Alex Blaze

Why "I'm not politically correct" is nails on a chalkboard

Filed By Alex Blaze | September 20, 2009 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: homophobic behavior, politically correct, politically incorrect, racism, Rush Limbaugh

I don't see why everyone is mad about what this one guy said. He may not be "politically correct," he may not be taking the easy way out and saying what everyone wants him to say, but, jeez, when what you're saying is despised by those in power, when it's just really edgy and confrontational, and when it's just the truth that no one wants to talk about, you've gotta be willing to cut the politically incorrect some slack.

I think the guy's wrong. I think not only it was racism, it was justifiable racism. I mean, that's the lesson we're being taught here today. Kid shouldn't have been on the bus anyway. We need segregated buses -- it was invading space and stuff. This is Obama's America.

What? He's calling for segregated buses? So what? You might have a problem with what Rush Limbaugh says from time to time, but the dude just doesn't care if what he says is politically correct. He's like David Duke, George Washington, and Jesus, all at the same time.

Of course, if you say something that Rush Limbaugh doesn't like, he'll whine till the cows come home. If anyone in the media discusses race, Obama is a racist. If someone wants to celebrate their heritage, they're destroying "American culture." If the president says that America has ever done anything wrong in its entire history, then he hates America.

But that's not political correctness, saying that anyone who says something you don't like is a traitor or worse. That's just, um....

I can't stand when people say something along the lines of "Well, I guess I'm just not politically correct," usually after saying something racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or anti-Semitic (in Europe), usually with a little smile. It's almost as if some people think that saying that they're not politically correct means that they can get off the hook for any idiotic thing that they say.

What makes it more annoying is that the people who say it usually 1)think that being racist, homophobic, etc. is fighting against the system, speaking truth to power, when in fact it's just being lazy and falling in line with what power wants them to think, and 2)have some area, some subject matter, where if you say something out of line, even with the best of intentions, they'll turn into the worst political correctness dictator that you've ever seen.

For example, Rush Limbaugh has no trouble deriding and mocking ideas he labels political correctness (did it ever occur to him that the people holding those ideas might actually believe them?), but we've seen him go insane with calling Obama a racist just because other people around him, or people in the media, have discussed race, or implying that people are aiding terrorists for having different political opinions.

Being against political correctness, if I understand it correctly, is about being in favor of free speech, frank discussions, and challenging unquestioned assumptions. It's about being annoyed with people who don't want to talk about difficult topics like race because they're too afraid of offending something.

All of which are good things, but why is it that it's most often used by people who don't care about freedom of expression at all, who have no trouble making certain topics difficult to discuss with their wild accusations flung at anyone who disagrees with them? And why is it that, just because a position is "politically incorrect" or insensitive, it's automatically assumed to be the correct position by these folks?

The Religious Right never fails to say that they're fed up with the politically correct crowd, or mention how they're not politically correct (aka homophobic, sexist, and transphobic). But, seriously, I can't think of a group of people more sensitive to perceived insults and more willing to shut down free speech to reach their goals than them.

Anyone saying "Happy Holidays" is politically correct. They also hate Christians, which means they're discriminating against a religion. The disconnect is obvious.

Children are supposed to be taught moral values at school, which are too "politically correct" to go there, but if the schools decide to teach kids that, hey, some people are attracted to members of the same sex and you shouldn't beat them up for it, suddenly the school is "taking sides" in a "controversial issue" and, really, should just stop discriminating against the Christian students who are apparently being raised to believe that beating up queers is a great thing.

They complain that a politically correct society keeps politicians from saying who's a sinner and who's not, but they demand politicians pass their religious tests and prove that they're Christian enough for high office. How is that helping freedom of expression?

So when I hear someone proclaim themselves politically incorrect, I usually think that their politics, until proven otherwise, are somewhere along the lines of Rush Limbaugh's. And if someone precedes a sentence with "I know this isn't politically correct, but..." it's fairly safe to assume that they about to say something terrible and think that because they put up a "politically incorrect" warning, they're off the hook for their beliefs.

There is definitely a place for chiding people who are too politically correct. Sometimes people think that what they're saying is sensitive to a certain group, but it just isn't. And sometimes people choose to avoid a certain topic of conversation related to race, sexuality, etc., but it's not because they're actually afraid of insulting others. It's just because they don't want to examine their own prejudices and privilege.

This is a baggage issue, and part of it is the bizarre notion that you can prove your independence and willingness to stand up to power and preconceived notions by being racist, homophobic, transphobic, and generally prejudiced. There's nothing edgy about that, though. Racism's been around a long time, and people trying to justify why they think they're just better than everyone else has been around longer.


