After blogging about the new terrifying trend of Empathetic Correctness, I figure I’ll go for broke this week after running across a Yahoo News article Is America Starting to Target Thought Crime?
First, a little bit of history. In the days when monarchies were all the rage, there was one very powerful position some might not be aware of…the court jester. Every ruler had at least one jester and the jester was allowed to mock, poke fun and joke about those in power without repercussions.
The role of the jester was to offer honesty and perspective. Monarchs knew that being surrounded by too many Yes Men who feared reprisal was unwise and dangerous. The jester’s job was to ground rulers and keep them from getting too full of themselves.
I’ve been blessed to travel more than most people ever will, and not all my destinations were nice places. One thing every police state has in common is that no one has a sense of humor. Even innocent comments can be twisted into something dangerous because one is in a world where everyone is jockeying for even the slightest wedge of importance, even when it means bending the truth. Those closest can become “whistle-blowers” against crimes imagined or real. Hmmm, sounds familiar.
Public Pool Politics
Sadly, I’ve been at the other end of this. I love to laugh and relish in making others smile. Put me in a room and I’ll have them in stitches in less than five minutes. My teaching style has been compared to “If Robin Williams taught writing.” When I was a kid I studied every comedic act down to the timing and tone of voice.
In 1999 I traveled with my best friend to live in a Palestinian refugee camp. Since my Arabic was less than stellar, it was tough. Syria, like all places, has its beauty. I loved the food and people and believed I’d made some friends. One day, my guides took me to enjoy some recreation at the women’s pool where the hijab can be set aside to splash around and let loose. Being the only blonde many of these women had ever seen off a television, I was soon surrounded by eager friendly faces asking questions about my home, wanting to know about Texas and if I had a job.
In my broken Arabic I made jokes and got them to laugh. We parted ways and I was happy as a clam. The next day, my hosts warned me that it was too dangerous to return to the pool and to stay away. Apparently, one of the women had spread through the camp that I was talking smack about Assad Sr. (the ruling dictator of the time).
I’d never even mentioned Assad. Yes, I was a naive Westerner but I wasn’t THAT stupid. My last weeks there were pretty scary and I’ve never been so relieved to be on a plane.
One pivotal lesson I took away from this experience is that a nation is only as free as its sense of humor. When innocent remarks, observations or disagreements can be used against us? This is a MAJOR warning we are no longer in a free country. When certain groups are immune from criticism, jest or commentary? Houston, we have a problem.
The PC and EC Divide
I know the original purpose of political correctness was well-intended. I’m sure EC (empathetic correctness) has good intentions as well. But the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I was a child of the 70s and 80s and often think it was a really golden time to grow up. My best friend from the age of six was an Egyptian Muslim (and we are still friends almost thirty years later).
Our neighborhood gang consisted of Charo (Mexican), Ngyuen (Vietnamese), and Regina (African American), Veenah (Indian), Cathy (Jewish), Elizabeth (Mexican), and Erica (Choctaw)…and none of us were aware of that.
We were friends who karate fought in the yard because Ngyuen was Asian and so he was supposed to be a Kung Fu master, right? Veenah helped with science and Charo taught us soccer, because Indians were smart and Mexicans were good at soccer. Regina made us laugh because she was black and loud and fun and could Double Dutch so well we were sure she was a cyborg. Erica could decorate our hair with feathers and we could play Navy SEAL Indian Princess. Cathy declined to join us for Vacation Bible School because she was going to Jewish Camp (and we never understood why we couldn’t go to Jewish camp because the Jewish pool was AWESOME).
And all of this is racist and utterly politically incorrect.
We never knew we might offend Charo by asking him to teach us to bounce a soccer ball on our knee. We never realized how we might damage Ngyuen by assuming he’d trained in a Shaolin temple and that we didn’t even have the right country. I didn’t know I should have been ashamed to play Indian Princess with Erica or that I might hurt Regina by offering to share a slice of summer watermelon. I should have been aware that I might harm Veenah by asking for her help with my science project. In high school, perhaps I shouldn’t have asked my best friend and date to the Senior Prom, Donnie (gay), for fashion advice.
I was blissfully uneducated about how offensive I was.
We just loved each other, grew up loving each other and still love each other. Gihan (my Muslim friend) and I are still BFFs. I just had dinner with Charo and other pals a couple weeks ago. Erica invites me to birthday parties for her children. I was Ngyuen’s prom date when I was a junior and we only lost touch when he joined the Marines. I still go by his father’s house when I’m in the area even though his English hasn’t really improved since 1983…but he still loves me. Donnie and I talk long into the night when he isn’t exploring the world.
Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, Loyal, Friendly, Resilient MUTT
We grew up in an America of Mutts. I’m not saying that everything was roses and unicorn kisses, but we were American and America was stronger because we could blend all these cultures and races together. Children had this strange appreciation that we all bled the same color when we fell off the monkey bars. We cared less about the color of your skin and more about the color of your bike. They have RED????
We could tell the difference between a joke in love and someone being a racist bigot and Lord help the kid who crossed that line.
We were kids who wanted to roller-skate and who constructed ramps, guns, and swords out of every discarded piece of wood. In the glow of a streetlight everyone was pretty much the same color.
Bullfrogs ran from all of us.
No One’s Laughing
These days, I find myself less prone to joke or make conversation with others of a different ethnicity or culture because, bluntly, it’s exhausting and I always seem to screw it up. I find myself hedging everything I say, backpedaling, and struggling to remember my proper and approved PC vocabulary.
I once was trying to be polite when I referred to someone as Hispanic…only to be razed for the next half hour how this person was from Argentina and NOT Hispanic and I was a jerk for not knowing this. I referred to someone as African American only to get my tail handed to me that this person was from Jamaica and didn’t like that term and it figured a white girl would be so insensitive.
If someone is mixed race? *breaks down weeping*
When others make comments about me being a racist simply because I’m white and I point out that I actually have probably the most diverse group of friends anyone could ask for…well that’s precisely what a racist would say: “I have black friends.” But *stammering* I do have black, I mean African American I mean…oh, hell I give up.
This Affects ALL of U.S.
This isn’t a phenomena exclusive to “white people,” either. I remember my husband coming home from work distraught. He worked in Corporate America at the time. One of his team members was Mexican (as in her parents immigrated from Mexico and happily embraced the American Dream). Well, on Cinco de Mayo a fellow employee (also Mexican) asked her if she was going out to celebrate with “her people.” She gave him a genuinely confused look and said, “Huh? My people? I’m American.”
The next day she was being written up by Human Resources for being culturally insensitive. Her coworker found her offensive and turned her in. My husband was having to write out her defense. A MEXICAN female was in trouble for not being Mexican enough?
How does this make any SENSE?
The real crisis in the country is we are laughing less and less. Everyone is special and fragile and needs to be handled with care. PC was to make us more sensitive and BOY did it work. Our nation has the skin of a grape. Self-importance is taking over like a malignant cancer. We walk on eggshells to avoid “offending” someone. We no longer can make mistakes. We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
For anyone reading this who is a “person of color” please try and talk to a “white” person. They probably aren’t a racist, they’re simply terrified they’ll say something stupid.
And if we do say something stupid, just forgive us.
I AM the Reason for Many Blonde Jokes
As much as I read about theoretical physics, math, politics, economics, I can be…well, an idiot. I drove my Honda for three years and all the while heard this weird whistling that I couldn’t get rid of. One night, I’m in a drive thru line and accidentally hit a button near the steering wheel and discovered my car had a sunroof *head desk*. This past spring I was in Tuscon and couldn’t get in the back door of my hotel no matter how many ways I laid my electronic key on the metal pad. I assumed my key was broken and kept asking for new keys. Then I returned from dinner with Piper Bayard and her daughter (a brunette) opened the metal BOX and inserted the key. I once accidentally drove to MISSOURI.
Kill me now and keep me from breeding.
Just leaving all of this to say we need to laugh more. The world is amazing and fun but we have got to lighten UP. Yes, seek out legitimate injustice and crush it. I’ll be here for help if you need.
Maybe we should all go outside and catch lightning bugs and make the longest Slip-And-Slide EVER. I get my lawn bags from Costco, so maybe we could make it reach DC ;).
I love all of you and thank you so much for blessing me with your thoughts and stories. I am a better person every day because of you. And know I was scared to write about this and that should speak volumes in itself. But, I miss just being a kid. I don’t want to be an adult anymore.
But…if anyone reading this is an Ecuadorian Hassidic Jew, can we be friends? I don’t have an Ecuadorian Hassidic Jewish friend. Yes, you can dress me up but you can’t take me anywhere 😀 .
What are your thoughts? I love hearing from you, unless you have no sense of humor. Then might I recommend posting on AT&Ts Facebook page…
What are you? I’m a Scandinavian-Scottish-French-Huegenot-Sami-Cherokee. ADD THAT to your diversity portfolio!
*high five* for writing a post you were afraid to write. Those are ALWAYS the best.
Thanks for being brave enough to comment and high five. Scary times. We need to settle this with a jumprope war 😉 .
