Actually, We DO All Have Time for "Political Correctness"
I write an awful lot about the prevalence and insidiousness of racism in God’s own United States, so it’s nice to branch out and write about racism in other parts of the world sometimes for balance. Because ugly, xenophobic, far-right nationalist movements and leaders aren’t just ascendent here but throughout the rest of the world as well.
Yes, for the first time ever, race relations have gotten pretty shitty throughout the world and Trump-like figures are getting elected on strident anti-immigration platforms. This is of course reflected on social media, which functions as one of the world’s largest racism-dissemination platforms, if the single biggest vehicle for broadcasting bigotry in all forms in this increasingly toxic and terrifying world. When Zuckerberg was dreaming up (or stealing, depending on your perspective) Facebook in his dorm room he never could have imagined just how many anti-Semitic sentiments would be publicly distributed thanks to his baby, or just how many, Nazi-derived memes would enjoy healthy, poisonous lives thanks to his life’s work.
On Facebook, racists and hate-mongers can mix and mingle and spread their ideas far and wide. More everyday racists find it useful as well. Recently I was fascinated by a poll from an Australian website asking its readers if they thought controversial “Golliwog” or “Wog” dolls were racist, and should not be displayed or allowed to compete at the Royal Adelaide Show, an agricultural show run by the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society of South Australia.
To me and people of my political and ideological persuasion, these dolls are transparently racist, ugly relics of a bygone era rooted in poisonous stereotypes that robbed black Americans of their dignity, autonomy and humanity and depicted them as smiling, subservient figures with exaggerated features who could be your child’s plaything but never their equal.
The people who responded to this poll felt very differently. 93 percent said the dolls weren’t racist while only 7 percent had a problem with them. Hate-reading awful social media comments from racists unaware of both how racism works both institutionally and also within them yet feel the need to spout off on it constantly on social media, almost as if it is their job, is one of my many unproductive obsessions, so I had to check out the rationales for supporting these symbols of our even more egregiously racist past.
The responses came from a very similar place as defenses of the Confederate flag and The Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo, proving that racism and racial hyper-defensiveness are truly universal. The people or groups being crudely and insultingly depicted actually really like this symbol of hatred and oppression! Removing wildly anachronistic symbols of widespread institutional racism is tantamount to trying to erase history! Acknowledging this form of racism is political correctness run amok! Pointing out racism and asking it to stop is the new racism, only worse because it’s being done by black people to white people, who really do not like being called racist!
Many of the rationales for the dolls’ non-racism came from a very personal place. The dolls’ defenders talked wistfully about how they had and loved these dolls as children back in the 1970s, and since they most assuredly weren’t racist, then how could these dolls be?
As always, context is essential. The 93 percent replaced the real-world historical context of the dolls, which is steeped in racism and colonialism and white supremacy, and replaced it with a purely personal one where they enjoyed these misunderstood and ultimately benign toys during an idealized racism-free childhood and now were being made to feel guilty about a romanticized memory untainted by the scourge of racism by attention-seeking race-baiters seeing racism in everything, even a harmless children’s toy.
For me it’s not that difficult to figure out. Listen when people are in pain. Try to learn from their experiences and grow and evolve with the culture and the times. If you make mistakes, apologize and change your ways.
But for a lot of people that’s entirely too much. It asks people to change and grow and acknowledge where and when they’ve come up short when there are lots of voices in the culture, on both the left and the right, assuring people that what is rightfully recognized as racism in one of its myriad forms is actually acceptable and harmless, and that whoever is pointing out racism is the actual racist.
They say that the Confederate flag is about heritage, not hate, and that Chief Wahoo isn’t an ugly, racist caricature but a beloved symbol of strength and pride and that dolls that reflect the prejudices of an earlier, more explicitly racist era are actually beloved keepsakes only a dour killjoy poisoned with extremist ideology could object to.
That’s what they say on a cultural level. On a more personal level, they tell you that you don’t need to examine your privilege because privilege doesn’t exist, and racism doesn’t really exist, except when black people are injecting it where it doesn’t belong for purely selfish and self-serving purposes. They tell you that you’re fine the way you are and that if people think you’re racist, that’s on them, because you don’t need to change or evolve or grow.
Donald Trump unsurprisingly also serves as a role model for not listening or learning or growing. If he were on Celebrity Jeopardy he’d complain loudly that he was actually right after every wrong answer he gave and how Hillary Clinton, in concert with Barack Obama and the fake news media, had conspired to rob him of his rightful victory.
When Donald Trump tells crowds that he doesn’t have time for “political correctness” he means that he doesn’t have time to think for even a fraction of a second about how his words or actions could unnecessarily harm historically oppressed groups or further their oppression.
That’s because Trump’s a sociopath. Thankfully we should all have time for cultural sensitivity, even if it means taking precious seconds to think about our words and their possible consequences before speaking. That Obama guy always seemed to do that weird thing where he clearly thought before he spoke. We could all learn from him in that respect, the crappy new guy in his old job most of all.
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