Be Empowered by the Death of Political Correctness
In the wake of last week’s election, one thing is unanimously agreed upon by the political pundits: this election was a resounding repudiation of political correctness. To be clear, political correctness has never been about dictating what can and can’t be said. Most agree that our fundamental right to First Amendment free speech means that we can say horribly offensive things to each other. The real heart of the much-maligned political correctness is the freedom to be offended by that free speech. Trump and his supporters rejected that freedom. They’d grown weary of censoring themselves lest their language offend Liberals and, in response, they ramped up the rhetoric in protest.
This death of political correctness may not be a newsflash. For years, Bill Maher has pleaded with Liberals to give up this losing battle. What may be a surprise is that we actually lost the PC battle eight years ago when President Obama was elected. While we were electing Obama as our commander-in-chief, Trump was being anointed as the name-caller-in-chief. The New York Times recently updated its list of the literally hundreds of “People, Places, and Things” Donald Trump has insulted on Twitter. Trump gives each of his political enemies a derogatory, and equally juvenile, nickname. These unfortunate bearers of bad names have no freedom to be offended out of fear of being labeled a thin-skinned, PC pussy. Because, if you take offense to a silly name, then you’re a huge — I mean YUGE — part of the PC problem.
For evidence that we lost the PC battle eight years ago, look no further than the Birther movement. Just when we were cozying up with our “Great American Novel” of a black man who rose to become President of the United States, we were forced to give time to the crazy-conspiracy-theory version of that story: that of a Muslim boy born in Kenya who came to this country with a fake birth certificate hell-bent on destroying America by giving its citizens affordable health care. We were forced to listen to a movement to delegitimize President Obama’s story and we didn’t have the freedom to be offended by it. Non-Birther Republicans did not reject the movement, stating simply that everyone has a right to question whatever they want — a poll-tested position that allowed them to sleep at night while maintaining their day jobs as elected officials. Even the media took years to drum up the courage to call the movement what it was — racist.
The irony is that although Liberals have largely given up their freedom to be offended, Conservatives have not done the same. So while Liberals accepted being called Libtards, socialists, or even anti-American, Liberal name-calling is largely shunned. Just think about the respective name-calling by Trump and Clinton. Trump made name-calling a plank in his platform and it seemed to empower him. Clinton slips up one time and calls half of Trump supporters deplorable and they all lined up to express their God-given right to be offended by it.
If we truly live in a post-politically correct America then the Trump supports have to give up their right to be offended too.
As some of you know, I have been on a crusade since the election to make sure we talk honestly about what led to the rise of Trump and to not let history be rewritten. The debate is raging regarding who or what is responsible for Trump. These discussions sometimes, but not often enough, touch on race. I wrote a piece last week responding to the claim by Trump supporters that Liberals think all Trump supporters are racists. Literally, the first point I made was an olive branch to Trump supporters that we don’t think that they are all racist. The most common response I saw from Trump supporters to my missive was something along the lines of, “he thinks we’re all racists.” That’s when I realized that they had just played the PC card on me! They reserved their freedom to be offended by my language. They read my piece, were offended that I’d called anyone a racist, inexplicably pretended that I’d called them all racists, and shut down the conversation as the easy way out of a discussion about race.
Last week, a Facebook friend and I were debating whether Trump supporters will give Trump a pass if he doesn’t live up to his campaign promises. To be fair, we were making the point that no one really knows what Trump is going to do. Another Facebook friend chimed in that we, in his words, were being smug Liberals and were “exactly” what led to Trump. Had I gotten offended by the labeling, I’m sure he would have doubled down that my oversensitivity to his language is also what led to Trump. But I’m smarter than that. And I’m a big boy. I can handle this post-PC world. I didn’t get offended by the name-calling. I didn’t even get offended that he was smugly blaming me for Trump as if I could have stopped this horrible nightmare. I acknowledged that he might be right in that smug liberals played a part in Trump’s rise. I understand how off-putting politically correctness can be for some. But, I stated, that if we want to look at “exactly” what led to Trump’s rise, that we would be remiss not to start with the racist Birther movement specifically designed to delegitimize the first black President. Within seconds, he literally responded, “blah, blah, blah … racist!” and said that I’d chosen “the quickest and laziest” way to shut down a discussion. I clarified a point that I’ve made clear from everything I’ve written, i.e., that I don’t think all Trump supporters are racist. He responded that he was choosing the rational thing to do when racism is even brought up — to walk away and “take [his] ball and go home.” He literally said this and figuratively did it. End of discussion. I had offended his sensibilities. In fact, he had gotten more offended at my use of the term racist than by actual racism. This is a problem.
If Liberals are to “suck it up” and realize that we live in a post-PC world and not get offended by the name calling — whether the names are legitimate or not — then shouldn’t Liberals at least maintain their ability to call people names without the targets being butthurt? For the record, I hate that term, but I’m just practicing my post-PC parlance. And if we see someone being a racist, we should call them a racist without everyone around said racist getting offended as if we’d called all of them racists, too. If I walk into a crowded room and yell “Timothy!” would everyone turn around and yell back, “I’m not Timothy!” and walk away? Of course not; that would be absurd. If your name isn’t Timothy then clearly you understand that I’m not talking to you. So why when someone says “racist!” does everyone turn around and yell back, “I’m not a racist!”? If you think about it, this phenomenon is even more egregious than that. Basically, if I walk into a room and say, “racist Timothy!” people respond “blah, blah, blah, I’m not racist Timothy!” and walk away. Of course you’re not. Hell, your name isn’t even Timothy! Why are you compelled to defend racist Timothy?
We cannot let this moment in time be rewritten. What better example will we ever have that racism is alive and well in this country than our President-elect’s rise to power in part by playing lowest-common-denominator politics claiming that the first black President was not legitimate, not American, and not his President. Donald Trump played the race card, not us. Now, some of his supporters feel more strongly about fighting to keep us from USING the word racist, than about whether they just elected a President that IS racist.
I get it. Trump supporters spoke loudly and clearly that racism (or sexism, or xenophobia, for that matter) just wasn’t a big enough deal for them to reject Trump as a candidate. But in this choice, Trump supporters have lost their freedom to be offended by anyone calling out real racism — a freedom they never should have enjoyed anyway. When Trump makes Steve Bannon chief White House strategist — a man who even Glenn Beck refers to as dangerous — we should be allowed to have conversations with Trump supporters about who Bannon really is without them shutting down and going home. When a West Virginia official posts on Facebook calling Michelle Obama an “ape in heels” and waxes about how “refreshing” it will be when she’s gone, and a local mayor responds that the post “just made [her] day,” we should be able to call them out as racist without Trump supporters feigning offense and circling the wagons around them.
Racism simply should not be accepted or acceptable in our society. And I can’t believe we have to even say that. But, if we aren’t allowed to call it out for what it is, it’ll just get worse. It is simply stunningly ironic to me that, in this election cycle, racism itself was much more accepted than the label “racist.” Trump embraced racism to shore up his base and many other supporters ignored it in part because racism doesn’t affect them. Hires like Bannon were always one of the most dangerous aspects of a potential Trump Presidency. Because, when racism is normalized, we can expect that the racists come out of the darkness. When Trump begins his campaign as the pied piper of Birther racists, are we really all that surprised when the rats run behind him to the White House? We all need to have the courage to reject racism and come together as a country. If we are truly in a post-politically correct America, then we have to have the strength to call a spade a spade without offending the sensibilities of half the country. Yes, a black man just used the term “spade.” Welcome to the post-PC America.