I was reading a post on a friend’s blog on “political correctness” and thought that I wanted to post on that topic too. But I am also late with my annual Halloween post! Oh, what to do…..what to do……..ah, do both!
So Happy Halloween boys and girls! Hope it was a good one!
(thank you John Atkinson for that cartoon).
Political correctness seeks to stop forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against. And I totally agree that in a civilised society, all of us should be against the marginalisation, abuse and denigration of the disadvantaged or the disenfranchised or discrimination based on religion, gender or race.
In fact, that used to be just good old common sense civility and good manners. Something that does seem to have become a rare commodity these days – we just need to look at the current gutter rhetoric being used in the current U.S. presidential race. The name calling, the lack of respect and bigotry on display is truly soul sapping. The Trump is a bully (amongst other things!)
However, I do believe that in this topsy-turvy world, some craziness is also being enforced on people, in the name of political correctness, by a small minority who seem to feel their voice deserves to be greater and their easily offended feelings or views more important than others. They are bullies too.
What is needed is a change of heart, a need to have mutual respect and the development of empathy for others. These are things that are achieved by developing relationships, awareness, putting ourselves in others shoes and by having leaders who demonstrate it by example. Trying to achieve it by a list of don’t s does not achieve this change of heart.
Here are some examples where I think we have thrown common sense out the window.
- Cultural Appropriation:- Hilary Duff and boyfriend recently had to apologise for dressing up as a Pilgrim and a Native American for Halloween. They were accused of disrespect and cultural appropriation. What happened to “imitation is the highest form of flattery”? What is important is whether they intended by their action to marginalise, abuse or denigrate anyone – I think they did not.
- In Australia, a boy wanted to dress up as his football hero. The boy put on the sports gear with the appropriate name and number. But the boy is white and his football hero is an Aborigine. To complete his costume for the school event, he put on black face paint. He and his mother was roundly criticised for disrespect. Is the message that young persons of Caucasian descent are not allowed to emulate heroes of other ethnic backgrounds? (notice how I was careful with my wording of the last sentence). Which is more racist?
- When I was at University, we used to celebrate our different cultures by having international nights and festivals where we get to try each others food, learn each others cultures, and dress up in each others national and ethnic costumes. Now it seems that in some places that is viewed as cultural appropriation and insensitive. This attitude will only increase problems and not improve race relations.
- Just this month in Malaysia, certain authorities tried to force food outlets to stop using the word “dog” as it is offensive to a portion of society. Specifically words like “hot dog”, “Coney Dog”, “corn dog” and “pretzel dog” were to be removed. It was a move that would have cost businesses tons of money as they would have to change their menus, printed materials and ad campaigns. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed in the end.
- Many years ago in UK, a local council voted to ban the use of the word “pet” to describe our cats and dogs. These valuable members of our society were to be referred to as “animal companions”. This still did not please everyone as some objected to the word “animal” as derogatory. There were also attempts to ban the use of words like “blacklisted”, “blackballed”, “black magic” and “black death” as it offended “black people”.Yet these same people thought it was ridiculous when someone pointed out (sarcastically) that we should also ban words like “whitewash” and “yellow bellied”.
Another sharp wit said that he would follow the council’s decision on cats and dogs even though he thought that the council was being “animal companion-ery” (translation: petty)
- Some words have been used cruelly like “retard” or “basket case” and they should be avoided because they do cause hurt. But again, some changes are of dubious value. Like saying “sanitation engineer” instead of “garbage collector”. The problem is not which title we use for the job but that we somehow view a garbage collector as someone beneath us. I think I have no problem being called a garbage collector if I am treated with respect as a human being doing a valued and necessary task. In this case, the problem lies in our heart not in our words.
Let me just end on a personal note. Recently my doctor was very politically correct and did not want to use the word “obese” or “overweight”. So he told me that I was weight challenged for my height. I immediately replied that I prefer to think of it as vertically challenged for my weight.