…absolutely… or hopscotch 😀
I absolutely loved this post. I, too, am worried about where we are headed. Many of the books I enjoyed teaching are in danger of being banned from schools. I worry about our future.
Loved your column – thanks!
I didn’t know they made Ecuadorian Hassidic Jews, but then as you say, “Look at me.”
They might not, but if there is one in my following I am claiming them for my team 😛 .
Amen, sister. Imma Tweet this right now.
Great post, and my childhood was similar. (Even though it’s further back in history.) I wish we could all just get over ourselves. It’s probably dangerous to even comment, but there it is.
Probably is 🙁 . But thanks. If the world goes to hell we can at least claim we tried to talk some sense.
Hey, maybe they’ll burn us at the same stake.
Hey, we are all the same color charbroiled, LOL. *weeps*
Maybe so, but I have a higher fat content, and will be tastier.
I want to dig out some old vinyl and listen to comedians who would be absolutely crucified in this new era. I’m a bad modern human.
I miss Sam Kinison. I wonder what he’d have said about all this PC, EC stuff had he lived.
One of my favorites. I saw him live about a month before he died. It was an awesome show.
I don’t know any Ecuadorian Hassidic Jews, but I know a woman from Trinidad who married a Jewish man who later became a Messianic rabbi. They have a beautiful daughter with red hair and has skin the color of creamed coffee.
I have to say I agree with much of what you’re saying. I have dear friends who I adore, but the political correctness has gotten out of hand. First it was no fight scenes or feisty female characters who kick butt physically (which I have a lot of). And then two weeks ago I handed my writing group the first chapter of a brand new series/characters/book I have just begun which is also in a different POV (1st person) and genre (thriller) than I usually write. I tossed the story into the ring much earlier than I usually do because it is a new form of POV for me and it would be silly to write an entire book and then have to go back and change all the voice tags. This book is about the military, and one of the minor subplots will be that a subordinate gets hurt (due to my heroes mistake) and he has to deal with consoling/apologizing to his subordinate’s same-sex wife. I made the mistake of mentioning in the initial character introduction ‘she was the most promising young coxswain in the fleet, and also happened to be a lesbian.’ Let me tell you, I got reamed out and told by several critique partners how terrible it was to discriminate against this poor subordinate (the exact words were, ‘I threw this out the window and refused to read another word.’)
Uhm … don’t LGBT people -want- more people to point out the military is a bunch of a-holes for discriminating against them… ???
That story line has just been shelved, and as of right now, I have lost all interest in completing that book. From now on, I will be keeping my nascent ideas to myself until they are more fully developed, and not focus my writing skill on highlighting any sort of discrimination because I don’t need being lambasted, especially when I am trying to help.
I’m not Ecuadorian, Hassidic or Jewish, but if you don’t make fun of my Scottish kilt, we can be MUTTS together. 🙂
Hey, I am Scottish too. We can dare each other to try haggis, LOL. I know what you mean. I once wrote a short story that I thought was really beautiful called “Cricket’s Song” about a girl who escapes the trailer park/welfare cycle. Her family was reprehensible racists…and I got MAJORLY dinged because they were so offensive.
Um, they were supposed to be?
I’m a whitebread girl with different colored friends and I drove to Wisconsin once by accident. We’re like twins! Another fantastic post from Kristen Lamb. Makes me proud to be a Kristen. Off to tweeter it. 🙂
I agree with you totally! I think a lot of the issue goes to the problem of the “-Americans”. I am a “disabled American” according to the PC Police. I HATE that term because it puts something ahead of being American. I believe that goes with ethnic groups too. I know it’s not as cut and dry as which are you: ethnic group A or American, but it does feel like that sometimes. And it feels like it’s taboo to celebrate the purely American holidays while the ethnic ones are held in high reverence and you must be a bigot if you don’t agree.
As for my ethnic background, I’m what my Dad calls Heinz 57. I’m not sure I could count 57 different ethnicities, but there are quite a few. My family is mainly European, English, Irish, and German mainly, with a little Pennsylvania Dutch (or Amish for those that don’t know) and Native American thrown in for good measure.
But me? I’m an American.
I LOVE this!! And the images of Charlie Chaplin and the guardian Angel made me smile. It’s good to smile, and smile often.
Thanks for reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously!
Have a great weekend 🙂
Right on, Kristen. My childhood was much the same as yours. In fact, I have a Scottish surname but am a mix of Southern European, American Indian, Ashkenazi Jew and Sub-Saharan African. That’s what America is all about.
The shaming of people has gotten out of control and I fear it will only get worse. It is making people afraid to say anything for fear of losing jobs and friendships and that’s so unfortunate, because it means the people who lack any sense of nuance or humor are winning. I’m seeing a Demolition Man future (if you haven’t seen it, people are automatically fined for violating Verbal Morality Statutes).
Great, great Blog! I am from Newfoundland, the blunt of “newfie” jokes; here in the US that would be like being from Maine, but ten fold. I lived in Montreal for some years and started work at one of the then Big-Eight accounting firms. Some months in a senior on one of my jobs found out I was a Newfie and insisted he wanted to see my birth certificate as Newfies were all stupid, and I appeared to have a brain. Even then I laughed. I call my sons Micks, my wife a pepper (A slang term for Quebec French – as in doctor pepper – ie: empty from the neck up) I have always done so in jest, and I am careful who I jest with.
I post all great Newjie jokes I come across, and like your article I have adopted a role of Court Jester – I laugh, when I can, at myself first, and then at the human condition – all of life.
There’s nothing worse than someone taking a joke seriously regardless of race. Lighten up is a great message!
So right! And I’m German, British, French, Scottish, Canadian and American Indian (just a smidge) in heritage. My kids also have Norweigian thrown in the mix. I used to apologize to my father-in-law for mutting up the family tree. Luckily, he had a wonderful sense of humor. It pays to not be too overly sensitive. I made the mistake once on line of seeing another chatter from Florida and said, “Hey, another cracker! Welcome!” Unfortunately, while I was growing up, the term “cracker” changed from meaning a Florida native to meaning something ugly. The woman, who promptly announced she was black, was terse with me and left. I felt horrible. I never meant to hurt her feelings. Now I only joke with people I know well and the term cracker? I just don’t use it except around my other Florida native friends who know the original meaning.
*** Standing and applauding *** You’ve been on a tear this week and I love it!
When the feds come to get me I am using the Benadryl Defense. “I was drugged and my eyes were swollen and YES I loved Blazing Saddles!!!”
Oh GOD what I would give to have a movie like that made today. 🙂
Could not agree more. Guests to parties, gatherings should could prepared with a joke. Change BYOB to BYOJ.
(pressed send early) “should come prepared with a joke.”
Amen sister! I’ve been nicknamed Ponch, Taco, and Beaver (which has nothing to do with anything). I thank God that my dad was a lifer Navy man. I had friends of so many colors that I thought I was the oddball. Every time I write a black character, I search the web to find out if I can say “black” or will I be shunned from the writing community. I, too, am of Mutt lineage. My Polish-Ukranian grandmother married my Mexican grandfather. Their son married my mother, whose parents were born ‘n bred Alabama rednecks (I have second cousins who are bonafied KKK members). I call myself color-blind. I’ve been told I’m ignoring the problem. When I ask “Aren’t you perpetuating the problem by giving bigoted morons so much attention?”, I am shunned. Apparently, you are correct. We can give no right answer. Just being alive makes us wrong. So I’ll just keep my astonishing sense of humor and move on with my life. And, in fact, I was a pretty good soccer player. But never owned a motorcycle.
Hell, I come from a small town in Midwestern Massachusetts (rule: if it’s west of Route 128, it’s “in the sticks”), which goes by the name of Athol. [YES I HAVE HEARD THE JOKE.] Back in the 70s and 80s, friends acting stupid were retards, embarrassingly stupid things were gay, and if you were a little slow on the uptake you were a dipshit. And yet, it was all done with love! You called each other names and picked on your friends because you liked them. It’s a New England thing, really. We pick on you because we like you, we know you can take it. Were we being insensitive towards gays and the mentally disabled? Far from it. It was just the lingo.
[Mind you, I *get* how it can be insensitive. But there’s a big difference between your bud backing his car into a light pole and saying “way to go, moron” and seeing someone with autism and saying “haha, look at the retard”. It’s all in the intent. Yes, I know there are those people in the world, but I’d like to think they’re the exception and not the rule.]
I didn’t know too many people of different ethnicities and backgrounds in the 80s, as my town just didn’t have many. There were a few Chinese kids, a few Portuguese families, a few African Americans. But it was Chris, Wayne, Tina, Anne, so on. The race never entered into it, it was just friends and classmates. The stereotype says that my town would be filled with a bunch of rednecks driving around in pickups looking to beat up the local gook or the spic and trying to get a piece of ass at the local tavern, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. A lot of small towns in New England, David Lynch-ian as they may sometimes be, are usually quiet and amiable communities. Our politics may be a bit weird and bassackwards sometimes, but isn’t everyone’s?
