“Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead, is watchword of the wise.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German Writer and Statesman, 1749 – 1832
As a kid I do not remember ever hearing the phrase “politically correct”. Perhaps it was because I was raised in a small town, or perhaps (it being the 80’s) political correctness had not yet become the shaming tool used so extensively by various groups bent on social engineering as a means to an end. This will probably sound crass, but it was a number of years before I realized the word “nigger” was a bad thing. Old people all around me used that word to generally refer to blacks. You could have substituted “black” or “African-American” or “dark-skinned person” or “colored” (which I particularly like as far as terms go) in most of their sentences and the meaning would have remained the same.
I still remember when I found out how hurtful the word could be. I was pretty little, maybe 7 or 8, and I said “nigger” in front of a black friend of mine of the same age. He had apparently been made aware of what the word meant. I was immediately pulled to the side and told what I had done and that I should apologize. I would have made an argument of unfairness, because I heard the word used all the time by old people, but then my friend starting crying. By the time it was over, we were both sobbing from hurt and shame. Then we got some Kool-Aid and the world was right again.
In my adult years I have noticed a steady increase in the things that we (people) are not supposed to say or acknowledge, lest we face losing our job and\or the scorn of the social media world. People keep trying to tell me the rules to a game I have no interest in playing. Many men, not wanting to offend anyone — which at its truest root is a very kind stance — take up politically correct speech. More so, however, men use politically correct speech because they simply do not want to be seen as offensive. There is a difference here that is important to understand and will be discussed below.
As if the word “Political” in Political Correctness wasn’t enough to raise red flags, here are some thoughts on why we should avoid being politically correct.
Political Correctness vs. Non-abrasive Speech
“A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” – Proverbs 15:4, The Bible, ESV
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” – Proverbs 12:18, The Bible, ESV
As mentioned in the opening, there is a difference between not wanting to offend and not wanting to be viewed as offensive. The former is out of care for the person(s) with whom you are engaging and the sake of getting the point across without inflaming the conversation unnecessarily, while the latter is a form of guarded self-preservation and pride.
Political Correctness shames people into thinking that they are evil if they say certain words or take a particular stance on an issue. Non-abrasive speech is simply choosing your words more carefully. Some men, rather than simply avoiding politically correct speech, try to set themselves apart through purposeful (and usually loud) politically incorrect speech. Thinking they are fighting the war against the political machine, they are actually keeping the game alive, just playing offense instead of defense (or vice versa).
How Political Correctness Divides
“One great use of words is to hide our thoughts.” – Voltaire, French Writer & Philosopher, 1694 – 1778
I would assume a lot of men and women would believe that being politically correct is simply a means of showing respect to others with whom they have to live and work with, in other words, showing tolerance. However, political correctness is not about tolerance, it is about control. If you feel afraid to say what you believe and to phrase things as you believe best suits the conversation, you are no longer playing in the field of equality and freedom, rather you have been pushed into the spectrum of thought control.
Banned Words and Thoughts Have More Power
It is wrongly assumed that when a word, phrase, or way of thinking is deemed politically incorrect that it will die a quick and painless death; that the lips of society will no longer find the urge to utter the hurtful words or indulge the shameful thoughts. This could not be farther from reality. Societies have a natural way of doing away with hurtful speech and backwards thinking. Once the heart of society changes, the words no longer have as much meaning as they once did. They begin to transform into shapeless conversation filler or take on new meanings, unattached to their origin. Eventually, the words either remain useful in their new form, or they are lost over time. When you attempt to speed up this process, you elevate the words and thoughts in ways one would not expect.
Voldemort and the Name of God
As an example of how this works, let’s look at Lord Voldemort’s name. In Harry Potter the name Voldemort is all but banned. When Harry comes close to saying it he is immediately silenced — the name mustn’t be spoken. There is power in the name, or so it is believed. In reality, the name is not banned, but rather privileged. Those closest to Harry’s story and that of Tom Riddle (Voldemort) may speak the name.
The name of God was and is still treated much the same way by Jews, writing G-d rather than God (there are many other more important names as well) and in previous times only written in full or said aloud by the high priest. The goal is to treat the name of God with reverence, which proves the point I am trying to make.
Banning words and thoughts puts them in a special classification. Those who are allowed to speak the words or discuss the thoughts openly, must have special privilege to do so, creating, in effect, a division of classes where there should be unity.
Indians and Negros
I’ll use two popular examples of how political correctness attempts to create division and when unity begins to form, changes the rules of the game so that the division will continue to widen.
People of Indian descent can say and use words like “Indian”, “White man”, “Red skin”, etc. as they please. In most cases the term Indian is still used though it is technically incorrect. The politically correct term was Native American, which is just stupid for so many reasons I won’t take the time to list here, and now the term American Indian is also supposedly correct. The back and forth over what people ought to be called leads to confusion and the avoidance of a more familial tone in conversation, each side not wanting to offend the other.
The North Carolina band The Carolina Chocolate Drops is one of my family’s favorites. The band is made up of black members, many of which have Creole, Scottish, or other white blood mixed in, and they dress, play music and instruments, in the style of old-timey black folk. The shows are just amazing to watch and the crowds are about as culturally diverse as you can get. One of the great unifying things about them is that they talk about black and white history in more of a sentimental, yet factual tone; not prejudiced or seeking particular attention for their particular heritage. It’s more like, “ This is the way it was, not always good, but man did some amazing music come out of those times!”
Anyhow, they have an album called Genuine Negro Jig. The word Negro in the album creates an issue for white people who want to promote them ;-). As much as their style of music is a conversation starter, people nearly flee for fear of being overheard when I bring up the name of the album.
I don’t think it is an accident that the terms Black, African-American, Colored, etc. have all been thrown around as preferred, politically correct terms at one time or another. I believe it is done to create division where unity ought to be. Who does this? Usually, who ever has money and influence.
As men, it’s important to recognize sensitivities. Not everyone is at the same place of maturity. When we speak, it’s appropriate to take that into account. However, we can’t be pulled into the group-think of political correctness. We should simply say the things we believe are right and have the expectation that rational people with whom we could hope to have a reasonable conversation and relationship, will not look for trifles in our choice of words, and can even enjoy the disagreement that can exist between people when openness and mutual respect exist.