"In the Great Right of an Oppressive Wrong"
With apologies to Robert Browning.
Queen's University is empowering six students to go forth and interrupt conversations with lectures on political correctness.
I'm pretty okay with what is called political correctness. I believe calling something "gay" as a pejorative is both inaccurate and inappropriate. But if some campus stooge came up to me, even in a "non-confrontational manner" to address the misuse of the word in a conversation I was having, I'd laugh at him or her.
I have several problems with this.
Firstly, I have no idea what they're going to use for censure. Will students get a ticket? A note on their permanent record? A spanking? What if they respond with laughter and verbal abuse?
What if the verbal abuse is politically incorrect? Hell, what if it's accurate?
Secondly, according to the list at that article, one of the things for which a student may be censured (not censored--censured) is "If a student avoids a classmate's birthday party for faith-based reasons."
Look, I'm sure you all know generally where I stand on religion: With one foot on its forehead and one on its belly, swinging away with a shovel. But that's just me. I don't object if someone skips my frigging birthday party to attend services. What are the Kampus Kops going to do when that happens? Drag the offender from the baptismal service to my kegger?
And it makes me wonder. What if a religious fellow described me or my friends as "hellbound?" What if I described him and his congregation as "deluded fools?" Harsh criticisms both, but utterly and descriptively accurate from our respective points of view.
What if I use the phrase "That's so gay" to describe the sequined-thong-based Mardi Gras costume with padded codpiece to be worn by a male friend? What if I know the friend to be homo?
Political correctness is too often maligned. It's important because we think in language, and when we change the language, we may change how people think about the person behind the word. And society should show its approval for non-judgemental language.
But this sort of thing is what gets good ideas and efforts a bad name. You're never going to police teen argot out of their mouths, or out of their heads. They have to come to it gradually, as does a society.
My grandmother referred to East Asians all her life as "Pakis." It was a generic term. In one memorable instance at the provicial museum, as we passed a turbanned commissionaire, she whispered as only an 85-year-old who's stone deaf can declare: "Oo--'ave ye them 'ere?--Pakis?"
The gentleman to whom she referred smiled indulgently. He correctly identified her as one of a generation who didn't know any better, and thus could not be offended.
My parents have learned better.
No-one uses the word "negro" anymore, much less the double-g equivalent. Why? The word seems inoffensive to me, generally (the shorter one, at any rate)--it was the word I grew up using.
It's because society has moved on. As race relations have improved (and they have) over the past fifty years, we've learned that to use those words puts us in a class with baccy-chawin' inbred crackers who can't count to eighteen unless they've got one shoe off. No-one said "Hey--stop using that word," except in fairly rare circumstances (such as changes to government correspondence). And you'll still find it in use in some of the places frequented by baccy-chawin' inbred crackers who can't count to eighteen unless they've got one shoe off.
But mostly, people who used to be described by that word stood were emboldened and encouraged, and said "Well actually, we'd prefer to be called ..."
(Note: I think that politically incorrect language is sometimes also a handy spur to social change. For example, try being a raging, gay-slurring homo-hater when a six-foot-four stevedore in a cocktail dress is singing Judy Garland. You won't use that language again--not until your jaw gets un-wired anyway.)
But mainly, in the end, what's called political correctness isn't about you.
"And if students become uncomfortable when a facilitator calls out someone on an offensive slur, it shouldn't be seen as a bad thing, Mr. Laker said. It means they're forced to think about their choices."True. And fine. But it should be because the other person you're conversing with says "Hey--that was a dumb thing to say." Not because some prodnose proctor of morals stops you and tells you not to.