Nowadays? I still get teased by my wife–my wife!–that I’m just a yokel from the sticks who’s a bit slow on the uptake. Does it bother me? Sometimes, but I let it slide. I’m not stupid, I just choose to go at my own speed. I write and think faster than I speak, so I tend to trip up over my words. Should I call her out on her callousness? Nah, it ain’t worth it. I know she’s just picking on me. I even finish the “yeah, I’m a dipshit” punchline for her sometimes. It’s done with love.
Point being: I think a lot of us have lost the focus here. We’re looking at the surface and going no deeper. Being reactive instead of contemplative.’
And for the record: 3rd generation American with French-Canadian blood and mind. So yeah, I’m a smartass but I also apologize for it way too much. :p
I used to call my little brother a spaz for flopping around and getting me in trouble. It wasn’t until YEARS later I knew this was a bad term that was offensive to those with Parkinson’s. Like I said, I was blissfully unaware how utterly offensive I was. Sigh. And yes, I am from Texas and make and take redneck jokes. Life is too short to be so serious.
That was insightful, funny, honest, sincere and not a bit PC/EC. I guess that’s what good writing used to sound like. Keep it coming.
Amen. I get one-star reviews from people who are furious that I write comedy with a female protagonist. Women are NOT allowed to be funny by the politically-correctibots.
ALL women must be grim, stoic, kick-ass warriors, not comedians like Lucille Ball or Goldie Hawn or Tina Fey. Women can’t fight off bad guys with hairspray or a well-thrown shoe. They must have guns and engage in hand-to hand combat. And, um, that’s empowering to women…how?
Political correctness is really a war on humor. None of them seem to have read the studies that show laughter really IS the best medicine. Reading something funny can actually help heal you if you’re sick. Not true with a misery memoir.
Hmm, I wrote a scene where a werewolf in human form broke off her stiletto heel and stabbed a vampire in the throat with it. I guess I’m doomed.
I fear the same effects. I try and keep things neutral but then I feel even more like a fake. When I was younger, I had all kinds of friends and we enjoyed each other’s company without the worry that goes into just speaking to someone today. Even kids are facing this when they have to worry about sexual harassment merely for crushing on someone. And I’m not talking about someone whose making inappropriate advances or hurting another. I wish we could all just be ourselves and accept that we are all different and yet the same. We’re all one under God.
Reblogged this on Gry Ranfelt and commented:
Amazon is deleting the “buy button” to be empathetically correct and protect our sensitivites. but to grow as people we must read and watch things that provoke us.
We must learn to make fun of things, even when they’re serious.
Awesome as usual. I’ve always thought that the real racists are the people who spend so much time worrying about people’s race . . . because if they really wanted racism to end, they would stop acting as if color should matter to anybody! Why should you change your language or your behavior to suit a particular group of people? I thought we were all just people!
By the way, I’m Cajun, Italian, French, Irish, Scottish, German, and a wee bit Chitimacha Indian . . . so I’m a big mutt too. 😉
I have to admit I’m very aware of races as I read and watch TV mostly because everybody’s so damn WHITE.
I’m from Denmark, so we aren’t a racially diverse population. i used to not think about it when watching American movies.
But then I went to New York and Washington and DAMN is there and underrepresentation of other races in movies.
There’s only one thing I can do, though: make sure my own stories show a diverse cast with real dreams, skills and personalities. And not make it an issue.
This is the reason I love Southpark so much. They make fun of everyone and from all sides. They say mormons are incredibly stupid for their beliefs, then make fun of all the other religions. Then they have an episode where they show a family of really nice mormons and how it doesn’t matter if their belief is weird – at least they’re good people.
And they have episodes where muslims are terrorists and they have episodes where muslims are prosecuted for things they did not do.
One might say they need a more racially diverse cast but then … it’s a small city in nowhere. Most cities like that do have a mostly white population.
Anyway, I’m as white white white dane dane dane as it gets. I don’t even think we have any German, Norwegian or Swedish blood for four generations.
Southpark is AWESOME, LOL. I love Anjela Johnson and ADORE the Wayans brothers. “In Living Color” was GENIUS, GENIUS!
Thank you for saying all of this. All I can say is amen, amen, amen. Back in my day we were taught to be tactful, which seems a lot better than politically correct to me.
Tactful is better. Though we were anything but as kids. Ngyuen forgot his water hose on and flooded our yards. We asked him if they were making rice paddies. He told me, no that they were protecting their house from our cross burning and wanted to know how we got the smoke stains out of our KKK robes. We were positively DREADFUL.
I am so laughing out loud. I lived in Georgia in those days and had a maid that called me Miss Jane. I loved her like a member of my family and I’d do what she said before I would mind my parents. However, she didn’t sit down at the table and have lunch with us. She’d eat her lunch standing by the sink. I had no idea why, but I didn’t think it was because she was another color. I thought she didn’t like our chairs.
My parents close friends with a black couple, Eric and Cynthia. Their daughter Tiana and I grew up together. I’d sass my mom but Cynthia? I knew she’d unleash a can of whoop@$$ on me but GOD I still love that woman. She’s bold and brash and politically incorrect and funny. I like to think I got a lot of my personality from her 😉 .To this day I can drop by their house without calling. I know Cynthia will have a margarita and a new story about tormenting the idiot neighbors who painted their house in tropical colors.
I loved you before these last two blog posts, but now I’m such an ardent fan my husband is threatening to hose me down. Thank you for having the courage to say it all.
Kristen Lamb, I *heart* you so much! 🙂 This post is perfect and it immediately brings to mind DFWCon when you came to our table at lunch and made some great jokes (I mean, I almost peed my pants in front of everyone – and I DIDN’T CARE), and the agent that was sitting there had this stone face. Do you remember that? In my mind, I was thinking, “Man, there is no way that I could work with someone who didn’t have a sense of humor.” Now maybe it was an off day for this agent, you never know, but it just struck me as odd.
Like you, I find it difficult to navigate the waters of the PC world. (I blame my husband for this, after nearly ten years of marriage, my “PC” is worse than ever! Lolz!) Just yesterday, I was drafting slides for a staff meeting *head + desk*, and I thought to liven things up with a funny picture of a baby on the toilet saying something, “Not going to rest until the paperwork is done.” Haha! I was rolling. But after a second stopped and thought, nope, someone is going to find this offensive, so I removed it. *sigh*
One of my favorite things about writing is that I don’t have to be PC in MY world. And I love WANA because these are awesome people!
Thanks for sharing! 🙂
LOL. How could I forget? I felt sorry for her in a way because we were all having so much fun. She’d have DIED being at the evening cocktail party with us when we got on the subject of baptism. ACK!
This is such a great post! I’m going to share it right away, because I have ALWAYS thought this but never had the guts to come out and say it!
I grew up in Tucson, and more than half of my friends were hispanic/black. We came from different backgrounds and our parents made different amounts of money, but it never mattered. I loved where I grew up because I viewed people as people. Now, like you said, I am paranoid to talk to a lot of people because I don’t want to offend them! That happened to me once in college and a simple *joking* comment was blown out of proportion to the point I had to meet with the dean of students to discuss it. The worst part was the girl I joked with knew I wasn’t racist and knew it was a joke, but her friend took it the other way. GAH people are so sensitive these days!
Thank you thank you for writing this. Great. 🙂
Spectacular blog! I agree and hope we can get back to being fun. This will HAVE to be posted on FB and twitter. This goes beyond writing, being platform. THIS IS LIFE!!!! Thank you!
So, so true. Thanks for putting my inchoate thoughts into words.
May I share this on FB? Good stuff. Gary Liddle
Sent from my iPhone
Share all you want. Maybe together we can help this world get a sense of freaking HUMOR.
I was just typing out a comment on another blog and I stopped and questioned if it could be construed as offensive (it was about a sniper) or dangerous. This is a serious issue. We might need a “PCU” moment where we all stand up and say “We’re not gonna protest.” (If you haven’t seen the movie PCU, you should check it out. Starring a young Jeremy Piven).
Humor…it’s so important. I’m mostly English and Irish with some Scottish and French sprinkled in that’s pretty diluted by now. All rather boring, actually, though I’m still proud of my ancestry. On the other hand, my background hampers my ability to tan so I excel at burning instead. When I lived near the ocean I was chased with wooden stakes and garlic before I reached the beach and chased with butter sauce when leaving. Cloudy weather, I’ve since discovered, suits me. 🙂
Good, no great post. Everyone should just let go and laugh. I had one editor tell me that because I had a Mexican guy who loved to have sex any where, any time that it could be offensive. PC guy from Boston. Dumped him. They’re novels about things that are around us everyday and if you don’t talk and joke about them you never move the pea down the road. I get my humor from an Irish grandmother (that I can barely remember) so says my sister and from my father. Can’t stand to be around PC people that just don’t get it. You are always bringing up so much about life and that’s why I love you. Oh I can’t say that we’re both married. Get over it.
Reblogged this on The World of The Teigr Princess and commented:
Another thought or two… I’m finding lots of them today…
Dear Kristin Lamb,
I have been reading your blog for a couple of years now…just an outsider, peeking in.