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Well, Alex, I can be pretty politically incorrect at times myself. I actually do believe that the more free speech the better.

What Limbaugh, the Religious Right, and other want, though, is the right to free speech without consequences.

Society's standards of what is and what isn't "PC" to say or do are in seemingly a constant state of change and flux (i.e. children under a certain age working in factories...well American factories anyway). By definition, conservatives can't get with the flux and some conservatives are now angry that society's standards have changed so much that we now have a black president.

And of course, the Limbaugh and Religious Right-types not only want the right to say what they want when they want without consequences but they also seek to stifle dissent as well.

Is Yasmin Nair being "politically incorrect" when she shares her opinion that the GLBT movement shouldn't make "marriage equality" its end-all and be-all goal? Some might accuse her of that, but I wouldn't. Am I being politically incorrect when I oppose[d] the upcoming March on Washington? If you think so, I have a rude response ready for you.

I suppose that the concept of "politically correct" has its merits, especially if you want to make public statements and have a minimum number of people criticizing you.

But who defines what is "political correctness"? Take it too far and it becomes dogma, and take it even farther and it becomes a form of totalitarianism. I do not want to have to ask the leaders of the GLBT movement for permission to think an original thought and put it into words. Nor do I want to have to poll the entire African-American population before making a potentially useful observation about attitudes involving race.

What is currently considered to be "PC" changes from day to day. (Check out Cisgender madness!) The body of PC is a jellyfish, an amorphous blob of protoplasm that changes shape and composition constantly. You know it's out there floating in the water somewhere, but you can only guess at its boundaries, and sometimes the only way one knows you have violated it is when it stings you.

Staying totally within the bounds of PC means that you only say things that have been pre-approved by an amorphous group of "others" --- and that precludes the possibility of adding anything totally new to the discussion.

So "I may not being politically correct here, but ..." is not the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. At least, not to me. Sometimes it means a person is resisting present, modern attitudes --- but other times it may mean the person is just thinking for him- or herself. Only a sycophant can be always PC.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 21, 2009 8:11 AM

Well done AJ. You brought to memory when my poor obedient parents tried to shame me over something small when I was a boy. It was wrong because: "That is what they say, all right."

Whatever the small problem was it probably had to do with race relations circa 1963.

For the first time in my life I asked for source material and responded: "Who are these 'they people' and what right to they have to tell us how to live?"

In fact, now I remember exactly, I had walked home from school with Black classmates (then known as 'the colored') and it was reported back to my parents that I had been seen sharing a public sidewalk with them shoulder to shoulder and talking as we went. Why not?, we were in class and recess together all day.

So political correctness can be right or left as a free thinking person can love their Jewish faith and disagree with Israeli political policy.

Many African Americans can be rightly proud of having a president with their ancestry, but be supporters of Republican ideas instead.

What Alex described is someone being snarky to your face rather than behind your back and I find that refreshing. That is really progress. It is a conversation you or I could have and relish.

Alex, I'm not one for political correctness either. Being a member of the clergy, there's a theological correctness correlation I deal with: Never refer to God as Father; avoid statements about Jesus that make him seem like a male. The current "correctness" substitutes "Creator, Word and Holy Ghost. One of the early church heresies dealt with denying the humanity of Jesus--But--that was millennia ago.
Alex, I realize that you're using hyperbole--cleverly done: David Duke, George Washington and Jesus all wrapped up in one. I'm troubled, not by a flippant use of Jesus, but the societal tendency to blur the lines between things biblical and underpinnings of particular secular agendas. The common practice of an American flag and a Christian one flanking some congregations' altars is one example.
Assuming that Christian faith approves of USA's involvement in a long line of wars is another.
One of my societal/political things that raises my hackles is the use of God and Jesus as expletives. It's even so common today that there's a computer abbreviation sometimes used--OMG. I've had fun making my point subtly. When I hear a resounding JESUS CHRIST, I smile and say--"name dropper".

I know I shouldn't giggle, but one of my favorite t-shirts from the early 90's said, "Political Correctness Is Retarded."

There's a difference between being polite and being shutting down honest discourse. Most of the time, PC doesn't need to shut it down; you can argue civilly.

I like this post a lot, Alex.
I don't entirely get the "not politically correct" crowd mindset, mainly because I've never lived in any time or place where "politically correct" was anything other than an insult to shut down people who were trying to get through the world with a minimum of damage to others. I've never heard of anyone proudly claiming to be politically correct. So I tend to interpret "I'm not politically correct" to mean something like "I don't get all that feminist/antiracist/empowerment/whatever stuff, and I think everything is just fine the way it is, and if you think about how your words and actions impact those around you it's because you're wimpy and stupid." Not a very compelling viewpoint.