Political correctness and the feminization of discourse
Note: This editorial was originally written on July 18, 2008
During the course of a discussion with a friend last weekend, I mentioned a simple biological reality: men are stronger, faster and more athletic than women. I prefaced this with a disclaimer meant to avoid giving offense, and my friend pointed out that I was bowing to political correctness in my own home while talking to someone who has no use for political correctness. This got me thinking about the feminization of discourse in society, how offending people even with simple statements of fact is to be avoided or at least accompanied by a disclaimer, and how we walk on eggshells when any topic has anything to do with race.
Even while writing this blog, I feel compelled to recognize that there are exceptions to the general statement of truth. For example, professional tennis player Maria Sharapova is certainly faster, stronger and more athletic than Indiana blogger Scott Tibbs. But that there are exceptions to a general statement of truth does not invalidate the general truth: it only points out that the general statement of truth does not apply in every instance. There are real-world implications of this general truth. We have all seen news stories that raise concerns about standards of physical performance being lowered for women who sought to be firefighters, for example.
Political correctness controls our language in other ways. When discussing the implications of the word nigger, we often "bleep" the term by saying or writing n-word instead. But is it logically consistent to become outraged (or fabricate "outrage" to score political points) when someone asks whether it is racist for a rapper such as Snoop Dog to use the word nigger? Is every use of nigger automatically racist when used by someone who is not black?
A cultural "ban" on nigger (except when used by blacks) is evidence of the feminization of discourse that excludes not only reasonable discussions of terminology, but even works of art that advance the moral standard of racial equality. As Ashley Herzog points out, 19th-century author Mark Twain in his writings "suggested that all men are created equal" and that "moral people are capable of transcending racial barriers." But Twain's famous novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is being increasingly censored because it contains the word nigger.
The censorship of Huckleberry Finn and the attempted censorship of a historical mural in Woodburn Hall on the Indiana University campus (see articles from February 25, 2002, November 19, 2003 and April 23, 2005) is evidence that our culture has become more concerned about feelings than logic and truth. This was evident in 2003 when Indiana University "student" Rahsaan Bartet asked how long IU would allow "groups and people to trample on the mental psyche" of students. So there we have it: if it hurts my feelings, it is bad. Whether I have a logical or factual reason to be offended is irrelevant: the only thing that matters is my feelings.
This was taken to an absolutely absurd extreme at a County Commissioner's meeting in Texas last week, when John Wiley Price objected to a colleague's use of the term "black hole" to describe the processing of parking tickets. Price feels that "black" is being used in a negative context. A black hole, of course, is a astronomical phenomenon that occurs when a star dies and collapses in on itself. The material of the dead star is so dense and the gravitational pull so strong that not even light can escape from it, which is why it is black.
Price is either a hyper-emotional crybaby or a race hustler who attempted to score cheap political points by throwing the "racist" smear at a colleague. In either case, he is not qualified to be an elected official. Hopefully, the fact that he is being mercilessly ridiculed nationally will shame him, but that is not likely.
The problem with the feminization of discourse on racial matters is that constant screeching about non-issues causes people to become desensitized to legitimate concerns. When the Herald-Times reported on a drug bust where police arrested seven white and six black suspects, the three suspects who were pictured on the front page were all black. Unfortunately, some folks wrongly associate dark skin pigmentation with criminal activity, and however unintentionally, the choice of which photographs to publish on the front page of the print edition plays into those stereotypes.
Some people immediately dismissed these concerns. Shameless race baiters like John Wiley Price and crybabies like the Woodburn mural critics can blame themselves for that. The story of the "boy who cried wolf" has become a cliché, but those who have unjustifiably cried "racism" over and over have only managed to make people cynical about racial issues. The ultimate irony is that race baiters and crybabies actually enable racists.