It is time to admit that you have become a dependable source of humor, brilliant writing, and liberal sprinklings of reality-based wisdom. Always enjoyable…but this latest post is superb. In one page you have evoked the secret fear/hope/embarrassment/challenge and victory in all of us…multi-colored or mono. Perhaps some day we will all be so thoroughly blended that all epithets and slurs will be laughable. From one mutt to another…thank you.
I uber love you. It wasn’t until recently that I said something about people telling me I couldn’t be against racism because I’m white. And someone told me that was ridiculous. She was the first person ever to agree that I’m “allowed” to be against racism.
I mean honestly, its like we create the racism. Who cares if you’re pink, yellow, purple, girl, body, tall, short or like sheep too much? I mean really?! But everything everyone says MUST have racist meaning.
Sheesh. Why can’t we all just get along?
I absolutely love your posts. Most of them make me laugh and nod my head in agreement and this one does too. I’m a Canadian and I know how to make Maple Syrup and although I don’t say “Eh” a lot, I’d be willing to fake it for you. You don’t have to be scared of being my friend or offending me because we’re all polite and would never say so anyway. 🙂
Lord, it’s good to read some common sense on this subject. Thanks for being gutsy here.
I completely agree with you – I was born in England, lived on an USAF base for the first 10 years of my life and ended up moving to Wales.
Someone asks me which country I come from, I say “errrr… I’m British.” Yes, I am that confused.
Because as far as I am concerned, everyone who lives and is born in the United Kingdom of Great Britain (and suffers the almost constant rain, wind and/or snow interspersed with two day heatwaves) is British.
I love the fact that more people in the USA are identifying themselves as Americans – a thing that their ancestors fought mine for.
As for humour… well I might not be able to *be* funny, but I can appreciate it, even when it’s non-PC.
I am so happy that you published this. The best thing that ever happened to me was meeting white people who weren’t afraid to be honest about race and crack jokes (I had to give a little nudge, but after that it was on!). It gave me the freedom to show other sides of myself. People tend to think of being PC as watching what you say to others of a particular color or persuasion. For me this PC thing means that I must always be articulate,speak at a reasonable volume and broadcast my “non-black” interests to avoid looking like a stereotype. I cringe and look over my shoulder if my FH is ever too loud in public for fear of looking “ghetto”. I have to be the “other” type black person. But what if I want to be loud? I like watermelon. Fried chicken is crunchy and golden and salty and great.
This year I took my first teaching job at a private school. Most of my kids were white and we had such a great rapport that when they did say “racist” things (they weren’t, but that label gets thrown around for even the smallest thing–especially when it’s a white person being accused) we were able to joke but also learn from one another.
It’s cool to not want to offend anyone, but being so politically correct is starting to hurt more than help. We won’t be the America that we claim to be if we can’t poke fun with one another and laugh at ourselves. We could be a better America if we met genuine mistakes with a little kindness and understanding since we all make them.
Amen to that! I love all people and this “I am going to get my panties in a wad over EVERYTHING” is just wearing me out. When I went to the doctor he told me I was obese and wanted to run a bunch of tests (I was a size 10). The black nurse was horrified and told me I looked great. I responded that as a white girl I was fat unless I was a Size 0 and if I was Beyonce I’d be perfect. I then joked that I was actually a very very very light black woman (big thighs and butt) and she laughed her head off and agreed and told me to ignore him that I was beautiful. Now, she doesn’t call me by my name. She calls me “White Chocolate” or “Thickness” LOL and I ADORE HER! I always go to her instead of the doctor because she has SENSE and she’s FUN.
It is so wonderful just to be able to talk and joke and lose this idiotic PC pretentiousness. Just be people. Fabulous to meet you and thanks for your input! I was so terrified to post this, but it is nice to see I am not alone.
I appreciate your point of view, Cris. I know a lot of white Americans can be standoffish because they don’t want to offend anyone. And then, that creates an even bigger separation. You sound like a great teacher and rightnow you make me want to have fried chicken. For breakfast.
*huge high five Ms. Kristen!* Well said, well said.
If it helps I’m Italian-Russian-German-Scottish-Irish-Native-American…I can invade your country, drinking Vodka and Ale, riding on the back of a Unicorn, shoot you with a Crossbow then cook you a 7-course meal to make up for it! How’s *that* for diverse!!!!!
I agree we need to laugh more which is why I always have fun with people, or try too at least. Doesn’t always work, but hey, if *we* don’t try to lighten up the younger generation, it’ll never happen, right???
An actual tweet from a friend of mine:
“My parents made sure we were educated so I was never ‘black’ enough and obviously I couldn’t be white. Basically I’ve never fit in.” I told her I didn’t care if she was green with purple polka-dots, as long as it wasn’t contagious, we were good.
I’ve teased a friend of mine’s son that he couldn’t be the cowboy when playing cowboys and Indians, because, well, he is Pima Indian. His mother cracked up (she knows me, and yet still likes me).
I have a coworker who is Chinese and is the most un-PC person you could ever meet. Half his sentences begin with: “Hey, you white Americans, how come you always…?” We all love him to pieces.
I have friends from all places on earth, and encompass all religions, ethnicities, races and backgrounds. We’re probably friends because we care more about our similarities and enjoy mocking our differences.
The sad fact is that people who get offended are usually those who want to offend (self-important). Those who laugh things off rarely mean to offend/hurt others. Maybe we can add WANEO as a subset to WANA (We Are Not Easily Offended). Let’s go ahead and laugh at the things that make us unique.
Thank you for sharing this, Kristen.
I’m Spanish, Lebanese, Belgian, Irish and Scottish on my mothers side. My father’s identity remains a mystery. He is either Greek and Mexican or he’s black. So I’m a mutt either way.
Having been on the receiving end of some serious racism growing up in my little white town, I have the advantage of being able to seperate the innocuous from the malevolent. I’ve both recieved and said some innocuous things that could be construed as racist.
I was in a speech class one time and a man from Nigeria was teaching us how to make Nigerian Peanut Butter Soup. I opened my sheltered American mouth and sincerely asked, “Where do you get peanut butter in Africa?”
The man good naturedly picked up the jar of peanut butter and said, “At the grocery store. Why, where do you get it?” Everyone laughed and we all moved on. He could have been a jerk about my ignorance. He could have stormed off and been huffy. Instead he handled it graciously and a bunch of sheltered American college students (I wasn’t the only one who’d wondered about it) learned that our knowledge of Africa was woefully limited.
We are living in a culture where we want everything boiled down to the most simplistic terms. No shades of gray for us. No one is allowed to acknowledge that other people and or genders are different and in doing this, we are limiting our ability to empathize and indeed befriend people different from ourselves. Inquisitiveness is discouraged. The ability to be a human and be forgiven for saying something mind-bogglingly idiotic is discouraged. Right now, anything you have ever said on the internet will be held against you, which leaves no room for us to grow as people.
I have seen parents yell at their children for asking a disabled friend about her wheelchair. What did the child learn? They learned a classist version of politeness where you simply ignore the disabled rather than acknowledge their disability. Same with color-blindness which is just fancy talk for pretending that people aren’t diverse. It’s silly.
We have to be stupid sometimes. Rude even. I don’t mean purposeful cruelty. I mean simply opening up our yaps and asking questions. It’s the only way to learn anything worthwhile. I think we have a huge problem with vulnerabilty in the United States. We are terrified of sounding dumb, so much so, that we err on the side of saying nothing meaningful at all.
I don’t know if it is I am terrified of sounding dumb. I am terrified of being labeled a racist or a bigot. I am naturally curious and there are things I don’t know *GASP*. We aren’t born knowing everything about everyone. I remember being a kid and asking my black friend why she never cut her hair and she told me it was because it took years to grow out. “Why?” I had no concept that super curly hair took that long to grow. I wasn’t a racist. I was curious.
Innocent acts are taken as being a racist. I remember ironically being out with Donnie and waiting in the car while he ran in the store. It was LATE at night and I was just sitting there. A black gal goes walking by from my blind spot and she scared me. Not at all because of her color, but I was in La La Land and not paying attention. It was then I realized I was sitting alone late at night in a car that wasn’t locked, so I locked it. The woman came UNHINGED and it had nothing to do with race. It had to do with she scared the death out of me walking up and I thought it would be prudent to lock my door in case a BAD person came by.
Anyway, these days? Being a “white girl” it is safer to just be quiet and that’s sad because it means we don’t talk or ask questions and then genuine ignorance sets in. We drift apart. But perhaps this is what they want. United we stand, divided we fall.
One of my best friends in middle school and into high school was a girl from Iran. This was during George Bush Sr.’s war on Iraq (I think this was Desert Storm…my memory on wars from my teenage years is very spotty) and she got some very nasty remarks. Sometimes she’d come over to my house just to cry because she knew I wouldn’t care. I met a Jewish woman up at Job Corps that people were teasing and harassing. I didn’t even know what she was until she told me. I didn’t care. She was a person. That’s all that mattered to me. Now I’m afraid to say anything to anyone for fear of offending someone.
“I know the original purpose of political correctness was well-intended.”
I’m not so sure of this, Kristen. I think it has been thought control all along.
I am offering the benefit of the doubt ;).
