I don’t recall writing a blog entry specifically on political correctness. Somewhere in my blog I probably addressed it, but tonight, Alex Wagner, sitting in for Chris Hayes, addressed it with Liz Winstead, a writer for The Daily Show, and a reporter for a business journal or some such. All three made good points, the main one being that terming something p.c. means we don’t want to discuss our policy, and it has become a weapon on the Right to appeal to those Americans who want to continue using racial epithets, demeaning language toward women and gays, disparaging labels for immigrants and foreigners, and so forth. I recall when one of my mother’s husbands said he had had a car accident and this nigger woman was the cause of it; then he looked at me and said, “And I said she was a nigger b/c she was one; one of my best friends is a Black guy and I don’t call him that b/c he isn’t one, but she was.” A typical apologia for the use of abusive epithets involves invidious comparisons like that.
Targets of these terms have been just about every ethnic group: Irish~Micks, Italians~Dagos, Jews~Kikes, poor Whites are Rednecks or Peckerwoods, and many, many more; women are bitches and cunts; gays are fags; and the list goes on. All of these have as their purpose the establishment of in-group superiority and definition. All this has been written about; I even have a book on my shelf titled P.C. Apparently, the term goes back to Communist Party ideological feuds and these arguments were brought to America by Eastern and Central European….. and Southern European immigrants and carried on by their children. The hot-house for these arguments was the City College of New York where Jews who were not allowed into the general run of universities and colleges were accepted and they brought this notion of toeing the party line or being politically correct with them. Don’t quote me on the history b/c I only remember a good discussion on one of the listservs about it. I’m sure it can be googled and Wiki’ed.
My point is that now, partly as a result of the denizens from the ideological world of left-wing politics grew old and conservative, they reacted to the ban on college campuses of certain terms by identifying it as a kind of enforcement of political correctness in much the way a Trotskyite might correct the ideological statements of a straying member of the Party. In fact, the universities were reacting to the rising numbers of minority students on campus who were exciting the White conservatives by their very presence. Those conservatives were engaging in acts like standing outside classroom doors and harassing entering minority students with epithets. Right today that is still a problem with some groups believing other groups don’t belong on campus. Some professors used demeaning labels and anecdotes in class about women, gays, minorities, immigrants, etc. Complaints poured in and finally the universities acted.
After a while, there were silly excesses of complaints and attempts to censor or censure instructors who brought up issues that made people uncomfortable. The complaints came from many quarters. Back in the early 60s one of my favorite professors gave Catholics hell in his lectures on English and European history. One class, about three middle-aged ladies who identified themselves as Catholics took umbrage and complained. Dr. Dudley acknowledged their complaints and, as I recalled, asked to also keep in mind the context of the times and that the actions of Catholics then did not bear on Catholics today. I think peace was maintained but the women may still have felt aggrieved.
In later years it got quite ugly. If I were in the audience the other day when Roger Kimball approvingly quoted a historian’s characterization of African nations as made up of cannibalistic tribes and slave-holding nomads, I can understand students objecting. I remember one professor, when discussing the Ethiopians labeling their Italian foes barbarians for bombing defenseless villages “barbarians”, saying, “The pot calling the kettle black.’ Incidents such as those I simply file away to use against those who deny the on-going products of racist thinking in our society.