Though the term “politically correct” was not in common use in the 1960s, the rise of radical liberalism in those “days of rage” was the wellspring from which the concept was resurrected. I say “resurrected” because the term and the concept go back a few more generations – to the early 1900s.
It should be both informative and chilling to know that it was a concept of political obedience used by the early Nazis, in Stalinist Russia and in Maoist China. The New York Times, as early as 1934, was reporting that Hitler’s government was only providing “reporting permits” to journalists who were “pure Aryans” and whose opinions were “politically correct."
Leninists used the phrased to mean that the statements and policies of the Communist Party were always correct. The term’s association with communist tyranny gained it an unfavorable reputation from the American political community.
The concept of political correctness was at the core of Chairman Mao’s “Little Red Book,” which every citizen was to carry and memorize. The people were indoctrinated to believe that the words of Mao – popularly referred to as the “wise leader” – were to be believed at face value. It was a bit like the infallible words of a Roman Catholic Pope speaking ex cathedra – and I do not mean to imply any further comparison between the two heads-of-state.
With this history, it should be no surprise that the American version of political correctness should rise from the far left – the more authoritarian side of the right/left political continuum. This is because political correctness is a tenet of authoritarianism. That is why it flies in the face of one of the most basic freedoms in a free society – freedom of speech.
While political correctness purports to create a more harmonious dialogue by creating government directed and court-imposed standards of behavior and civil discourse, it actually creates divisive tensions among the citizenry that are ultimately tamped down by an oppressive elitist government. It divides the population into victims and abusers – a misidentification in both cases.
Political correctness is a parasitical concept of one of the left’s other favorites – identity politics. One cannot pit one group against another – create winners and losers, victims and abusers – unless you identify those respective groups in a divisive arrangement. In the left-wing philosophy that has taken hold of the Democratic Party, there is no such thing as a win-win situation.
Like much of radical left philosophy, political correctness is belief based. Those who believe they are the “victims” plead for government protection from those they believe are the “abusers.” This creates opportunities for the development of new hitherto unknown concepts and categories of victimhood – so imaginary that they are often ridiculous. More than ridiculous, they are crazy to anyone with common sense and a little bit of life experience. That may explain why political correctness is so popular and so irrational on college campuses where most of the experience – among students AND professors -- is in dealing with theoretical models of society based more on wishful thinking than reality.
One of my favorite crazy political correctness beliefs is something called “cultural appropriation.” That has a nice academic ring to it, but what does it mean? It means that you do something that is generally associated with a different culture – usually something a White majority person does that is associated with a minority person.
For example, …
If you cook Chinese food and you are not Chinese – or even Asian – you are “appropriating” that culture. I use that as the first example because this mostly Austro-Eastern European writer – with one percent Nigerian blood according to my DNA results – loves to cook Chinese food. That includes miso soup, egg foo yung and various stir fries. After all, a person cannot live on schnitzel and strudel alone. I am not sure if my one percent Nigerian blood qualifies me to cook African cuisine according to political correctness theology.
There is a Chinese restaurant in Boca Raton that is owned and operated by Mexicans – including the chefs. They do a pretty good job in putting out some great American-style Chinese food. I say “American-style” because I have always loved Chinese food. But during my first of many trips to China, I discovered I never had any. The food in China is wunderbar (or should I have said 精彩), but very different from the Americanized version. I like both. (And oh, pardon the “wunderbar.” That Austrian gene will not be denied. If you cannot read 精彩 or Jīngcǎi, it means “wonderful” in Chinese).
But it is not just the food. If you are Caucasian and wear Asian style clothing, you are guilty of cultural appropriation – and that includes that Fu Manchu costume your kid wore last Halloween. If you’re Australian and put your hair up in an Afro for some reasons or add a dashiki to your wardrobe, you are guilty of cultural appropriation.
It even applies to make up. One of the current fads among the fashionistas is for the women to have very thin arched eyebrows – most commonly achieved by plucking or penciling. Weeell, that got Krystyna Chávez’ eyebrows raised, to say the least. Upon seeing songstress Rihanna on the cover of the British edition of Vogue with those heavily-arched thin eyebrows, Chávez was so horrified – yes she said “horrified” – that she expunged her angst in an article in Marie Claire, accusing Rihanna of … yep! … cultural appropriation.
You can better understand how deeply violations of political correctness protocol can wound the weak, like Chávez. Beyond being horrified, Chávez said that her “Mexican-American heart was DEEPLY confused and DEEPLY annoyed …” (My emphasis added). Her reaction is one degree away from call-the-shrink traumatic. (Hmmm. Why does Chávez describe herself as a Mexican-American? Is she trying to appropriate my culture? And what about her first name? Sounds Russian to me.)
Now you really have to pay attention to get through this next bit of political correctness nonsense. According to Chávez, that particular style belongs to the Latinx community in general – and even more specifically to the chola subculture, which Chávez basically describes as the “trashy” people. Oh, you are not familiar with “Latinx?” That is the politically correct, gender neutral term for a Latina or Latino … or maybe even a pet chihuahua.
