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The Underbelly of Political Correctness

January 29, 2010

Let me go on the record and say that it is incredibly, torturously cold in Montreal right now. The kind of day where you don’t go outside unless it’s absolutely necessary. Unfortunately for me, I had to go buy myself some food. On my way to Provigo I went, trying not to freeze to death on the way there. I soon gave up walking and decided to take shelter inside a bus stop. Almost every person who walked by was swearing to God. 

I was waiting for the bus by myself for an eternity (ten minutes at most) when an older lady joined me within our glass enclave. At the time, I was wondering when the damn bus would show up, but I did not want to expose myself to the wind and go check the schedule. The lady who was waiting with me was freaking me out a little, because she was strangely bent over behind me. I was wondering what the hell she was doing and when I took a peak, I noticed that there had been a bus schedule behind me this entire time. I also realized that this would have been useless information since I did not have a watch. 

Now, while I was waiting and hoping the bus would get there as soon as possible and put me out of my cold inflicted misery, my arms where going numb from holding my scarf up around my face and I wished I had one of those full face masks with the eyes cut out. This thought, as they often do, led to another and I found myself remembering an incident that had taken place when I was in high school. 

The memory in question concerned a cold night, very much like this one, that I had spent wandering the streets of Ottawa. Back in the day when going out meant actually going outside, too old to stay in and too young to go to a bar. A life in limbo spent on the streets. As was often the case, I was stoned out of my mind that very night. I was walking down the street arm in arm with a friend of a friend I had just met when we crossed paths with a gentlemen who was wearing one of those full face ski masks. 

In my altered state, I yelled out to him and called him the man with no face. Now, the friend of a friend whose arm was linked with mine reacted to my comment by whispering to me that I shouldn’t have said that, because the man I had yelled out to was black and that he might take that as an insult. This response stunned me, because it had not been what I meant to imply. I told him that it was about the face mask and not the guy’s skin color, which was a factor that hadn’t even crossed my mind. The guy insisted that their had been no face mask. 

Now, at the time it was unclear whether the man was wearing a face mask or whether I had just imagined that he was because of his skin color.  I maintain that he was wearing one of those ski masks and whether he was black or not, I didn’t notice, but that is besides the point, because while remembering this event I realized for the first time that the odd thing about it was my new acquaintance’s reaction. He wasn’t offended that I had (in his mind anyway) said what could be regarded as a racial slur to a perfect stranger. No, when he told me I shouldn’t have said that, it wasn’t because he was offended, but because he was worried that we might have to deal with some repercussions. His point had been: “you can be racist, just be quiet about it”. 

Isn’t that strange? 

Everyone knows or has at least become aware of at one time or another that PC-ness has made it uncouth to say certain things out loud. The problem is that sometimes the message comes across as “think it, don’t say it”, which results in some pretty repressed, subtle, and pervasive racist behavior. It’s a matter of language, right, when someone says, ex: “Jews are cheap” the most common responses are “don’t say that” or “I can’t believe you just said that”. Even when the comment itself isn’t pejorative, but someone uses the word Jew instead of Jewish you’ll have someone pipe up and correct their language, which is a good thing mind you, but when does it stop being about language and when does it become about “you’re wrong, factually and morally, and here’s why”…?

P.S. Three more points. One, the fact that racism has in one way gone underground, due to political correctness, it has led some people to believe that their is no problem to be addressed since it has already been dealt with superficially, which is a problem. Two, hopefully, since further generations won’t be as exposed to overt forms of racism through language they won’t absorb the stuff like the little sponges that they are. Hopefully. Three, that comic really made me laugh! 

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Wayne permalink
    January 30, 2010 1:04 am

    What is even more insidious, to me personaly, is that in this PC era I can be ostracized if I have the courage to voice an unpopular opinion (no matter how specific and/or PC my language is when I express it). For instance; Just because I abhor racist behavior and attitudes doesn’t mean I automaticaly “buy into” everybody’s definition or interpertation of what IS racist speech. Or just becasue I detest homophobes or discrimination based on sexual orientation doesn’t mean that I should be called a hater when I express an opinion as to Perez Hilton acting as much like, or even more like, a stupid bitch as the beauty pagent contestant he targeted for HER non-PC beliefs. Labels like liberal, conservative, christian, etc are so overused that I tend to try to avoid using them myself, but for the sake of clairty I’ll state that I am a male middle aged white recovering-christian liberal, from the central United States, who has been abused and discriminated against myself enough that I strive not to do so to others, but when I see a black person acting like a thug, a gay man acting like an upity/bitchy queen, or any of dozens other types of behavior by persons who are reinforcing prejudicial attitudes about whatever category they may fall into, I’m not going to censor my opinion just becasue someone else might be offended by it.

  2. February 1, 2010 4:34 am

    Hehe, the first time I read this last night. I mistakenly read “just because I HARBOR racist…”

    Abhor puts an entirely different spin on things.

    I’m not familiar with the pageant contestant with non PC beliefs…?

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