What I've Learned…
I am a highly tolerant person. I joke that the only thing I can’t tolerate is intolerance. Oh, the paradox! I love people, all kids of quirky and odd fellows. I worked with people who have developmental disabilities and I was taught “people first language.” I am also a sociologist according to my expensive piece of paper that cost more money than it will ever earn.
I think that political correctness starts with good intentions. It begins a conversation that makes a statement about respect. Ironically, it also makes a statement of unity and separation all at the same time. On one hand, “I am not singling you out as different than me because you are another (race, gender, etc.)” On the other hand, “I am not the same as Joe simply because we are the same (race, gender, etc.)”
The intention starts out good. It comes from a place of love. It comes from wanting to show a person that I will not treat them poorly because other people may have a problem with some aspect of who they are. But things will evolve. Eventually, changes in attitude do occur. Look at our children.
Children do not understand the prejudice we encountered when we were young. I took my girls shopping and my 10 year old went on about a beautiful outfit that a girl in her class wore. I happened to be aware that this girl was black. I remembered my mother telling me as a child that “black people had a better sense of fashion than white people.” I uttered my memory out loud to my daughters and then said, “but even though that is a compliment we really shouldn’t say that because it is still racist.” And, to my amazement, my daughter asked “what is racist?”
So, to answer the question “is it useful?” I say yes it is. It is useful in starting conversation and bringing awareness to attitudes. It can and will bring about change.
But, I caution all people, to be aware of balance. Once the point has been made and the next generation has lost the hatred, it is no longer needed. At some point we have to lighten up.
I remember watching a comedian once. He was going on about his Italian grandmother having plastic over all her furniture and a squeegee in the bathroom. My Italian grandmother had plastic all over her furniture and a squeegee in her bathroom! I laughed so hard! Was it raciest? Yes, it was. But I saw it as something I could relate to in my life.
Some say you can make fun of the “haves” but not the “have nots.” Some say “I hate everyone equally.” I say respect everyone and celebrate our differences. Our differences are what make us interesting. Differences are what help our society grow.
And, sometimes, differences are damn funny! It should be okay to laugh about them, together!
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