Going For the Jocular

by And the White Lion Roars!

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I haven’t posted in a few weeks, not because I don’t have anything bothering me, or any questions to ask, but because I have so many that I haven’t been sure where to start. So I decided yesterday to roar about something that has bothered me for a very long time, and that I simply don’t understand, and that is the “longing for the days before political correctness.” I hear people say this sometimes, and I truly don’t get it, though I completely understand it. That may seem contradictory, so let me explain, but with disclaimers first.

There are times that some people go too far, and generate valid criticisms of “political correctness,” (a term which I hate, because it makes the notion of NOT disrespecting certain groups seem like a bad, or political thing.) For example: Billy Crystal was criticized the first year he hosted the Oscars for “making Jewish jokes.” Really? Billy Crystal is an observant Jew. For him to make jokes with traditional Jewish stereotypes is a good way for the sting to be taken away from the people who hate Jews and use those stereotypes to dehumanize them, just like when blacks use the “N” word. He gets a pass. In fact, comedians get a pass, period. Their job is to make fun of stuff, and to be provocative. Black comedians, and comedians who joke about politics often make me feel uncomfortable with certain subject matter, and that’s okay. Sometimes the provocative stuff isn’t funny-I can’t listen to Jamie Foxx stand up-he just goes way to far for me. But I would never suggest he should stop-he’s doing his job.

Another time I believe that “political correctness went to far was in a story I heard about fifteen years ago from a college in Canada that was planning a Valentine’s dance. The group sponsoring the dance put up posters showing a man and woman dancing, and immediately were told to change the posters because they might be offensive to LGBT couples. So the group changed the posters to show two hands in a romantic grasp. They were told that poster might make people who have no hands feel bad. I don’t know if that story is even true, but it seemed really extreme to me, and invited the eye roll that I’m sure anyone reading this probably just did.

But on the whole, the people I hear longing for the days before political correctness was expected in public discourse are privileged white people who have never been members of an oppressed minority, who want permission to make fun of other people for traits that they have no control over. These are the same people who say things like, “I’ve never owned a slave,” as if slavery were the last racist thing white people ever did. They are the ones who think it is silly to talk about changing the names of “The Washington Redskins” or the “Fighting Illini” out of respect for the native Americans toward whom the term “redskin” has never, ever been used as anything but derision. And I ask these people to consider this; do we really want a return to the days when people were called dehumanizing names, and physical traits invited scorn and ridicule? Think hard about this before you answer!

There are some people I know who have made similar remarks about political correctness stifling our discourse who had physical traits that brought ridicule upon them when they were young. I guess this could be equated with bullying, it is the same thing, and used for the same purpose, to exercise power over the target. I’ve heard stories about the drop-dead beautiful actress, Kim Basinger, growing up in the south, being made fun of for her full lips…a trait she didn’t ask for, and one that added to her attractiveness as an adult. People with physical disabilities were made fun of, people in wheel chairs, people of minority races (of course) and anyone we ever went to war with. There are still people who refer to the people of Japan as “Japs,” I know some people who simply refer to all Asians as “Yellow Man.”

What this longing hearkens back to is a time when white people were undeniably in control, there was no civil rights movement or laws, and any black or Hispanic who questioned that rule could have his life ruined or even taken. But within the last fifteen years, there have been nooses hung on trees outside the homes of blacks in the South. Let’s not even talk about the attacks on President Obama…almost as if the civil rights movement never happened, and he hadn’t been elected by an unquestionable majority of the American people. Twice. These attacks have harkened back to the days just after the Civil War, when attacks on blacks were vicious and sanctioned by white lawmakers. While many of the people who hate the president with an irrational hatred deny that it is based on race, the images and language they use demonstrate just the opposite. Personally, I don’t care who likes the president or whatever opponent he may have, but if it is only his politics and policies that you dislike, then don’t use such language in your protests…use honest rhetoric and specific policies. If this is not possible, then don’t deny a racial basis for your attacks.

I don’t think I need to say that the people who are carrying on this way are a tiny minority of white people, and I know that change is hard. It has only been fifty years since the civil rights laws went into effect…just a little over one generation. But what many people are demonstrating is just trying not to give up the power over the oppressed that they have been accustomed to exercising.  But being allowed to speak of other races, who are completely American, by pejorative names is not really where we want to return as a thoughtful and civilized people, is it?

Personally, I don’t want to use nigger, greaser, mick, kike, Charlie, chink, pepper belly, Uncle Tom, beaner, cracker, honky, paddy, crip, four eyes, faggot, fudge packer, homo, queer,redskin, squaw, etc, etc, etc. Do you? Really? Because remember, when we dehumanize any one of our fellow men, we demonstrate our own lack of true humanity.