folks are willing to openly and honestly say that they don’t care if it is moral or ethical (and, therefore, they don’t care if it is right), they just don’t like it.
good for them, I say. We need more examples of people who are generally bad so the rest of us have a point of reference for what being good means.
Now, another argument that is brought up is one of how removing them removes history.
Except it doesn’t. History is not removed. You cannot get rid of it. It can be lost — but to lose history takes a long, long time. It can be hidden — history is not only written by the victors, as history itself shows but people often gloss over.
Removing them doesn’t change or alter history. They are still not heroes, and never were except to the people who *did* want to erase history, who wanted to deny it and who felt that they were wronged because their efforts to deny human rights and to engage in open rebellion and treason failed.
Thinking of them as heroes, in fact, is one of the easiest ways to spot someone who is still holding on to racism.
So there is no good, real, justifiable reason, based in fact, that someone can make to preserve them that does not involve an act of doing wrong.
Just as there is no way to escape the equal powerful fact that calling something politically correct is a way of saying you liked things better when you could be a jerk and not have to deal with consequences for it.
Avoiding consequences is the act of a coward.
And we have enough of those already.