Thursday, May 03, 2001
: . Political Correctness must be the most imprecise sin of our time. After all, opponents of Political Correctness have no qualms about advancing other Politically Correct codes: Family Values, The Rule of Law, The Right to Life, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and so on. Freedom is never absolute. Freedom as the cliché goes comes with responsibilities and restraints: forms of ‘correctness’ need to be enforced in order for freedom to be preserved. So the question must be which form of Political Correctness should we enforce? For whom? And how? In his 1995 Presidential Address to the American Historical Association, the African American scholar Thomas Holt observed:
I grew up…in a politically correct world—southside Virginia in the 1950s. This p.c. was of a more serious sort than that envisioned by Lynne Cheney. This was p.c. backed by power, by capital, by racial privilege. This p.c. was far more aggressive, too, more effective in censoring and controlling gestures, expressions, and behavior than anything charged against the political Left today. This p.c. decreed that I could not enter the front door of most restaurants and other places of public accommodation, could not sit in the front of a bus, could not attend the nearest public school. Of course I was lucky; this p.c. had once decreed that my mother and my father would not have the benefit of a public high school at all.
Yes I know p.c., and because I know it so well, I can recognize its offspring in contemporary public discourse. It seeks again to dictate the minutest details of our lives—our sexual preferences and the nature of our families. It would seek to dictate the content of our history books and impose limits on how we might re-think that history. Under the guise of freedom, it seeks to re-exclude those only recently accepted as worthy of exclusion. It is this p.c.—not the alleged censorship of the powerless but that of the powerful and the privileged—that we should take note of.