Political Correctness (or, the End of Society as We Know It)

Kathleen Morris

Everything is so politically correct nowadays. It almost gets tiring, right? I mean, imagine having to watch everything you say so carefully, for the sake of sparing someone’s feelings. What a drag. Imagine thinking before you speak to avoid making someone else uncomfortable. Why bother? What’s next, holding the door open for the person behind you? Or even worse, picking something up for someone when they’ve dropped it?

Hopefully the notion of doing something kind for someone else, like holding open a door or picking something up, doesn’t strike you as intrusive or oppressive. In which case, is it really that oppressive to watch what you say before you say it? Here’s an example:

It started in my sign language class that I take here at Springfield College (which, side note, is fantastic. I highly recommend learning sign language for your language requirement. It’s a beautiful language, it’s fairly easy to learn, and you can learn about the struggles that deaf people face as well). While our teacher was walking around, helping us learn to sign a new word, one white, male student asked a million-dollar question: “Is there a sign for nigga?”

The teacher, who is deaf, didn’t hear him, so we never did find the answer to that question. I’m guessing that, by the fact that he didn’t make an effort to ask her, he had an inkling that her response would have been less than enthusiastic. My response was definitely less than enthusiastic. As one of the only students of color in the class, I turned to one of the other only students of colors in the class, and mouthed, “Did he really just ask that?” She nodded, her face as unimpressed as I myself felt.

I’m sure there are a number of you reading this and wondering, “So what?” Maybe some of you are even wondering, “Well, that’s kind of a good question. Is there a sign for the word nigga?” For the sake of being thorough, I did look that up. The answer seems to be a resounding no. In fact, on one of the websites I went to said, in lieu of a sign, “How to sign: (ethnic slur) offensive name for a black person ‘only a black can call another black a nigga.’”

For those of you wondering, “So what?” there is your answer. If this has been a source of contention for you before, I’m sure you’re tired of the explanation that “nigga” is a word that only black people should be able to use. It may seem that this is way too politically correct, because, as words tend to do, “nigga” has changed. Its predecessor was the slur, but this is just a word for friend! Rappers use it with abandon, so why can’t we all? Or, if only black people can say it, then maybe nobody should be able to say it! Personally, I don’t like the word and I don’t use it. But I also recognize that it’s a word that was reclaimed by black people as a way of gaining power over its harsher, blatantly racist predecessor. So yeah, hearing my classmate use it so flippantly made me uncomfortable.

Things like that remind me of Brianna Brochu, a now infamous student from the University of Hartford. She loved black culture so much that she used the slang and wore the hairstyles, but when it came to actual black people? Not so much. She showed that by documenting via social media the nauseatingly despicable methods she used to get her black roommate to move out of their shared dorm. Does this mean that every white person that sings along when a rapper says the n word is a closeted racist? Of course not! The point of all this is to say: think before you speak. It’s costs nothing, but could mean everything.

 

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