I am Scottish, English, and Cherokee. Probably more but we don’t know! I always tell my kids that I am politically incorrect to myself. They don’t laugh. Two phrases that should be re-introduced to the world. Lighten up, and None of your business. Sadly I don’t have much hope that will happen. Keep on writing the blog, it’s great!
I’m from Cayman which is a melting pot of cultures on one very small island. I’m Indian (India), Polish, American, Caymanian, Panamanian, Jamaican-Christian and Jewish. I’m a 70’s and 80’s girl and the private school I went to had Indians, Irish, Scottish, English, Mexicans, Caymanian, Jamaicans, and Cubans just to name a few and we all got along and if we squabbled, said what needed to be said and moved on.
I loved growing up in that time/environment and I made sure my kids school has that same diversity. I think we lose something when people become ‘them’ instead of a person.
Technically we’re all mutts. 🙂
Thinking more about this, I realize there is a problem of White Knighting as well. There’s an online clique where certain people are always on the lookout for what I’ve been calling “perceived peccadilloes”. I’m not talking about making noise about *actual* misogyny/racism…this is more about someone who may have said or done something distasteful, even (and especially) when it may have been on accident or just a stupid thing to say. Like me saying “God, but Kristen can be such a b**** sometimes” and the White Knights of the Twitter Order saying I am OMG THE WORST EXAMPLE OF A PRIVILEGED WHITE MALE EVER. And that I will, now and forever, always be typical of a privileged white male who will always be a horrible person forever and ever.
Don’t laugh–I see this conversation on Twitter A LOT. There are certain people I’ve blocked because of it. And the conversations are usually a midconversation retweet from someone else whose feed is friendslocked so you can’t even read the context. So basically throwing the Red Letter of Shame on people from the comfort of your own cozy circle of like-minded friends who are More Tolerant Than You (Sort Of).
And THAT is where the PC/EC issue bothers me most.
Another awesome post.
What I hate about the whole PC thing is that there are actual offensive things going on in our neighborhood (child abuse comes quickly to mind), but everyone is so busy being “offended” at a perceived slur to their race, religion or whatever, that the real victims get overlooked.
Your example of a Mexican being written up for being racially insensitive to another Mexican is a brilliant example. I was sexually harassed big time in the military and I shrugged it off. (you’ve got to be joking! I said to the sergeant who wanted me to sleep with him.) I took care of it by saying “No thanks” and warning my buddies to steer clear of the man. Did he deserve a greater punishment? I don’t know. I’ll let God decide at the Judgment Seat. Not my area of expertise.
We minimize real issues by making issues out of non-issues. That’s what I meant to say (now that I’ve rambled for half a page).
Kristen, I’m 3/4 Irish and 1/4 Welsh, with an alleged Scotswoman who sneaked into the DNA sometime in the 1800s. I may not be blond, but I burn in moonlight.
I agree with you wholeheartedly–I wish things could get back to how they were when I grew up. My kids grew up in diverse neighborhoods because I wanted them to grow up in a real world. My oldest son asked me why we called his friend black when he was chocolate brown; my younger son pointed out that we were called white when we were really pink. They were 4 and 5 at the time.
It’s pretty sad when a 4-year-old is smarter than all these people you mention.
I enjoy your blog very much. I read it often and that is why I am replying today. Humor is important as is kindness and tolerance.Your multi-cultural upbringing was unusual and sounds privileged. I say that because in thousands of communities across the US, there is no tolerance, no humor, no kindness because those places are filled with people from all sorts of backgrounds, who struggle each day to feed their children or keep a roof over their heads. People who don’t share that life, can’t imagine it. So, the knee jerk thing to think and say is (for all of us – me included – who are privileged . . . you don’t have to be rich to be secure and part of the power majority) “can we just all get along?” Sure, as soon as everyone’s bellies are filled or their joneses satisfied. The sooner we can increase educational opportunities, food supplies, and jobs for the disenfranchised, the sooner we can poke fun at them. Because poor people, shunned people, can’t afford their own jesters.
Thank you for writing this Kristen. I think you might enjoy this article by a friend of mine that runs on similar lines.
As for myself, I’m a 3rd generation American Jew of mixed European heritage. I used to be be able to say that I had a diverse group of friends back in my childhood and teenage years, but now I think my social circle has, unfortunately, become very homogenized. The part of my life where I do spend more time with people of darker skin and different cultural backgrounds than myself seems to be in martial arts. Although, when you’re training to punch someone while avoiding being punched, or trying to avoid being pinned, submitted, or choked unconscious, your training partner’s appearance and cultural background really don’t figure into things.
I find the whole PC thing beyond ridiculous. The whole intent is nothing more than to separate people into more manageable groups/parts in order to gain tighter control. It’s only going to get worse.
Love this post. My husband and I are with you on the what is going on with PC/EC. We grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. We both remember real racism, colored bathrooms and restaurants. We also went through the desegregation of our respective school districts.
I’ve had trouble with people telling me that I cannot write about a black woman from 1900 (who was called a quadroon back then) who ends up in 2005 and has to learn about the way things are now. Their reasoning? I’m not black, I cannot possibly understand!
Others tell me that the gay romance going on between two male characters cannot be right because I’m not male or a gay male. On that one, I’m really kind of nervous because I want to get it right and the alpha male is bi.
I’ve found that people are getting more and more segregated by the politically correctness of today. I fear for what my grandkids are going to face.
Kristen, excellent blog. My solution for doing away with racism is not to talk about it. Let’s just plain ignore the fact that another person comes from another country, has different skin color or talks differently than we do. A friend of mine, @JenniferLHotes recently wrote a book called @Four Rubbings. The best part of the whole book was the fact that the race and national origin of the characters was not known until close to the end. How refreshing.
Keep it up. I look forward to your blogs. Thank you.
Yeah tell me about it. As a kid i LOVED to play with my friends, i had many friends from many different ethnic backgrounds and honestly, none of that ever factored into the equation of our “tree fort duels”. We had epic battles with nerf guns and bows, knights in shining armor and dragons and cyborg ninja cowboys from other dimensions – never once did any of us care about the color or religious background of one or the other. Now? To be honest like you i try to make a point to still have friends of different races, if i may offer a suggestion do you know how i handle them? The same way i did when i was kid. I talk to them as i would talk to any person, i make a mental note to dodge trying to make any jokes that maybe racial in context or religious in context, but then i just talk to them. But more-so, I listen to them speak, i listen for cues in their voice and body language, i let them tell me how they want to be treated. Its worked so far, dont really have any trouble with racial issues. Assholes are everywhere and I still run into them, but truly its worked for me, take it or leave it just some free advice.
Excellent insight, great article about how we’re slowly crushing our own freedom and our own joy of life all for the fear of offending overly sensitive whiny butt crybaby sissies … or being so offended …
Amen too. You have me remembering one of my favourite episodes of Seinfeld where Kramer has the cigar store indian and says “look what I got” then makes that indian noise we used to make as kids.
You are saying things that most of us think, but don’t have the guts to say. A few years a kid (as in about 9 or 10) got mad because in conversation I said something about her being “Black”. I told her that word was perfectly fine with the best man at my husband and my wedding, but she wasn’t impressed. I wrote an article in which I said something about people who are disabled. Someone later said, “You ARE disabled so you can say that.” I was wondering what she meant when she said, “Instead of saying ‘person with a disability'”, The point of article was to help people who don’t have a disability better understand those of us who do. Like why it isn’t a good idea to park in handicapped spaces. Apparently I really got my point across. *head desk*.
Yes! This! I get so tired of worrying about what to say. Aren’t we all just…people?
This is so fun reading your blog and all the comments. I think you struck a major chord in a culture held hostage by the minor. Good stuff!
Will there come a time when public blog posts and manuscripts will be filtered not for plagiarism but EC/PC sensitivity? Will we be able to hold realistic discussions or share opinions about issues that really matter? Our country used to be able to laugh at itself, but those days are in our past. Your concerns are real, and we need to pray for our country’s future. Orwell’s 1984 just had his dates wrong.
I appreciate this post and the previous one, Kristen. I had never heard of EC before and reading of it made my gut clench because it feels no different than the morality police that run roughshod over citizens in unnamed Middle Eastern countries, building themselves up while instilling fear in everyone around them. I lived in one of those countries, which had an insult law which caused people to be very careful about what they said for fear of something they said might be perceived as an insult and cause all sorts of unpleasantness involving humorless authorities. Now here we are, in the so-called “United” States of America, and while we don’t have morality or thought police on the scene-yet-we are definitely headed that way. I wish I had a brilliant idea or at least a cunning plan as to how to rectify the situation, but I don’t.
Humor and being able to find a way to laugh in even the darkest situations is paramount to me. I firmly believe that the day I can’t find something funny about a situation is the day I might as well die because being able to laugh is to be truly alive(And I’ve been dead, so I know how important it is to simply LIVE. 😉 ).
My family originated in the British Isles. Not really sure where; mostly from Ireland (some from the north, some from the south), but my name is Welsh and someone I spoke to when I was in Scotland many years ago (a tour bus driver named Fred Holton) said that he was only able to trace the name back seven or eight hundred years (!) and found that those people originated in Herfordshire, north of London. I’m sure there’s some Viking in there; there are variants of the name all over Europe, and my father’s family were all redheads.
