Sunday, May 19, 2013

Political Correctness: Redskins, Rob Parker and the politically correct tango

I had a good discussion with my friend after Daniel Snyder said that he'd "never going to change the name of the Redskins". I argued that there is a reasonable debate to be had about whether or not the name Redskins is appropriate. Does the nickname honor native americans by denoting how brave they are? Paying homage to a noble people by stating that we use their name to strike fear in our opponents because they are a fierce an mighty warrior. Or does the name denigrate a group of people by stating that they are thought of as mascots and therefore sub-human? I hoped that the media would focus that issue instead of asking whether or not 'Redskin' is politically correct.

My friend then asked me: what is the difference between 'politically correct' versus just plain correct or 'morally correct'. The easiest definition is to define something that is 'politically incorrect' and that is something that is true but offensive to someone or some group of people. When Bill Cosby ranted about how poor black families were not bringing up their end of the bargain and were not properly valuing education few attacked the substance of what he said. No one said that he was wrong or not properly conveying the truth but instead that it was 'harsh' and 'offensive'. Had Cosby's words been aired by anyone other than an African American he would have been labeled a racist.

The three step process of responding to someone saying something 'political incorrect' is to 1) be offended 2) call the person a bigot (a racist, a homophobe, a sexist) 3) call on the person to apologize and if necessary 4) pressure the person's livelihood until the apologize. It is the politically incorrect tango, a simple four step that is easy to learn. What is missing from those four steps is any real discussion of truth or values or any meaningful discussion at all.

When Rob Parker of ESPN mentioned that some people in the black community questioned the Washington Redskin quarterback's blackness (Robert Griffin III or RGIII) because he is rumored to be a republican and is dating a white girl Parker referred to RGIII as a 'cornball' brother he sparked a controversy because he had said something that was not politically correct. The four step politically correct tango then followed as his comments were labeled 'offensive' and 'small minded' he was called on to apologize (which he did) and pressure was put on ESPN who opted not to renew his contract.

Well many people who were a part of the outrage machine patted themselves on the back for a 'job well done' Rob Parker had been fired and all was right with the world. They neglect to notice that real issue in this case was never discussed in any meaningful way. The incredibly important issue is the subject of 'acting white' or that some how blackness is something that you have to be and act out instead of something that you are. This horrible belief leads black children to be labeled as sellouts and 'acting white' when they apply themselves in school and try and get an education.

Next time someone says something that is 'offensive' or isn't 'politically correct' maybe instead of doing the politically correct tango we can try and have an honest discussion about the issue. And maybe the next time something is labeled 'offensive' we can ask... is it true?

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