“It’s just a joke. PC gone mad”

I have a wonderful immediate family, made up of people from different countries, cultures, religious beliefs and sexuality. We are incredibly close and enjoy each other’s company immensely, especially at Christmas time when we go all out with food, games and good times. Over the years, politically incorrect jokes have been made by us all and we’ve all laughed together, knowing how much love and respect we hold for one another and that the jokes are in no way representative of any real prejudice. It was an attitude I held until recently.

Being active in social media, I’ve often witnessed issues coming up regarding, race, religion or sexuality, where someone has expressed a feeling of being disrespected or hurt by the use of some comment said in jest, or with a flippant remark, or as part of a joke in which gender, sexuality or race is used for the sake of a laugh. Often the response to those who express their hurt feelings, is a tirade of remarks which run along the lines of: “lighten up, it’s just a joke” or “Get it over it” or “This is PC gone mad.” Sometimes further excuses are added to justify their remarks, such as: “My many gay friends say this stuff and laugh about it” or “I might make a harmless joke, but I’m a huge supporter of (whatever race/sexuality/etc) community.” Even those within these communities use these terms or jokes with each other, but is it right?

I’m now a grandmother who is deeply ashamed, having had my young grandchildren express a confusion about our non PC jokes and remarks, because those ill-used words are mocking them, who they are as people and their loved ones. As young as they are, they are very aware of the real and awful prejudices that exist in the world, that they themselves are subjected to and often hurt by. Why would we, the people they trust, want to joke about something that affects them so personally, or use terms that many people find deeply offensive? To say ‘we’re just joking” doesn’t seem to cut it now. It just sounds incredibly stupid.

Out of the mouth of babes, comes the greatest of wisdom by which I’ve ever been humbled and taught a sound lesson. It takes time to change peoples attitudes, but my own has undergone a transformation in a very short time. Now I hope to help open a few more eyes. We are not given the foresight to know the future, of who might become a part of our family, whether our loved ones might be gay, or of a different race or hold strong principles of feminism or culture. But we are given the chance in the present to nurture values within ourselves which reflect acceptance and respect of everyone.

At the time, you may not see what all the fuss is about, or even agree with the need to be politically correct, but if someone is saying “this hurts and disrespects me,” isn’t that enough to change our attitudes? Do we really want to hurt another person for the sake of a laugh? Are we that full of ourselves that we can’t accept that our remarks may be considered highly disrespectful and cause others pain and discomfit? I don’t want to be a person like that and I won’t be.

Any change for a better world is dependent upon each and every one of us. As much as it depends upon me, my aim from now on will be to show respect to everyone, and never again assume that my throw-off remark is harmless. Right now, someone, somewhere is suffering simply because they have an alternative sexuality, or are transgender or female, or from a different race or religion. They need ‘politically correct’ to, not only expand in laws to protect them and give them basic rights, but to be nurtured in the hearts of their fellow human beings and adopted into words that uplift them rather than tear them down and mock them.

I remember a common saying from my childhood, but I’d like to end my thoughts with an adaptation of it. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can crush our souls or bring healing to a wounded world.

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