I remember when I was little, my mom helped arrange a Girl Scout trip to Neiman Marcus or Lord & Taylor, or some such place to learn how to sit like little ladies at a dinner table. (It was way before she would let me watch “Pretty Woman”, which was far more influential to me, and my ability to not embarrass myself at a formal place setting.)
In any case, I resoundingly failed this field trip. When learning to use the soup spoon and sip not slurp, I challenged the instructor, claiming I could fit the whole spoon in my mouth. The look of skepticism on her face, I now realize, was not in fact a challenge. As the
precocious pain the ass kid I was, I interpreted her look as doubt. Doubt that I must immediately quash, lest she think I couldn’t fit the spoon in my mouth, because I totally could.
I promptly shoved the entirety of the spoon’s bowl into my mouth. With soup.
She was not impressed.
Neither was my mother.
Following this horrifying episode, it’s a wonder that my mama thought that cotillion would be a good idea for me as a teenager. And yet she did. The fit I pitched to get out of it was quite impressive. In the end, the dates of the time-honored etiquette classes fell during horse show season, and we all knew I’d rather die than miss a show. #Priorities
Somehow I came out as an adult who knows which fork to use for a salad, and how to make polite conversation, and how to waltz.
If you couldn’t tell, I was a weird kid. I wasn’t bullied often, but I was witness to a lot of it. I’m sure I even participated at some level. That sucks. No one wants to think of themselves as someone who makes others feel small.
Yet, as I sit here and watch the Republican National Convention, there’s this unbelievable culmination of a campaign-long
bitchfest effort to end the Democrats’ love of political correctness.
What do you mean we can’t say Negro/Oriental/retarded?!
It’s not that you can’t say those things, it’s that you sound like an asshole when you do.
This train that glorifies being politically incorrect, as if that’s somehow more authentic, is headed toward an ill-maintained stretch of track and set to blow up like a tank of Bakken crude when it hits the rocks.
When I failed my Girl Scout etiquette badge, I failed at knowing how to use cutlery. When someone decries political correctness, what they’re railing against is basic human decency; not making another person feel like less than human. Those people are big ol’ bullies in the name of being “honest”. When you choose to use words or phrases that you know damn well are meant to Other someone, you are choosing to be a jerk and a bully. No one wants to be the person in the room who goes around to everyone and says, “You are using the wrong fork. You are mispronouncing that word. Oh, that’s not what happened on last night’s Scandal, this is what happened…” and then proceeds to tell the crowd that Olivia’s outfit was actually snow white, not ivory. No one likes that guy. He has no manners, no respect.
Words like fag, dyke, tranny, retard, towel head, A-rab, kike, “little lady”, and their racist, sexist, and ableist extensions, make people feel like less than equal. Less than human. Less than American. Less than. So it’s not that you can’t be “politically incorrect”, you can. But you will be held accountable for building yourself up on the backs of others who aren’t like you.
I get that it’s hard. We’re a nation that was built by a genocide of Native Americans, and the exploitation and enslavement of Africans and African-Americans. Anyone who wasn’t a land-holding white man was literally less than. We’re still trying to come away from that. We’re not trying to drag whites, men, or the upper class down to us, where we’ve historically been placed as women, people of color, people with disabilities, or “lower” class. That that is the perception says more about the fear of the privileged, than what it says about those of us who demand
political correctness respect as human beings. Being politically correct isn’t hard. We’re not asking you to subscribe to a newsletter that you’ll be forced to read and take a test on. But when someone says, “Hey, that’s offensive and hurtful,” maybe you should take note of that.
Keep this in mind as you hear, or you espouse, the virtues of being politically incorrect. It doesn’t mean being real, or authentic, or keepers of the true America. It means that you’re actively belittling your fellow citizens who just want to be recognized as equal, as we were promised.