The Novato Advance Takes the Low Road

Novato | Jun 23, 2016 | Carlos Castillo

I just read an editorial published in the Novato Advance referencing the recent deadly violence involving Novato High School students. At the end of it, the paper’s publisher, Sherman Frederick (I’m assuming he wrote the piece because his email is appended to the story), hectors local law enforcement officials, especially the district attorney and the defense attorney, to “drop the politically correct baloney and give the people the facts.”

"Politically correct" (or PC for short) sure seems to be popping up in a lot of things I’m hearing and reading nowadays. I decided to explore this phenomenon.

I recall being in college in the 1980s and joking about garbage men being renamed “waste disposal engineers.” Then it started getting racial. I remember backlash against academic disciplines such as African-American Studies, Chicano Studies and Native-American Studies. I remember when some people expressed the desire to be called African-Americans instead of blacks, and how that drew scorn from some quarters. I figured that people don’t like change and the hubbub would die down. Not so.

One thing has become crystal clear: In my day-to-day interactions, I rarely hear people of color (another term disliked by the anti-PC contingent) complaining about political correctness. It’s mostly whites, especially older white guys. Why?

So I asked myself, Carlos, is political correctness an impediment in your life? I answer with a definitive “no.” As I mulled this question, I recused myself as a Latino and thought of something that doesn’t apply to me. For instance, I’m heterosexual. Are acronyms such as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) a huge bother? Absolutely not. If that’s what people of those orientations prefer, what’s the problem? Doesn’t hurt me and makes them feel better. A classic win-win.

So why is this political correctness thing chapping so many hides these days? I believe it’s partly because of what I said earlier, that it’s forcing people to change their ways and they resent it.

Folks of a certain generation, including myself, often talk of the good, ol’ days. But not all of it was so good for all concerned.

I remember playing an away football game at a predominately African-American school when I was 14 years old. One of the players from the opposing team was talking trash before the game as we were about to take the field. Our coach, an older white guy who was also an accredited teacher, said aloud, “Now that’s what you call a nigger.” We had African-Americans on our team, which made it all the more shocking.

A year before, I had played in a Pop Warner football game at the same school. An African-American woman (she was rooting for our team, by the way) began deriding the referee—who happened to be African-American, too—by calling him a “faggot,” at one point saying, “He even runs faggedy.” I remember being at the homes of white and Latino friends and hearing “nigger,” a term verboten in my household. I also witnessed mean-spirited things said about Latinos and whites, too, but you get the point.

Sure, I still hear “nigger,” “fag” and other hateful terms used on occasion, but it’s definitely rarer these days. I’m wondering if that plays into this anti-PC rhetoric. Maybe some of these people are mad because they can’t toss off racially insensitive remarks anymore, at work or at play. Maybe if “faggot” slips out—only in jest, of course!—they fear a rebuke by their friends, neighbors or relatives. More importantly, maybe they fear that more people who don’t look like them are moving into their neighborhood and workplace.

I think all this anti-PC stuff is highly ironic. I hear older people lament the laxity of our times, how young people use too much foul language. How people don’t dress up anymore. How families don’t sit and discuss the day’s events at the dinner table. These people often cite the past, when society had manners, when there was a sense of decorum in our interactions. Doesn’t this all boil down to respect, respect for people (not cursing in front of grandma), respect for institutions (dressing up for church) and respect for the family (coming together at dinnertime)?

So what’s the big deal about using language and conduct that’s amenable to people when referencing their ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, occupation—whatever. Why is this such a problem for some? Isn’t this just another form of respect?

This is a free country. If you choose to use verbiage that’s offensive to certain populations, then you’re constitutionally protected to do so. If you don’t like me because I’m Latino, or the guy down the street because he’s a Jew, or don’t like women who believe they’re equal to men, or don’t like men who fancy other men in romantic or sexual ways, then please say so. I personally want to know a person’s true feelings about these things because they factor into my friendships, alliances, business decisions and consumer choices.

See, at the end of the day, nobody has to be PC. But don’t just lambast “political correctness” and use this term in deliberately ambiguous fashion. Be specific. Tell us what you mean. I, for one, am all ears.

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