This piece emerged out of a Facebook discussion of an article by Yasha Mounk at The Atlantic, the headline of which reads:
Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture
Youth isn’t a good proxy for support of political correctness, and race isn’t either.
Oct 10, 2018
According to the report, 25 percent of Americans are traditional or devoted conservatives, and their views are far outside the American mainstream. Some 8 percent of Americans are progressive activists, and their views are even less typical. By contrast, the two-thirds of Americans who don’t belong to either extreme constitute an “exhausted majority.” Their members “share a sense of fatigue with our polarized national conversation, a willingness to be flexible in their political viewpoints, and a lack of voice in the national conversation.”
Most members of the “exhausted majority,” and then some, dislike political correctness. Among the general population, a full 80 percent believe that “political correctness is a problem in our country.” Even young people are uncomfortable with it, including 74 percent ages 24 to 29, and 79 percent under age 24. On this particular issue, the woke are in a clear minority across all ages.
The conversation began with a suggestion that the Left's focus on so-called "political correctness" was a decisive factor in turning people off to the Democrats, and that of course in some case, defending the marginalized is "virtue signalling."
The media has been trashing the term "political correctness" since the '90's. It's far from surprising that the term isn't popular. Hey if 75% of Americans want to go back to calling Asians "chinks" and "ching chongs," am I "virtue signalling" if I suggest that perhaps that isn't such a good thing? "Oh but we didn't mean it like THAT. That's not okay," they will say. But it's still the same PC culture they supposedly hate so much. There is broad agreement that THOSE terms aren't ok, the devil is in where you draw the line!
It's easy to make PC-culture into the bogeyman, like really easy, when the term is as ill-defined as it is in the article, and when the media has been bashing it the way it has for so. Fucking. Long. Again though, is not using "the N-word" to describe black people just "PC culture?" I would argue that it's the same basic premises. "Try not to offend people." "Call people what they want to be called." I have to imagine 75% of Americans recognize that using "the N-word" against African Americans is wrong, yet we apparently reject "PC culture" anyway. This speaks to the nebulousness of the term PC, and the relentless reaction against so-called PC culture. It's a question of where we draw the line. Like: "'Ching chongs' for Asians, no, of course not. But now I gotta use the term Latinx? What the?"
Personally I try to err in the side of inclusivity, and calling folks what they actually want to be called. I don't use "the N-word" to refer to the African American people I see around me, because I have come to understand that they don't like being called that by white folks. The term "Latinx" is newer to me, in speaking of my Hispanic neighbors, colleagues, students etc. While I tend to defer to Hispanic right off the bat, if someone indicates to me that they PREFER TO BE CALLED Latinx, then Latinx it will be. I have a couple of gender non-binary friends who now want to be called "they," even when speaking just about them in the singular form. While I don't always get it right, if they want to be called they, who am I to tell them they shouldn't? It's just not that hard.
There is bad behavior, of course, with any issue as loaded with complex connections, like "identity." While I won't say I've NEVER done it, I do try avoid what I call Outrage Appropriation, namely, speaking out stridently in a specific situation, in anger on behalf of some group of which I'm not a member. That DOES happen, and no, I don't think it's productive.
At the end of the day, I don't hold PC culture responsible for the Trump Presidency, and I don't think that "people just relaxing and being cooler about things" is a path toward electoral victory. The Right Wing and its allies are responsible for the ascendance of Mr. Trump. It is not the paltry and powerless left's fault.
All sorts of people claim to be "against PC," but they would never dream of calling American Indians "red****s," nor calling black folks by the N word. Yet refusing to do so would apparently follow the same thought process that leads to the Horrible Terrible "PC Culture," which is GROSSLY ill-defined in the article, btw. If 88% of Native Americans have a beef with nebulous "PC-culture," I guess that is what it is. Sure, whatever. When 88% of Native Americans think that the calling natives "red****s," or using "the N-word" is fine, I guess we could talk.
But this article kinda sounds like it's making EXCUSES for the psuedo-fascists in the GOP. "I mean yeah Trumpsters are pure evil, but it's really the Democratic left's fault." I mean we've all got our foibles, but when it's "ends democracy in favor of autocratic dictatorship," as the down side to one part of the equation, and "too sensitive," on the other, I'll go with the too-sensitive side every damned day, and I'll do it proudly.
These people steal immigrant children from their parents, and tell us we can't curb fossil fuel emissions because "too late, catastrophic climate change is a done deal anyway," but somehow it's really, seriously, if you just stare hard enough at this one thing, the Left's fault for giving us Trump. All those frothing racists in MAGA hats, and fatcat bankers in Wall Street and fucking Vladimir Putin were all just "incidental" to the whole thing?
And what is the UPSHOT here? I mean sure, I'm a hetero white dude, so I can't claim to always "get it" when people around me talk about micro-aggressions. But I can hear them out, and try to be mindful about it. EXAMPLE: I have a friend who attended Lakes of Fire last year, and was angry that some people felt it was fine to just touch her hair. As a black woman, that bothered her somewhat; not enough to call the cops, not enough to sue anyone, but it bothered her; perhaps a "micro-aggression," if you will. Is the suggestion here that she should just, ya know, shut up about it?
The Democratic Left has spent my entire adult life trying to "win over" conservatives and independents and others who may be "turned off," by the PC bogeyman. Do you think that if we just muzzled all the stuff about micro-aggression, and cultural appropriation etc., that somehow the MAGA people would start voting for Bernie Sanders? That's hogwash.
We have been chasing moderates since Michael Dukakis said: "Well I am not a liberal," in 1988. Perhaps we ought to try actually standing up for marginalized groups we all go around claiming we care so much about.
One more thing. PC culture works two ways, ya know. I mean, we don't call them "spooks, liars and torturers," we call them "the Intelligence Community." We don't call them "racist rednecks," we call them "Trump voters." We don't (anymore) call them "Bible thumping holy-rollers," we call them "Christian conservatives." We sure as shit don't, and never really did, call them "honkies and crackers," we call them whites. This shit works two ways. But only the PC culture from the left side is supposedly a problem.