Monday, July 4, 2011

Keeping it PC

I don't like Political Correctness. There. I said it. So, shoot me.

*Waits*

*Peeps from behind hands*

*Smiles to still be alive*

*Ducks as car backfires outside*

IT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER
Honestly, I've never really gotten the PC obsession. Take for example Native American vs. Indian. Meh. Okay, so they/you aren't Indian. India is a country in Asia. I know, I've been there. But you're not really Native to the US either. You just happened to be there when the White people rolled in.

Yeah, I'm not Native American, and someone out there is probably thinking I'm being horribly insensitive to the needs of what's now an American minority. But, I'll let you in on a little secret: I, too, am mis-named "Indian".

The English speaking Caribbean is known as the West Indies. We play together on a cricket team under that name. And even today, most mail, especially in the smaller islands (population wise) has the last line of address as "W.I."

We're all called Indians, and we don't care, because it's just a name. Noone ever gets confused between the East Indians in Trinidad and Guyana and the Black West Indians because of the misnomer.

IT ISN'T ALWAYS RIGHT
Sometimes, (as with the term "Native American") the PC name for someone is not representative of who or what they are. For example, if I go to American, some well-meaning American will call me African-American. And I'm not. My ancestors left Africa several hundred years ago. And I'm sure Homeland Security would have a good laugh at my "American" status if I tried to just stay on US soil.

IT'S CONFUSING
What do you call a White person from Nigeria, who just became a legal citizen of the U.S.? You sure as heck can't call them African American, can you?

IT MAKES WORDS UNIVERSALLY BAD
re·tard
   [ri-tahrd, for 1–3, 5; ree-tahrd for 4]
–verb (used with object)
1.
to make slow; delay the development or progress of (an action, process, etc.); hinder or impede.

If I want to sell a fire extinguisher, I can't call it a flame-retardant without some watchdog agency jumping on my back. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration, but words existed before whatever (fairly arbitrary) connotations we give them.

SPEAKING OF ARBITRARY...
The right words are so arbritary. Once upon a time, I would have been a negro. Then I'd have been coloured. After which, I was Black. Now, I'm African-American. It's easy for a well-meaning person who's unfamiliar with a culture to use the wrong word and offend someone.

IT CAUSES UNNECCESSARY WORRY
I've never met a Native American. If I ever cross paths with one, I know the first thing I will do is call them "Indian". Not out of any desire to be disrespectful, but because we call people with the same roots "Amerindians" at home. And because we don't have "Native Americans" who care about the term. And because I'm Indian too. My mental process will be this: "Don't say Indian. Don't say Indian. Don't say- Dang it!" And I'll alienate my first potential friend of that race.

I don't like offending people. And because there isn't that much that offends me, I'm pretty sure I offend unintentionally. A lot. I try to play by the rules. But I fail. Japan is restful in this sense, because the rules are so relaxed among the foreigner population.

WHY IT DOESN'T MATTER TO ME
I'm not African American. I won't get offended if you call me that, but some people will chew your head off. I'm proud of being a West Indian. Even if I have no Indian heritage.

For me, the importance is in the meaning of the word and the intentions. If you call me African American and you're friendly, that's cool. But if you call me Black (my preferred term) and then proceed to act like I rolled out of someone's sewage tank, I won't be thrilled.

In my books, it's still the thought that counts.

It's Monday. That's what's on my mind.

7 comments:

Liza said...

Very well said. We drown in political correctness and in a lot of cases, alienate ourselves from each other. I stick to what my husband's grandmother used to say when the kids called themselves Irish (or Irish Americans.) "When were you ever in Ireland? You're an American."

Chelsey said...

I can see your point on most everything except the word "retard". The issue with this word is that it is a derogatory slur aimed at people who often cannot defend themselves. It is in line with "nigger" and "pollack" not African American.

No one is suggesting you cannot say "flame retardant" or discuss a plant's retarded growth, but since the term for people with cognitive disabilities is no longer "mentally retarded" even in the legal sense, the word is both outdated and cruel.

NiaRaie said...

The cases of PC that I think are weird ,are the fact that everyone in America is divided bases on where their ancestors came from (or were taken from) and in many other countries that is not the issue. I have a friend from Colombia said that anyone living in that country is Colombian no matter what region or skin color. And that's how I think it should be here. Good post.

Angela Ackerman said...

It's always tough to know what is right, isn't it? I think sometimes by trying hard to not offend...we offend.

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Claire Dawn said...

Liza, thank you! I feel exactly the same way. I'm a Barbadian. And I think it's kinda silly for me to claim Africa. I'm sure that there's a lot of my culture that is inherently African, and I'll tell anyone I have African roots, but African, I am not.

Chelsey, as I said, that particularly one was an exaggeration. Let me draw another example, you can't tell a guy he's gay, and mean that he's happy- even though that is a legitimate use of the word.

NiaRaie, I agree, as long as you bother to segregrate, there really isn't true equality. I'm not saying that you should never pay attention to your roots, but you should be from your country first, second, and third. On occasion, like Black History Month or St Patrick's day, heritage will come into play. Or maybe every day in the home. But certainly not every day, every where.

Angela, you're brilliant!

Lydia Sharp said...

In my opinion, as long as you sincerely aren't trying to be derogatory in some way, then you haven't committed the unforgivable sin. It'll just be awkward for a moment until everyone is on the same page.

I call myself Italian (and just recently found out that I may actually have dual citizenship) but I've never set foot in Italy. I also call myself American. I also say I grew up in an Italian-American household, even though I technically did not (but my father did). It's a big enough part of my heritage - what makes me, me - that I don't see any reason to discredit it because of technical terms.

And this reminded me of something in my novel Summer Hoax:

"How strict are they about minority scholarships?"

"I think Donny had to provide a birth certificate or something like that for his. Why?"

"Well, I know I'm not good enough to get a full-ride sports scholarship, so I was thinking maybe--"

"You are good enough," he said, but I kept going.

"--I could apply for a minority scholarship, too, to cover the balance."

"And what minority are you, Miss Tenth Generation American Mutt?"

"You mean they don't have a scholarship for those?" I couldn't even finish the sentence before I'd busted out laughing.

:D

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