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August 22, 2013

Down with Political Correctness

Patricia A. Kelly

Political correctness is well intentioned, but, like labor unions, may now be causing more harm than good in our society.


Historically, many job descriptions contained the suffix “man.” Although this seemed okay, as both men and women belong to the species of Man, it coincided with discrimination against women, people of color and people of certain religions. The attempt to change things had some merit, but going from trash man to trash person to sanitation engineer seemed a little over the top! Congress person has a nice ring to it, but takes a long time to say.


At about the same time, people began expressing concern about others “feeling good about themselves.” This led to pregnant women on medical assistance being transported from the clinics where they were comfortable to the pink velvet wing chairs of private gynecology offices, using cab vouchers. The thought was that they would feel better about themselves, and, maybe, absorb some middle class culture while they were there. As a receptionist there, and, later, a student nurse in the clinic, I guarantee that all this did was cost money and make people really uncomfortable.


We now live in a world where talking is akin to walking in a mine field. We know we can’t say colored or Negro, we think African American is okay, and maybe black, but we’re not sure. In the mental health field, the well intentioned response to discrimination is to discourage people from using the term mentally ill or mentioning violence in conjunction with mental illness. One must say, “People who suffer from mental illness.” The mentally ill, or “people who suffer from mental illness” are as much people worthy of respect and care as are the diabetics of the world, no matter what you call either of them. They are probably even less likely to commit violence than are the diabetics, but never talking about it makes things much worse than bringing it out into the open.


Slavery is another example. Politically correct speech disallows the term “slave," and insists on “enslaved people,” or people who were enslaved.” No matter what you call anyone, they are people who should not have been enslaved.


Intentions good, outcome questionable. A lot of time and mental energy is spent attempting to figure out how to say things, and these careful phrases often send us further apart, rather than bringing us together.


Why do so many people need labels anyway? We are all people of color. Some of us are light colored and some of us are dark. Many of us are diabetics, heart patients, amputees, Hispanics, blacks, whites, homosexuals, Christians, or Jews, Muslims or Hindus. This doesn’t make any of us less worthy.


Putting aside the new Museum of African American Culture under construction across the street from the Washington Monument, because it can be justified historically, let it be said that it is quite inappropriate, in my view, to call a black person an African American. Many black Americans are not of African descent. Those who are should have as little need as white Americans to add their ancestral country to their descriptions of themselves. Everyone who is a citizen of the United States of America is an American, and calling us anything else just contributes to divisiveness in our society.


All this talk about our separateness just leads, in addition to ridiculous job names and personal labels, sanctioned use of multiple languages in our country, even to the point of governments printing of documents in more than one language. Not only is that a waste of money and time – just think of the public school classes in more than one language – it also increases divisiveness in our society.


It is insane to think that living in a society where everyone’s color or race or country of origin as a prefix for their description as Americans could be good in any way. We are all human beings, all Americans, all contributors to the mix, and we should all speak the same language, or else.


We often speak of enabling, when discussing spoiling children or facilitating the active alcoholic’s continued drinking. In that context, we understand that enabling, although often disguised as love or even respect, is a bad thing that hurts the person being enabled.


Encouraging people to retain an identity separate from their brotherhood as Americans is every bit as bad. It is enabling disunity in our society. We must develop our mix of cultures, colors and predilections into a united society. If we do, we will remain the strongest country on earth, and an example for many others.


Down with political correctness!


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