I’m at the stage where I’m just happy there’s a lot more of life behind me than ahead of me. All that PC/EC is doing is creating artificial divisions between people and creating an environment where everyone is scared to death to say anything for fear of putting someone’s panties in a wad. I was raised to believe that no matter what color someone was, or where they came from, or where they worshipped, or anything else, they were a person and at the least should be treated with civility and that, if you didn’t like something, you accepted that there were people who did and just kept it to yourself and left them alone. Everyone was different, and that’s just the way it was. That, oddly enough, was the definition of “tolerance.” Now, it’s a lead-pipe cinch that if someone doesn’t like you, for whatever reason, they will tell you so and tell you you’re evil and need to be dealt with and made an example of and “re-educated,” and that’s the new definition of tolerance. Simply accepting that they’re different and leaving them alone is not enough; you have to be actively engaged in celebrating it.
Sorry I talked your ear off. It’s late and I should be in bed. Good night!
But we can’t even celebrate it because then we are racist. I can write black characters because I am white and can’t understand, but then I am dinged because my characters aren’t black?Again, VERY confusing. I write what characters I want and they can get over it :P.
Every time I talk to my black friends I spent the next hour wondering if I accidentally said something offensive. I hesitate over reblogging art by people of color featuring people of color because I’m waiting for someone to ask me why I would reblog that because it doesn’t have anything to do with me. If something terrible happens like the kidnapping of the Nigerian schoolgirls, I read posts that tell me my outrage/help/support isn’t wanted because I’m a white woman from the United States. Sometimes I feel at a loss as to what to do. I blogged about books tonight for the #WhyWeNeedDiverseBooks Twitter hashtag and I’m waiting for someone to say I picked the wrong books or something. I don’t want to be offensive so sometimes I just don’t ask a question or reblog a painting. It can be very confusing.
Oh God, after reading some of the other comments I’m afraid of what people will say about my non-Caucasian or LGBT characters.
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Everyone wants to be the center of attention and then there are those scared of exactly that. My wife is the latter.
I could not agree more. I think the world would be a much happier and less dangerous place if we stopped taking everything so seriously. Perhaps instead of war we could have stand-up comics fight it out on stage. Often I am asked the secret to my marriage of 32 years. My reply is the same every time: Laugh together every day! I love this post.
The good thing about pc is that racism and discrimination is actually being talked about and in the open. The bad things is that things are not in perspective I am white heinz 57. I was married to man from India and we faced racism on both sides.THe most tire some thing is someone who is looking for a racist under every rock.But basically you are right Humor. Its the secrect to staying married 37 years and pretty much defeats all hostile encounters.
Maybe someone has already said it but sometimes our biggest problem is that we take ourselves far too literally. I am 1/2 German with a splash of French-Irish, 1/4 English and 1/4 Gypsy (Croatia). Not a bad mix, I’m thinking.
Thank you for writing this. PC is compassion wrapped in intolerance. It’s selective outrage. I have come to reject political correctness as a whole. This is America, after all. Feel free to be offended. 🙂
I’m not a racists, or bigot, or close-minded religious right wing nut job or any other name they want to call me. I look at right and wrong, no matter the gender, party, race or religion. I simply don’t care what people say about me anymore. It’s very liberating.
I’m glad someone has the courage to call out how we’ve gone too far with EC/PC. I really enjoyed your last 2 posts.
What a wonderful post. I am a person of color and agree that we are too sensitive. I love talking to people not like me to dispel stereotypes but only if they aren’t idiots just looking for a confrontation. Most white people don’t know what’s it’s like to be someone other than what they are and they have questions. They shouldn’t be damned for that. Unfortunately, they won’t meet me when they have a question. They’ll meet a person of color with an attitude, then all hell breaks loose. Keep going. I have to share this.
My family is Southern Texan. I was with a fellow Southerner Bible school. He was as about Redneck as you could get. A British student called him a “yank” as a joke. My friend got genuinely offended and declared “I ain’t no yankee!” LoL!
Personally, I think that’s the only PC that is permissible. LoL! 😀
Absolutely brilliant. I couldn’t agree more, and I’m so glad I found you. This is another Freshly Pressed piece if ever I read one!
With much love & laughter,
(I was going to write, “from one greasy *type of bird*”, however, Urban Dictionary just enlightened me that *we* NEVER call each other this highly offensive “slur”. I beg to differ. I’ve referred to myself as a greasy you-know-what for years, because thankfully, I am greasy = good, less wrinkles. I’ve always preferred guinea over wop, and was never a fan of dago. My deceased father-in-law, with love and affection called me all three… at the same time. None of the terms of endearment have EVER offended me, not even when they were meant to be offensive. I’m more concerned, and have compassion, for the offender’s being so angry & ignorant.)
So, with much love & laughter, from your newest Sicilian-American fan. 😀
Brava! Thanks for writing this piece. Though I’ve never left a comment, know that I do read and love your blog every day.
I’m a Sicilian-Russian-Norwegian-???-American whose been bred down to Basic White female. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY during the 70s and 80s and while my friends have always been a mixed bag of all kinds of whatevah, I never did get the hang of double dutch (but I can braid anyone’s hair). I’m kinda dying to try hagis (though the oats need to be gluten-free) and I’d give up a vital organ to go roller skating in an actual roller rink again (are there any left in the world?).
The only thing that offends me is when people don’t clean up their own biological fluids on the subway. But words? Nah. Except when they’re abbreviated by the first letter followed by “-word”. I seriously hate that.
I agree with you. Although I have friends of many races and have a mixed-religion marriage, I notice that my sons can joke around with their even MORE multiculti packs of friends than I can. Sometimes I’m a little shocked at the way they’ll talk to each other, but it’s really amazing and I feel proud of the younger generation for being so natural with each other. I also feel proud of my generation for creating the groundwork to make that possible. Being able to joke, being able to be comfortable in different groups, is so important. And your very first anecdote is excellent (as is the rest of the post.)
Reblogged this on Author Kim Mullican and commented:
I couldn’t have put it THIS well!
Reblogged, liked, tossed it up on G+ because… I couldn’t put it better myself. Racism sucks… being called a racist when you’re far FROM IT. . . sucks even worse. I hate tip-toeing through the world.
I’m German, French-Canadian, French and English. And recently we’ve discovered a wee bit of Irish and Scottish.
Intriguing post. I made me think of two things. The first is that we are always going to make mistakes. Your not knowing that someone from Argentina, for example, is not that far off from a horrifying moment I had on first date to the movies with an ex-boyfriend. I *gasp* ask him about his parents. To my horror found out that they had both died a few years apart. All the people I knew had at least one parent. I was only 18. But still it made me reluctant to ask about anyone’s parents every again.
The second thing it made me think of is a course I took while earning a degree in marriage and family counseling. It was multicultural class designed to make you more sensitive to other cultures. Well, it didn’t take long to realize what the course was really about was the if you’re white, it’s your fault. I am sure there are many classes on this same subject that aren’t taught that way. But this one was. I can remember just walking around afterwards and every minority I saw I suddenly wanted to apologize to them – me who had many friends from different cultures and had never been prejudiced in my life.
Sure we should try to sensitive to everyone. By that I mean be polite and no overtly insult them, but a world of walking on egg shells afraid to talk isn’t going to help anyone.
I had the same experience in an American History class in high school. There was no explaining that, on Mom’s side, I was two generations off a boat from Norway. My grandfather worked in the slums of Hell’s Kitchen and factories had no problems working a dumb immigrant to death. My father’s family fled Georgia during the Civil War, bringing blacks with them but as part of the family. My great-grandfather was a minister and a farmer. He taught freed slaves to read and told them they could leave but they refused. They remained and are buried next to my great-grandparents in Paris, TX. All whites are responsible for slavery and segregation but no white person sacrificed or died to end it?
We are only focusing on one part of a larger picture because then we can keep people bitter and it’s tragic.
It’s almost like in trying to teach people to get along instead they are teaching them to weary of each other! One phrase that make me cringe it Teach Tolerance. On face value it’s good. But why not Teach Acceptance? What not focus on simulaties. Just recognize there are differences. Some you will like some who won’t. Can anyone tell me that they friends regardless of ethnicity, that they love every single thing about them?
This was perfect! It’s about time someone said it. Hatred, bigotry and intolerance is serious stuff, but like a lot of things, our society has taken it to the extreme. Blatant discrimination aside, ‘taking offense’ is often more about how the offended person feels about themselves and less about how the ‘offender’ feels about them.
I worked with a full-blood Seneca Indian and as a manager, I was PO’d about something, came through the kitchen and told 4 employees, “If …….. isn’t done by ….., I’m going to go on the warpath.” Well, let me tell you, she lit into me like nothing I’d ever seen before. When she was done with her tirade, I told her, “Look, I’m not responsible for your feelings. If you’re offended, that’s your business because no offense was intended. That happens to be an expression my mother used whenever she wanted us to move it. Oh, and by the way, she had a quarter cup of Cherokee blood running through her veins. Lighten up and get over yourself.” (I would have made a horrible HR person because I would have been defending the dozens of people who walked around on eggshells because of the one person who felt victimized by everyone and everything.)