Anyone seeing that photo of Rihanna, says Chávez, would immediately associate it with chola women. Is that so? Chávez might be interested in knowing that seeing that photo of Rihanna did not only NOT make me think of chola Latinas --- oops, Latinx … but I had never even heard of that subculture reference. Furthermore, those thin arching eyebrows have been on women of many cultures over many years. Chávez should try to peddle her political correctness theory to Marlene Dietrich, the geishas of Japan and no few of my mother’s lady friends back in the 1950s.
That Latinx thing reminded me that political correctness is all about self-identification. It is another belief system that upends reality. If you believe you are of a different gender than the biological equipment between your legs, the PC types say that is what a person is to be considered.
That theory resulted in Planet Fitness losing a lawsuit when a woman entered the ladies’ locker and discovered a disrobed male. The management explained that the fellow … ooops, I mean the other person … considered himself to be a female. The plaintiff did not agree and neither did the court.
But what happens when self-identification runs smack dab into cultural appropriation? That brings to mind Rachel Dolezal, a young Caucasian gal who passed herself off as a Black woman and served as the director of the Spokane NAACP. Does self-identification trump cultural appropriation, or vice versa? Putting that question to a fervent political correctness advocate could result in the emotional and intellectual equivalency of pouring water on the Ozian Wicked Witch of the East.
Political correctness has also sired another bit of lunacy – microaggression. The term was coined by a Harvard Professor in the 1970s. That figures. It is a grievance that presumably can only be committed by a White person. It occurs when said White person manifests “aggressive” behavior toward a person of one of the protected victim classes based on identity politics – whether the White person knows they transgressed or not.
While the concept of microaggression has festered in the cloistered academic community for decades, it has more recently come to the fore as a key plank in the radical left-wing platform. It also has come into vogue among liberal psychologists who see it as another money magnet for grants, royalties, honoraria and consultations. One of the major academic peddlers of the microaggression theory is Dr. Gerald Wing Sue, who says:
“Racial microaggressions are the brief and everyday slights, insults, indignities and denigrating messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned White people who are unaware of the hidden messages being communicated.”
At least that boy named Sue admits it is all a “belief” as opposed to a science. It seems to be one of the unique instances when the transgression is neither intended by or known to the transgressor. It also leaves open the question as to whether the perceived “insult” is justified or based on a paranoia-like insensitivity on the part of the recipient – perhaps what might be called “snowflake syndrome.” Unfortunately, that designation lacks the obligatory academic-sounding title.
According to the proponents, microaggression has three stages. They are micro-assaults, micro-insults and micro-invalidations.
Micro-assaults are overt acts of racism – like planting a burning cross on the lawn of your new Black neighbor. This does not seem to be very “micro,” but rather a redefinition of plain old racism.
Micro-insults are subtler. The example Sue uses is some White person asking a Black co-worker how he or she got their job. The implication is that they did not earn it but were hired through some affirmative action program or quota system. Only an academic would pose such a hypothetical example in support of a dubious theory. Who the hell ever asks that question in a real workplace?
Incidentally, instead of “he or she,” I could have used one of the proposed gender-neutral words, but which one – zie, sie, ey, ve, ta or e? They are each being offered up as a replacement for “he or she.” Fortunately, this twisting of the English language into lexiconic pretzels is not catching on with the masses.
My favorite of all this micro nonsense is micro-invalidation. Again, I defer to Sue’s example. He contends that White people often ask Latinos where they were born, suggesting – and here is where Sue goes off the rails – that they are “perpetual foreigners in their own land.”
Again, it is a one-way street. I have often been asked my ancestry and have never felt invalidated. I also must confess that I am a serial ancestry-asker. If people have a thick accent, I am curious. Not to invalidate them, but to learn about their background and culture. I give them a chance to brag about their culture. I will often ask those I think may be Chinese because I have been there, and we can have a good conversation about China.
According to the microaggression proponents, micro-invalidation occurs when a person says or does something that they do not believe or intend to be racist AND the other person does not take it as racist. Consider that. You, as a White person, are a racist even if you had no racist intention and the other person – a minority – does not see anything racist in what you said or did? But they could, so it is racist.
It is upon this nonsense that the left predicates the accusation that all Whites are inherently racists … period. In its more radical and virulent variation, this means that all Whites are … White supremacists. This crap is being force fed to the younger generation and the minority communities in our colleges and inner cities across the nation.
A tangential irrational politically correctness belief is that minorities cannot be racists. A Black, Asian or Hispanic person can hate White people openly – as did Sarah Jeong, the newly hired editorialist for the New York Times – but that brand of racism is not racism in the “little red book” of the far left.
Political correctness and its offspring, identity politics, are the enemies of the American culture of personal freedom. They are repugnant to the very concept of e pluribus unum. Not only do they undermine constitutional rights – especially the First Amendment – but they completely reject our nation as a melting pot in which new cultures contribute even as they assimilate into what is known as the unique American culture. The left sees governance as the management of tribal-like constituencies never to meld.
Political correctness is a malignant belief. We can often shake our heads and laugh at those frequent manifestations of its lunacy, but we must not take them lightly. Political correctness is the antithesis of our principles and personal freedoms.