This post is inspired by (redacted) and the response given there by one individual. I’ve also seen a lot of the same types of responses recently posted on a lot of forums, expressed on TV etc. where the argument rages over whether politically correct has gone to far or not far enough.
This is addressed to “we”, the collective, largely white “we” of the United States. I understand we get all bent out of shape when confronted by a polite (or impolite) request to consider the choice of language used with others. We fume and turn purple and rant and rave, sometimes with gnashing of teeth and fist shaking how “goddamit this is America, I’ll say what I want”. We point, correctly, that all races have bigots amongst them, that all cultures discriminate, and that the ludicrous extreme some take in taking offense is, in fact, absurd. Kudos for you for that opinion.
But let me propose instead that “we”, the collective “we”, should take a step back, a deep breath, and engage in a lot more tolerance to political correctness as it is a tiny price to pay, a minuscule punishment to endure, for what “we” have done.
“We” used to call people niggers and hang them from trees bringing children out to watch like it was some holiday picnic.
“We” would form mobs and decimate entire neighborhoods of minorities, killing and burning everything we found.
“We” are the only civilization since the treaty of Westphalia to successfully practice genocide to the point of eradicating major and well-entrenched civilizations for our own greed for land and resources.
“We” then used the Bureau of Indian Affairs to collectively steal from whatever paltry remnants were left of the Native Americans in violation of our own treaties to the tune of some $600billion.
“We” collectively decided it would be okay to enslave an entire race and even after abolishing slavery persisted in ignoring our own founding documents and not treat all men equally, but rather an entire race as second-class citizens.
“We” only allowed women the right to vote in the last century, and still do not pay equitably for equitable work.
“We”, in a broader sense, colonized most of the known world taking advantage of the riches and resources of those weaker than us for our own good to the detriment of those we occupied, only abandoning these holdings in the last five decades in such a haphazard manner that it is my belief that colonialism, not World War II or the Cold War, is and will continue to be the predominant causa belli for conflicts in the 21st Century.
As a historian, I am challenged constantly to judge the actions of historic figures only within the context of their time. Yet that does not prevent me as a human from looking back and commenting “although I cannot judge the people making the actions as wrong, I can still judge the action and call it wrong”.
“We” should take caution in priding ourselves on our history EXCEPT in that we were able to overcome and surpass our failings, perhaps our greatest testament as a nation…the good we have done in spite of the wrong we have inflicted.
Is affirmative action fair to all? No. But we must recognize that neither was slavery and segregation for two hundred years – when should affirmative end? A hundred and ninety years sounds appropriate.
“We” cannot undo the mistakes of the past but we can learn from them and do our part to mitigate the effects of them. And that’s the problem.
“We”, the collective supremely indignant “white we”, have never felt what it is like to live on the other end, to be forced by violent coercion into an inferior position.
The “we” who is insistent on saying what he wants when he wants has probably never had to pay for his freedom by having his mouth smashed in with a billy club simply based on the color of his skin and that he wanted to sit in a white’s-only restaurant, or had dogs released on him as he attempted to register to vote, or beaten in school because he spoke the language of his parents.
Be glad it is just a request of those around you, a civil inquiry to be civil, that you moderate your language…certainly “we” have gone far further than that in the past to oppress and humiliate the minority.
Ignorance is an excuse, to a point. I used to enjoy playing the childhood game Smear-the-Queer until I learned there were homosexual men hospitalized for life on the other end of that term, somehow the game no longer seemed as fun.
Even today “We” still do not treat homosexuals as regular citizens: they cannot serve in the military openly, and they are not afforded the same governmental protections as heterosexuals. They are discriminated against legally because of their status and their activity amongst consenting adults. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, not just of the soldiery, but of the citizenry as well.
In the past “we” failed, and failed absolutely, as Americans and humans, not to some outside an arbitrary standard set by others, but based on the very criteria that we founded this country on namely that all men are endowed with certain inalienable rights the chief amongst them being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
So “we” are now asked to take an extra second to pause and search our vocabulary for a slightly different term than one that offends.
“We” are asked to put aside the derogatory comments we have become so familiar with.
“We” are challenged to redefine a language that does not offend. Somehow I don’t find that too burdensome. Is that really too high a price to pay to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past? I don’t think so.
rant-off Tim C.