This girl had a victim mentality, but working with her taught me something valuable – if we look deep we’ll find that the people who take offense when none is intended, are often the people who go around offending others intentionally.
a really good one indeed..enjoyed reading
You accidentally drove to Missouri?! What’s wrong with Missouri?! Was that comment filtered through the PC police? Have you just insulted my state?!
Of course I’m kidding. This has to be one of the best posts I’ve ever read. I dearly love your wit and wisdom. Keep it coming.
I agree with you – we have lost our sense of humor. I propose a National Politically Incorrect Week. During this week we can say whatever we want. The USA needs the opportunity to breathe out. One week a year would certainly help.
What I see in the media often, and I think what is being picked up on twitter and tumblr and viral social media places, is minorities are often still undrepresented on TV and in movies, and while there are exceptions and some positive shifts, the people of color we do see are punchlines and stereotypes. There’s that expression to “punch up.” It’s in poor taste if a CEO makes fun of the guy in the mailroom, though the mailroom guy can more easily crack jokes on the person with power. Race and culture absolutely can be funny, but who is the punchline? If you are a person of color, or have a disability, do you want to only be recognized as a punchline? I think it depends what type of humor you’re talking about here.
Skilled comedians can get away with race jokes if their observations are about themselves and their own ignorance, or trends that show that power imbalance. Last Comic Standing just had a guy who joked about his ATM password being the N word, because even if he was robbed at gunpoint, he’d never say that word out loud and give his password away. This was told by a spazzy white guy and his delivery killed. That joke played on our paranoia and the culture we live in–he gets it, and he’s not “punching down.” He’s not stepping on anyone, he’s revealing his own paranoia.
But often times jokes with the N word aren’t funny. They’re in poor taste and offensive. I don’t want to laugh at those jokes. I also don’t laugh at rape jokes. Someone telling me to relax and just laugh it off, I’m just going to walk away. Every rape joke? Maybe not. Again, it depends on how the joke is told and who is the punchline. If it’s a woman getting what she deserves, that’s not funny to me, and I’m not even a victim of sexual assault.
All of us are the punchline at some point and we need to learn to laugh. And I am not referring to stuff that is mean-spirited and in poor taste. BUT, why is it okay to make every blonde in a commercial a hopeless dimwit? Ok. I can laugh to a point. But, if we put a person of color with the same lines, there would be a march. White males are often the punchline in situational comedy. We are seeing the Homer-Simpsonization of our men. It needs balance. I can laugh at a good blonde joke. LOVE the BlondeStar commercial on YouTube. But, when it gets to the point that EVERY blonde in commercials and media is a) dumb b) a slut c) a home wrecker d) the bad guy or e) all of the above? I start having a problem.
Stereotypes are funny for a REASON. This is why everyone from the south LOVES Jeff Foxworthy. Many of us might not have a bass boat out front or an engine hanging from a tree, but there are enough of the stereotypical behaviors that we can relate and laugh. Stereotypes only get dangerous when they are the ONLY examples we have. Then it’s no longer comedy.
Suffice to say, our sense of humor is maturing as we mature as a nation. But it is dangerous to get so prim that everyone is above being the punchline once in a while. Being the punchline was the point of the jester…to keep rulers (people) from getting to full of their own virtue.
Hi. I enjoyed this thoughtful, funny post. I believe that intention is everything. People may make mistakes, but it’s always important to look at their intention. If the intention is love and inclusion, errors should be forgiven. Perhaps mis-steps can be gently corrected, but the comments should not be considered offensive. I’ve said some unintentionally stupid things, but I NEVER meant any harm. And, sometimes, I’m even funny. 🙂
Okay, so on my travels I’ve realized that some people just don’t want to get into a deep discussion about things. They want you to nod along and not backtalk. They want to tell you how they’re feeling and then not hear advice.
I’ve never experienced so much superficial talk and it’s exhausting. Every time I try to make a comment or theory about something in life people nod, shrug and get on to the next topic.
I agree with you totally. When I was a kid (I’m about twice as old as you), I don’t even remember what race/nationality/ethnic group my friends belonged. I’m not even sure I knew it then. All I remember is that we were a bunch of friends who had imaginations you could hang a kite on to make it soar. We played pirates, and wizards/witches, and spaceship adventures. We didn’t think about “persons of colour” (which I would have though was someone who spilled poster paint on themselves), or Hispanic (which sounded exotic, but I had no clue what it meant), or Asian (isn’t that a country in the desert?). I know this sounds terribly ignorant, but back then we didn’t associate these names with our friends. They were just Raoul and Miguela and Cho and Ibrahim (and so on). If someone had told us we were being racist, we wondered how fast each of us must have run to win THAT race. Ah well, such is the blindness of love.
I have long wanted to be a court jester, but I don’t know of any courts hiring 🙁
I was raised part Kiwi, part Melanesian, but being of entirely British ancestry I can get away with saying “all you white people look the same” when I get faces confused.
A topic close to my heart. Although I don’t quite agree with your conclusions… I’m blonde. I’m also Native American and African American and raised two daughters of half Polynesian descent. I made every mistake you made in the 60s, 70s, and 80s you did and more. I don’t consider myself a racist, but I consider the things I did and said as racist, insensitive, and damaging. And white people do not have the corner on that market. There is a whole world of thought that your piece fails to take into account. One of the easiest introductions to that is Power, Privilege, and Difference by Allen G Johnson: http://www.amazon.com/Privilege-Power-Difference-Allan-Johnson/dp/0072874899 And holy moly, I first bought that book close to 10 years ago. My hair just turned white with the sticker shock. It’s used as a college text book. It’s just 184 pages long. He is a white male just like Chuck Wendig…which makes his words more powerful to my mind. And never lose your humor…or your ability to reach out. 🙂
Kristen, you are so incredibly loving-hearted, daring, brave, and beautiful! I can’t tell you how much I admire and deeply appreciate you!! Thank you…
Awww, *blushes* thanks. As a recovered jerk that means a lot, LOL.
I love your stories of diversity.
But now I am curious: how did your friend from Uganda and your friend from the refugee camp in Damascus end up at TCU?
How I would love it if you would work up their experiences (and yours with them) into a story or at least a more detailed blog.
All Palestinians in Syria live in camps. The one where I stayed was the Yarmouk Camp. It’s really more of a special neighborhood. Basema’s family owned a paper company and I was interning there (though that mainly involved sitting around drinking far too much Turkish coffee). Her family was well off enough to send her to the States to be educated. But their company was surrounded by another camp of Bedouins, so if anyone ever wants to remember how privileged they are here in the States, just hang out there for five minutes. Pretty dreadful conditions. No sewers, running water and the homes are one-room hovels. Even the Yarmouk Camp was pretty rough. I once thought I saw an alley cat and it was a RAT. The streets are buried in trash and dirt and a lot of kids beg for money because they couldn’t get into UN schools. When I was there, they had a water shortage. I remember this old man walking around with a bottle selling it by the sip and YES, I paid him. I was THAT thirsty, LOL.
My friend from Uganda’s family fled to the US and claimed political asylum after her father was executed. Since her father was a college professor, they, too, had a bit of money and I am sure US authorities aided in her getting into a fine university. She was brilliant. I never probed her experiences too much just always had the basics.
Basema didn’t really like talking about her life there and all I was privy to was what I experienced. She was ashamed. I lost touch with her after 911 and worried myself sick after all the stuff happening in Syria last year. I have tried to find her using the Internet and even our college professors ask if I have found her. We were close from 1997-2002 then she just vanished.
Oohh! Now I want to know what their majors were and why, of all the colleges in the US, they chose TCU?
Do you know?
ps. I am Scotch-Irish, French, Welsh, English, German and Portuguese. At college I met a foreign student who said to me (with that lovely Irish brogue), “You look like all the girls back home in Ireland.”
The gal from Uganda? Unsure. Believe it was Anthropology. Besema and I had the same degree, International Relations with an emphasis on Middle East and North Africa. I had a bit more political economy and was one class way from a minor in German. I believe she took Spanish, since we were required to be at least bilingual with that particular degree. I believe they chose TCU because it’s one of the best schools in the nation short of going to an Ivy League.
And sorry, hesitant to use my friend from Uganda’s name here since she and her family were here for political asylum. Might not be prudent 😉 .
What do you learn, what topics are covered in International Relations?
And, please tell me what you think were the most valuable things you learned with this major, please?
Amen! I used to work in an office where hyper-political correctness was the everyday norm, and it was so exhausting. One year, the Friday before Columbus Day, our HR person sent out an email saying “enjoy the holiday, let’s all thank Christopher Columbus for giving us this day off!” One employee, unbeknownst to any of us, was something like 1/16 Cherokee and wrote a letter to the CEO about how offensive that email was to her. I’ve worked with at least a dozen people who get all up in arms if someone wishes them a “blessed day,” because, well, how can you assume they share your religion? Honestly, lighten up, people. I really wish everyone would just take a step back and think to themselves, “Is this person *trying* to offend me?” Usually, the answer is “no.”
