Saturday, June 07, 2008

When Can I Stop Being Politically Correct?

A response to An Open Letter... by Michael Faris (as appeared in the OSU Barometer last week):

Growing up in a 100% Caucasian town (or so it felt) meant I wasn't exposed to diversity as a child. I didn't have friends who were anything but white protestants. Our foreign exchange students in school were usually from Europe, an Italian and a few Germans if I remember correctly. Still, my parents told me that there were people in this world who looked different and sounded different and believed other things. They told me that these differences didn't make either side better in any way. They enforced this nonjudgmental attitude. Even today, I approach every person as an individual. Anything less is unacceptable in my book.

Mr. Faris wrote a letter to the Barometer regarding a party held in Corvallis themed "cowboys and indians" and how he feels it is the responsibility of one minority group to support another minority group against discrimination. I have to say that I agree with his stance, though I approach the reasons from another perspective.

The subject of the article, the party, is of little concern to me. I wasn't there, wasn't invited, and don't care what people do behind closed doors. People are free to be as bigoted and racist as they want in the privacy of their own homes. The problem for me isn't that there was a themed party, but that the type of discrimination a theme like that includes pervades outside closed doors. I don't know many people who can be prejudiced on one side of the wall and not the other.

It is easy to overlook a "cowboys and indians" themed party as a trifling and funny event. I'm not an indian, what do I care? I'm also not a Jew, but I'm not very comfortable thinking about using the Holocaust as a theme for the next frat party. The majority (Caucasian protestants) openly mocks the minority at every turn. We hold "black outs" and forget the history of that unfortunate tradition. We use words like "gypped" and "wetback" without thinking about where those words came from. Seemingly unimportant things to so many people can mean so much to one or two.

People ask, "when do I get to stop worrying about being politically correct?" When gay people are allowed to walk hand-in-hand down the street without being sneered at. When the ratios of black and latino prisoners reflects that of society. When women aren't being paid less than a man for the same duties. When Native American mascots are no longer caricatures but reflect the spirit of the people they represent. When ALL people have the right to dignity and self-determination.

1 comment:

Michael Faris said...

Thank you, Jaggy, for this response. I appreciate it, and I agree that what happens behind closed doors actually has public repercussions, because we take our biases out the door with us, and back in the door with us.

One concern I have is the use of "politically correct." In my experience, people use this term against those advocating for respect to shut down discourse. I do not ever identify as being politically correct (it is fine if you do). In fact, I'm often politically incorrect: announcing, fuck, yeah, I'm a faggot. Get over it. Not very politically correct. :)

When someone says to me that I'm being politically correct, I often reply that no, I'm being respectful of others' self-representation and self-determination. Politically correct is meant to obfuscate (think: Strategic Redeployment instead of of Withdrawal — it's meant to hide the fact that we're pulling troops somewhere).

But again, thank you for your response. :)