Thank you for writing this! I hope the people who need to hear it can get over themselves long enough to really think about it. But at the very least, you’ve spoken to a lot of other people who, like you (and me!) are frequently exhausted by this overly PC culture that we’ve built for ourselves.
Beautifully expressed. Who ever figured we’d have to worry about the thought police in the Land of the Free? Even today’s comedians, the present-day court jesters, are afraid to let completely loose…unless it’s about a topic that’s already been deemed PC. How come some religions are considered fair game and others aren’t? Same with political views? It’s not right.
Well said. Everyone is afraid to offend people. My sense of humor has gotten me into trouble more times than I care to remember. I live in Australia where our irreverence hasn’t yet been completely quashed but there is still a line you can step over without meaning to. However the political correctness down here is nothing compared to the madness in the US. I spent the whole time I was on holidays there fearful of saying the wrong thing and getting into trouble.
I met a man from New Orleans online and when I realized he was an African American I started second guessing everything I wrote in emails to him. I asked him what he preferred to be called and he was amused and wrote his name. Sensing my fear he played it to the full pretending offence at the things I wrote, calling me a middle class white woman. He laughed at me until I got over it and stopped self censoring. At the end of the day we were both writers, both had job issues, partners we loved, kids that drove us nuts. We ate, we worked, we worried about paying the bills. No matter the differences we are all the same underneath. The world is a poorer place when barriers exist between us. Better I am offended by a few than ignored by the many. What a sad lonely place we are creating.
Hi, I laughed my heart while reading this. Nancy (nrhatch), left the link to this post in the comment section of a post I wrote about race, ethnicity, prejudice & attitudes.
I like to think that tolerance cuts both ways. It’s unfair to drop the hammer on everyone. We can’t be aware of every cultural nuance for crying aloud. We will step on some toes inadvertently. If someone says something offensive, tolerance means we give them the benefit of the doubt and let it go. In my experience, most of the time people mean no harm. And haven’t I also made wrong assumptions and wrong statements?
In my post, I write that racism isn’t my default setting and I choose not to see it in every slight.
Like you, I was scared . . . I was scared of writing white people, so I put white in quotation marks 🙂
Wonderful post! I was just talking about this. So many articles today are devoted to the subject of “What Not to Say,” whether it’s to your children, somebody with a disability, somebody with cancer – everything you could imagine. If we heed the advice found in these articles, there would be nothing left to say!
Great post/article. Thank you.
Another fabulous post, Kristen. Thanks!
I’ve lived my whole life in South Africa. I’ve seen racism entrenched in everyday life and I’ve seen it completely over-turned. After a prickly start, we’ve actually grow less PC over time (I think!).
In South Africa black people are called ‘black’, white people are called ‘white’ (though I sometimes call myself a ‘whitie’ to colleagues) and people of mixed race are usually known as ‘coloured’. These terms are not offensive here. Occasionally, black people are referred to as ‘African’ and this I do find a little insulting since I’m a born and bred African too!
The book I’ve just written (hopefully due out in September) has a mixed race hero. As I was writing him I researched how people of colour in different countries referred to themselves and which words they found insulting. The results? DON’T use the words ‘black’, ‘coloured’, or ‘African American’ because somewhere in the world someone will find it offensive. Huh?!
My hero is who he is, and I’m not stripping him of all colour to be PC. His race is as much a part of his identity as it is for all of us. And we should all celebrate our identity, MUTT or not!
As for me, I’m 100% German on my father’s side, about 10% Scottish / 90% Afrikaans on my mother’s side. English (that 10%) is my home language.
I hate political correctness. There’s a difference between being derogatory and simply speaking. I hope you don’t mind if I put a link to this post on my Facebook page? I love it, and I think it’s an important message to spread!
Spread away! Maybe we can get people to lighten the HELL UP, 😀 .
This a million times over – thank you, Kristen! Your posts this week are something we all need to hear. When did we become a nation/world of people afraid to hear contrary views? I fear for many of our children. They are not being raised to be resilient – and instead of building resilience, they will demand even more political/empathetic correctness to mitigate the shock and pain of dealing with the real world. So not good.
When I was in Spain long ago, there was a great deal of freedom – more at that time than in the USA – EXCEPT you didn’t dare utter a word against GENERAL FRANCO. Better not even mention GENERAL FRANCO in case someone might misunderstand, might think that you were making the tiniest, most hesitant comment about GENERAL FRANCO that might, with a very tiny probability, be mistaken as a slightly negative comment about GENERAL FRANCO. The Catalans had, however, the subversive habit of calling a major Barcelona road by its former name, Via Diagonal, instead of the new and magnificent name AVENIDA GENERAL FRANCO.
You really nailed it that we are shifting away from a free society and towards a police state. PC is just a symptom, not the disease.
I absolutely loved this post! As kids we don’t see skin color, weight, religion, etc. as a dividing factor. People adopting children from all areas of the world is beautiful. We shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells. Though, we shouldn’t aim to harm either. I think this post hit it right. One man phrased it in a similar manner, he said you can move to any country in the world – to Ireland, Finland, China, etc. and be an american living in that country. But only in America can you come in from somewhere else and become an american. And that means something.
yeah, i think you hit the nail on the head, there, kiddo… for instance, i like to refer to black people as being black. it keeps it simple. i don’t like the term African American. tell you why. what’s good for the one is good for the other, or should be, anyway. but that could get to be a BAD thing, too. for example, what if you were an English, Scottish, Welsh, German, Spanish, Russian, Australian, Italian American? geez, by the time you were old and grey, you’d have used up a year’s worth of time just introducing yourself. i dunno about anybody else, but if i were going to waste my time, i could do better than that, easy. if you’re an American, just call yourself an American. wow, what a mind blower, huh? keep up the good work, kiddo.
I am aging. Just call me white. I can guess when it comes to others, but “Asian” or “black” or “Latino” should be sufficient and if I missed it? Just gently correct me. I have friends from the Middle East who LOOK Mexican and friends who are Mexican who LOOK as if they are Middle Eastern. I am trying to give it my best. Just laugh and tell me the correct “term” if it’s necessary.
Were you a carpenter at one time? Cuz you totally hit the nail on the head with this!!!
I feel you, Kristen. I look around and wonder. We had so much to enjoy as a species. So much variety. So much beauty. There was richness all around us. What happened to them? They became corrupted, perverted, abused. Nothing has been left untouched by the poison. Even water. You can no longer drink it and feel entirely safe. Now we have to be careful. Careful, careful, careful. Delicate. Meticulous. Like prisoners of a sort. We are prisoners. Our own prisoners.
Where I come from we have 42 tribes. But just don’t make reference to anyone’s tribe while talking to them. It is bad to do that, could get you fired from work, or ostracized by colleagues. It doesn’t matter the circumstances under which you made it. People hide their tribal names here. So many wars have been fought between tribes, and the politics is awful. Useless world.
Awesome post… the only thing I’ll part ways with you is the meaning of PC… in my book it’s Perpetually Constipated.
I loved this post, because it reflects the reality of the lives we used to lead. The lives that no longer exist. I keep wondering where it all started to go wrong.
Thank you , Kristen! I’m half Italian (raised by grandparents who were literally, right off the boat) and half English, Irish, German and Welsh. I lived all around New York growing up–mostly Jewish neighborhoods–I speak more Yiddish than Italian. I have always had a very diverse group of friends and see myself as colorblind. When I was in high school (in the Main Line of PA) I thought it was horrible that our school had a black student union–I saw it as racist, when I mentioned it, I was told that anyone could join the group–which is how I ended up being the only white kid in the Black Student Union.
Now I live in rural MD where just about everyone is white, and there’s very little diversity. I’ll never forget the day we took our kids to see a movie in Germantown (a much more diverse area) and my disabled daughter who was about 6 at the time, and not the best walker (she’d only been walking a few years) was making her way through a door held by a Jewish man wearing a yammikah. It was the holiday season, so little Izzy, gave him her best smile, thanked him for holding the door for her, and wished him a Merry Christmas. Then she noticed his yammikah and said “Nice hat!” He thanked her for the compliment and wished her a Merry Christmas too–he caught my eye and the two of us had a good laugh. I can’t tell you how relieved I was he didn’t take offense.
Political Correctness and EC is so terrible in the DC area I’m afraid to open my mouth. I’ve always been one to celebrate our differences, our differences are what makes us all so interesting. I’d hate to live in a place where we’re all Wonder Bread. I’ve always told my kids that we’re more Pumpernickel/Rye swirl, and though they might have a hard time fitting in right now, when they get older, the fact that they’re unusual will be a benefit–now I’m not so sure . I’m offended that just because I’m white people automatically assume I’m a bigot and feel that I need to prove that I’m not.
I loved this post, Kristen! I grew up during those same times and miss the innocence and acceptance and comfort of my childhood, too. We do really need to remember how to enjoy one another’s company, differences and all. What deflates tension better than a good belly laugh?